Photo by Susie Raisher
Trainer Cash scores first graded win
By Mary Eddy
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Trainer Norman Cash and Lola Cash’s Double Crown wheeled back off just one week’s rest to post a 42-1 upset victory in Saturday’s Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso Handicap for 3-year-olds and up traveling a one-turn mile over the main track at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet.
Piloted to victory by J.D. Acosta, Double Crown stunned the field of six with a rallying effort from 2 1/2 lengths off the pace to give Cash the first graded stakes win of his career. It was also the first graded victory for the son of Bourbon Courage, who previously earned two placings in 2020 at the sprint distance when third in the Grade 3 Smile Sprint at Gulfstream Park and runner-up to Grade 1 winner Yaupon in the Grade 3 Chick Lang at Pimlico Race Course.
“It’s a first graded stakes win for the boss, Mr. Cash, who is a great guy to work for,” said Jay Libertini, assistant to Cash. “He had a death in the family, so he couldn’t be here. We all love Mr. Cash and his family, and we’re excited for him.”
Double Crown emerged well from post 5 and settled towards the rear of the field as Empty Tomb skimmed the rail to lead the compact field through an opening quarter-mile in 24.32 seconds over the fast going. Post time favorite Baby Yoda, with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano up, rushed up on the outside to challenge for the lead with Shackqueenking on even terms to his inside through a half-mile in 48.60.
Shackqueenking and Empty Tomb matched strides approaching the turn while Baby Yoda was asked for more from Castellano and engulfed his rivals to take charge after three-quarters in 1:13.11. With Baby Yoda appearing to draw clear down the stretch, Double Crown went wide and rallied strongly under urging from Acosta, chipping away at Baby Yoda’s margin before finally inching clear just past the sixteenth pole to win by 1 3/4 lengths in a final time of 1:37.16.
Baby Yoda held second 8 1/4 lengths ahead of Shackqueenking with Empty Tomb another 1 1/4 lengths back. Morello, who stumbled at the start, and Title Ready completed the order of finish.
It was the sixth graded win for Acosta, who said he felt confident in his horse.
“I saw Javier stay wide and he had the best horse. So, when he made the move, I was able to follow him down the stretch and then put him on the outside,” said Acosta. “I felt like I had plenty of horse and I thought I was going to win.
“At the eighth-pole, I thought I was going to get it,” Acosta added. “I looked back and I was hoping no one else was going to catch us and when I asked my horse, he took off and he was strong.”
The 5-year-old Double Crown was haltered by Cash for $40,000 out of a close runner-up effort going one mile in June at Churchill Downs. He arrived at the Kelso on the heels of a fourth-place finish one week ago in the Maryland Millions Classic at Laurel Park where he was bumped at the start and forced four-wide in the turn before flattening out down the stretch.
Libertini said Double Crown has been a special part of the barn.
“This horse, we claimed for $40,000 and has done nothing wrong for us,” said Libertini. “He’s had a couple of strong seconds. We really thought last weekend in the Maryland Million Classic that he was going to win. He got a bad trip, and he was hung wide. We thought he’d be second in the stretch, but he got bumped and flattened out to fourth. He came out of the race really well, so I asked the boss, ‘Where do you want to go with him?’”
Acosta said a cleaner trip made the difference for Double Crown.
“I had a perfect trip. I ended up being wide,” said Acosta. “Last time, this horse got bumped really hard, so the trainer told me don’t get in trouble. He broke fast and I was between horses, and I thought, ‘I don’t want to get in trouble.’”
The Kelso was the 12th start of the year for Double Crown, adding to an optional claiming win on August 8 at Colonial Downs and a runner-up finish in the Polynesian on September 24 at Pimlico. His other two stakes victories came as a sophomore in the Roar and Carry Back at Gulfstream.
Bred in Maryland by Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Bowman and Rebecca Davis, the consistent Double Crown’s record now stands at 24-6-8-1 with total purse earnings of $548,265. He returned $86.50 for a $2 win wager and banked $165,000 in victory.
Castellano said Baby Yoda, who Acosta had ridden to victory on debut for a $10,000 tag, was simply second-best.
“My horse ran a good race. When I asked him, he responded,” Castellano said. “Unfortunately, the other horse finished really strong.”
The Kelso awarded the top-four finishers a free nomination and starting fee in the Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile slated for December 3 at the Big A.
Live racing resumes Sunday for Closing Day of the Belmont at the Big A fall meet with the 10-race Empire Showcase Day card featuring eight stakes worth $1.6 million. First post is 12:35 p.m. Eastern.