FRANKLIN, Ky.— Funny how things work out sometimes.
Trainer Mike Maker stood in the paddock at Kentucky Downs Saturday afternoon with a sly smile on his face. He had just watched the 25th running of the G3, $1 million WinStar Mint Million and couldn’t have been happier after his 6-year-old Somelikeithotbrown had gone all the way on the front end to win the mile race by 11/4 lengths over stablemate Atone.
The Mint Million was originally scheduled to be run last Saturday, but heavy rains forced the cancellation of the final four races on that card, including the Mint Million.
Somelikeithotbrown was not entered in the Mint Million last week although he was nominated. When the race was redrawn Monday, Maker put Somelikeithotbrown in the entry box along with Field Pass, giving him three horses in the Mint Million.
When it was suggested to him that things happen for a reason, Maker smiled again.
“They sure do,” he said.
Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Somelikeithotbrown broke well and settled nicely as he carved out fractions of 23.48 seconds for the first quarter, 46.93 for the half and 1:10.58 for six furlongs.
“He broke well and was very alert,” Ortiz said. “I was very happy with the way he was going down the hill.”
Somelikeithotbrown was second in this race last year and the early fractions (44.95, 1:09.10) were much swifter.
“Fractions were easier today,” Ortiz said. “Going up the hill, I let him be happy.”
The biggest challenge was to come from Atone and jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who tracked Somelikeithotbrown all the way around. It appeared as though Atone, a 5-year-old owned by Jordan V. Wycoff, may have gotten on even terms but Ortiz said he was always in the lead.
“I don’t think he got in front of me,” Ortiz said with a smile, then added, “camera angle.”
“When you get a lead like he did, it’s tough to beat him,” Gaffalione said about the winner.
“He has natural speed,” Maker said. “Since we took the blinkers off (in his last start), he has been settling. I let it up to Jose. He was going easy all the way compared to the quarters earlier in the day. I felt pretty comfortable.”
Somelikeithotbrown is owned by Harvey Diamond’s Skychai Racing and David Koenig. Because he is a New York-bred, Somelikeithotbrown was running for a purse of $550,000. The other $450,000 is Kentucky Thoroughbred Fund money that only goes to registered Kentucky-breds. The total purse paid out was $707,545, with Somelikeithotbrown earning $330,770.
Diamond said he was “absolutely positive” happy running for $550,000.
“Never complain about that kind of money,” he said.
Somelikeithotbrown, the 2-1 favorite, has now won six of 20 career starts on grass, all of them on firm turf. The son of Big Brown last raced in the Aug. 22 West Point at Saratoga, a race that was taken off the grass. Somelikeithotbrown won that by six lengths.
He has career earnings of $1,647,018.
“It’s hard not to like a classy, beautiful horse like him,” Maker said. “He has had some good longevity with us. He is a homebred with long-time clients.”
Maker was also proud of the effort from Atone. This was his sixth start of the year and he has yet to win with two seconds and two thirds.
“He ran well,” Maker said. “Second best. He does always lay it out there. He is going to get his one day.”
Somelikeithotbrown ran the mile in 1:33.88. He paid $6.60 to win.
Mr. Dumas finished third, a nose behind Atone. He was followed home by Field Pass, Gray’s Fable, last year’s Mint Million winner Pixelate, Kentucky Ghost and Cavalry Charge.
Kentucky Downs Press Release
Main photo: Somelikeithotbrown wins the Mint Million (Coady Photography)