By Dick Downey
Connections quotes by Jennie Rees
Photo by Reed Palmer Photography
In a hotly-contested blanket finish, Ruby Notion edged Lull and Brielle's Appeal to win the Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint Stakes on Saturday.
At odds of 77-1, Bixby Lou set the early pace while pressured by Brielle's Appeal and her jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. At that point, the top three finishers were separated by 4 1/4 lengths after a quarter-mile timed in 23.10 seconds. Brielle's Appeal soon took command and led into the stretch closely chased by Ruby Notion, ridden by Florent Geroux, and Lull, ridden by Brian Hernandez, Jr. A long drive ensued with Ruby's Appeal the best in the final jumps of the race by a neck. Lull nosed out Brielle's Appeal for second at the wire.
A track record for races at 6 1/2 furlongs was broken for the second time on the card by Ruby Notion. Her time, 1:15.80 on a track rated firm, eclipsed a mark set by Linburgh's Kitten in the third race. The gelding had broken a four-year-old record by getting the distance in 1:16.11 on a track rated good after a bit of rain overnight. The previous record of 1:16.61 was set by Richies Party Girl in the 2014 running of the Ladies Sprint Stakes, the same race won by Ruby Notion today. Not to be outdone, Proforma broke the record again in the Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint one race later.
Trained by Darrin Miller for Silverton Hill LLC, the 5-year-old homebred found herself in the winner's circle for the second time in four starts this year and the sixth time from 14 overall starts. Last time out, she won the listed Caress Stakes at Saratoga, and today marked her first win of a graded stakes race.
An earner of $276,572 going into the race, she padded her bankroll by another $150,350. Because she's a West Virginia-bred, Ruby Notion wasn't eligible for $200,000 from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund. Counting that money available funds for the purse totaled $450,000. Though she was bred in the Mountain State, Ruby Notion has an international pedigree, being by Great Notion out of Modena Bay (NZ), by Volksraad (GB).
Bettors of Ruby Notion were successful in their quest to upset even-money favorite Lull, who won this race last year, and recieved $8.20 to win, $3.60 to place and $2.80 to show.
Following the top three past the finish line were Con Te Partiro, Bixby Lou, Originator, Spellker and Mines and Magic. Noted and Quoted and Therighttobeararms were scratched.
Winning trainer Darrin Miller: “I don’t know if she’s good enough to get done what she’s doing right now. I know she’s just in super-good form right now. She feels very good and has had no issues. She seems like a really happy mare right now. She’s very game, we know that much. At Saratoga, I really wasn’t sure how much the ground played up there for us that day, even though she ran a big race and we were really confident in her going up there. She was doing everything right coming into this race. We knew she would do the best she could do. So we were very confident that she wasn’t going to back out of anything, regardless of where that ended us up in the race.”
Winning jockey Florent Geroux: “She won very easy last time, and the filly she beat, Chanteline, won back very easily at Saratoga closing weekend. We thought maybe we got lucky last time with the soft turf from the rain. But today she showed she’s just as good on firm turf. So hopefully she’ll can keep improving. Honestly, when Lull came to me, I thought, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to hold her off.’ Because my filly was giving me everything she had. Her head was very low to the ground and she was giving everything she had. Very lucky that I was able to hold Lull off the last 50 yards. It felt like we were going fast and felt like we were finishing fast.”
Silverton Hill owner Tommy Hamilton “She’s special because we raised her. We raced the mother, whom we got from New Zealand, and we raced her father, Great Notion. She’s not the most correct or best looking. But she’s the got the main thing, and that’s will. That’s hard to put in them. We’re really proud of her.”
Walker Hancock, president of Claiborne Farm, co-owner of runner-up Lull: “She ran hard. It’s a little disappointing. But look, we finished second in a nice race, so we can’t be too upset.”
Brian Hernandez, aboard Lull for the third straight year at Kentucky Downs: “She ran hard. She ran through the wire. You want to come in on the other side of the photo, but today wasn’t her day. I told Walker I thought I would be able to get past her because she’s coming out of a 5 1/2 (furlong) race. But she gutted it out, and they ran home fast.”