HOT SPRINGS, Ark.- Since teaming up with jockey Jon Court last fall at Churchill, Randy Morse and Randy Patterson’s homebred Connie K has been on a hot streak. Stepping up to stakes company for the first time in the $150,000 Downthedustyroad Breeder’s Stakes, the daughter of Street Strategy kept that streak alive with a wire-to-wire victory.
Breaking sharply, she was pressed early on both sides by Hilary G and eventual runner up Unbridled Twister through strong early fractions. While it looked like she might leave the field at the top of the stretch, she had to hold off the late charge of Unbridled Twister, prevailing by a neck.
Though she had been somewhat overlooked by the bettors at 9-1, Court knew better than to underestimate the Al Cates-trained filly.
“I expected her to be our biggest threat today, I wasn’t surprised to see her come running late,” he said. Court should know. His first day back riding in Hot Springs this December, Unbridled Twister gave him his 700th career win at Oaklawn in impressive fashion. He knew he would have to have something left in the stretch to fend off the gray filly. ”I finessed her (Connie K) on the front end and she relaxed for me and saved some for the finish. She’s just developed into such a professional,” he said.
As for the flying runner up, trainer Al Cates seems eager to find her a longer race.
“Man, we’ve been trying to go long all year. We just can’t get a long race. This horse has been dying to go long. Maybe one will pop up now. We’re going to look at the big one (Arkansas Breeders’ Championship) at the end of the meet, going long, if she comes out of this good and everything. But she’s got a little talent.”
Third for most of the race after pressing the leader, Too Pretty hung on to show for trainer Daniel Peitz and jockey Franscisco Arrieta. Richness and Chel-C Bailey rounded out the superfecta. The second favorite at post time, Kaboom Baby was little factor in the race and ended up being 5th. The 6-furlong race went in 22 1/5 and 45 4/5 for the first half with a final time of 1:10 4/5 on a fast track.
Named for an Arkansas-bred filly who won the 2006 G1 La Brea stakes at Santa Anita, The Downthedustyroad is a race with a special place in Court’s heart. He was, as it so happens, the jockey who guided her to that Grade 1 win sixteen years ago. Getting the win this year with so many talented Arkansas-breds was particularly sweet. After riding at Oaklawn for four decades, Court is impressed with the Arkansas-breds he’s seen this year. “I’m especially impressed with what the Arkansas Breeder’s Association has done for this program. I’ve ridden a lot of Arkansas-breds over the years and I can see how far they’ve come along. It’s wonderful to see locally bred horses running at this caliber.”
There have been a number of outstanding Arkansas-bred standouts at the meet this year including last year’s Downthedustyroad winner The Mary Rose, whose most recent win saw her dominating open company by 5 1/2 lengths.
Notably, it was a stakes exacta for Arkansas-based stallion Street Strategy, with his daughters finishing 1-2. Owned by Randy Patterson and trained during his career by Randy Morse, Street Strategy won the 2016 Fifth Season at Oaklawn after a solid career as allowance horse. Both Connie K and Unbridled Twister showed the grit that personified their sire.
Photo: Connie K holds on by a neck to win the Downthedustyroad(Coady Photography)