Tenacious Highland Chief Pushes Through Six-Pack of Horses To Win Sycamore

October 14, 2022

Second through seventh place separated by neck, nose, head, nose, head and a nose

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Mrs. Fitri Hay’s homebred Highland Chief (IRE)benefiting from a ground-saving ride from John Velazquez, took the lead in the upper stretch and then held off Temple by a length to win the 28th running of the $300,000 Sycamore (G3) for 3-year-olds and up. 

Trained by Graham Motion, Highland Chief covered the mile and a half on a firm turf course in 2:28.87. The victory is the fourth in the race for Motion, who won with Holiday Star in 2014 and 2015 and with Sanagas (GER) in 2011. 

Accredit led the field of 12 through fractions of :25.31, :50.20, 1:15.49 and 1:40.82 with Channel Maker in closest pursuit and Highland Chief racing just behind the leaders while racing next to the rail. 

Accredit led the field to the top of the stretch where he raced into the three path. The move allowed Velazquez to send Highland Chief through the opening, where he quickly took command and established enough of a cushion to hold off Temple at the finish. 

With John Velazquez up, Highland Chief gives an assertive look to the camera after his victory. Coady Photography

Highland Chief is a 5-year-old son of Gleneagles (IRE) out of the Montjeu (IRE) mare Pink Symphony. Winner of the Man o’ War (G1) in May, Highland Chief earned $141,438 with the victory and boosted his career earnings to $708,300 with a record of 15-4-2-2. 

Highland Chief returned $15.32, $7.66 and $5.38. Temple, ridden by Umberto Rispoli, returned $19.68 and $11.40 and finished a neck in front of Highest Honors, who paid $6.22 to show under Tyler Gaffalione. 

It was another nose back to Channel Maker, who was followed in order by Balthus (IRE), favored Mira Mission, Cellist, Red Knight, Arklow, Accredit, Admission Office and British Royalty. 

Racing continues Saturday with a 10-race program that begins at 1 p.m. ET. Headlining the program is the $600,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) Presented by Dixiana for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/18 miles on the turf. The stakes is the afternoon’s ninth race with a 5:16 p.m. post time. 

Quotes from the $300,000 Sycamore (G3)

John Velazquez (winning rider of Highland Chief-IRE): “(My instructions were) very simple – we talked about it this morning; (trainer) Graham (Motion) and I did. We looked at the race and there was only one horse really with speed, and the horse (Channel Maker) Luis (Saez) rides is always close. I just tried to stay right behind horses, save some ground and hope he would come running. I was just looking for some sort of space at the quarter pole, and once I got it, he was there for me.”

Alice Clapham (assistant to winning trainer Graham Motion): “He had a very nice breeze on Monday (at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland) before they shipped him down, so it all worked out really well.”

Highland Chief with John Velasquez up wins the G3 Sycamore for trainer H Graham Motion and owner Mrs Fitri Hay, Coady Photograpy

Umberto Rispoli (rider of runner-up Temple): “It was a beautiful trip. I had the dream trip. I was just where I wanted to be behind the speed. I knew (Highland Chief) was on the inside; I was trying to make an early move at the top of the stretch to get the momentum on that horse, who I thought was the best horse in the race, and he proved that. But I am very satisfied with my trip and my horse.”

Tyler Gaffalione (rider of third-place finisher Highest Honors): “My horse ran a big race today. I ended up a little further back than I wanted to be. He’s not the quickest horse out of the gate, but he put in a big run down the lane weaving through traffic and I was very pleased with him.”

Ian Wilkes (trainer of beaten favorite Mira Mission, who finished sixth): “He ran good. It was a blanket finish (for second). He is probably a year from being a really nice horse. He is only a 4-year-old. If he keeps improving, we will be back bigger and better next year. We may freshen him up and (wait to) bring him back for next year. He ran tremendous today.”

Keeneland Press Release
Photo: Highland Chief pulls away from the field to victory. Coady Photography

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