Tobys Heart, Family Way, Koala Princess take closing day stakes

September 13, 2021

FRANKLIN, Ky., (Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021) — Tobys Heart was all heart in winning the $500,000 Nelson’s Green Brier Whiskey Music City Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs, a victory that was the fourth for leading rider Joel Rosario on Sunday and the second during the six-day meet for trainer Brian Lynch.

Starting in the middle of the field of 11, the filly owned by Terry Hamilton, Gary Barber and Lynch was toward the back early in the 6 1/2-furlong sprint on a firm course. Rosario guided the 6-5 favorite toward the rail to save ground, which proved to be the winning move before the field hit the downhill turn.

“It was perfect,” Rosario said. “The horse ran really well there, I was waiting to see if something would open up for her. They just decided to stay off the rail, and she just outran them when she was clear.”

Winging it out front from the start was 30-1 Risky Reward, with Luis Saez. After setting the pace until the top of the stretch, enough room opened up along the fence for Tobys Heart to scoot through and fire out for a 2 3/4-length victory over fast-closing Alwayz Late and Umberto Rispoli in 1:14.30.

“She’s been running with some serious horses and a little cut back in distance really fell into play today,” said Lynch, who previously saw Tobys Heart finish third in the Grade 3 Lake George at Saratoga going a mile.

“It was great to get Joel on her,” Lynch said of having Rosario riding her for the first time. “Definitely horses are running for him at the moment. He rides this course as good as anybody. We’re definitely thrilled to have him on board.”

“I listened to what Brian had to say,” Rosario said. “It looked like we were in a real good spot, with a little speed in front of us. She was handling the grass nicely and came home with a strong run.”

Runner-up jockey Rispoli, who won the inaugural edition of this race last year with LNJ Foxwoods’ Lighthouse, said his filly put in a strong performance. “I had a good trip. I was between the two horses to follow, the Wesley Ward and Brian Lynch.

“Joel is riding on fire, so everything is opening up for him,” Rispoli continued. “When you ride like that with so much confidence, it helps you a lot. I had just a little bit of traffic in the middle of the stretch. But that didn’t bother me at all.

“She came through. She finished up really well,” he said. “It was the same race I won last year. I was trying to make it a double. It didn’t work out. But I’m very happy with the way she ran.”

“We ran well,” said trainer Bill Mott of Alwayz Late’s race. “We had a good trip. We got through. The filly ran very willingly and she was closing at the end. We kind of ran out of ground. The winner was probably the best today at that distance, and our filly ran very well. Very pleased. No excuses.”

Tobys Heart paid $4.60, $3 and $2.80 while earning $291,400. Always Late returned $7.40 and $6, while Risky Reward, who hung on to finish a half-length back in third, paid $11.80. Fractions for the race were :21.99, :44.93, 1:08.43 before the final time of 1:14.30.

Purchased for $45,000, Tobys Heart now has four wins in eight starts. “She’s a very shrewd purchase and she has panned out to be a very nice filly for us,” said Lynch, who also won the $500,000 Global Tote Juvenile Sprint Stakes on Sept. 9 with Red Danger — his first two Kentucky Downs stakes victories. “Hopefully there is more to come with her. She was undefeated as a 2-year-old and she is just starting to wind into a real good 3-year-old campaign.”

It marked the final victory for Rosario during the six-day meet — he closed out his assignments by finishing sixth with Micheline in the $550,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon.

And what a week he had: From 53 mounts, he won 17 times, with 6 seconds and 4 thirds, while bringing home $2,952,097 in purses. He had a win percentage of 32 percent.

“I have to thank all the people who gave me the opportunity at Kentucky Downs – the trainers, and owners, who gave me this chance,” he said. “I really feel blessed.

“This has been a very special week.”

Ladies Marathon: Family Way gives Walsh share of trainer crown

FRANKLIN, Ky. (Sunday, Sept. 12) – Trainer Brendan Walsh had a few reasons to smile after Family Way’s narrow victory Sunday in the $550,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon.

By edging La Lune by a neck in a three-horse blanket finish, the 4-year-old Uncle Mo filly earned her first stakes victory in North America and lifted Walsh into a tie for the trainer’s title. It was a triumph with a high-strung filly owned by Walsh’s pals.

Walsh ran her against males on Aug. 8 at Ellis Park at 1 1/4 miles to set her up for the Marathon’s 1 5/16 miles. She was a solid third at Ellis and got to the wire on time Sunday, completing the final stake of the meet in 2:07.38. She was 5-1 in the wagering and paid $13.20, $6.80 and $4.80.

“All the credit goes to Brendan and his team,” said winning jockey Tyler Gaffalione. “This filly has been a project from the beginning. He’s done a tremendous job with her.”

Blame Debbie and Stand Tall set the pace with opening fractions of :25.48 and :50.36. Go Big Blue Nation, who finished third by a nose, owned the lead through six furlongs in 1:14.60 and a mile in 1:38.78. Family Way and La Luna came running, engaged Go Big Blue Nation and the three battled to the wire.

“Very simple race,” said Gaffalione. “She broke well. She tracked the leaders and coming down the backside hill, I was able to just jump outside and get into the three-path and let my filly find her stride. When I called on her, she finished up well. I saved most of the ground to maybe about the half-mile pole and then I figured that I had plenty of horse, just give her a clean path.”

Godolphin’s Micheline, the winner of the 2020 Dueling Grounds Oaks, ended up sixth with record-setting jockey Joel Rosario, who was trying to sweep the three stakes on closing day.

“I had some room inside, but then a horse came in on me a little bit,” Rosario said. “I had to go to another plan and go outside, but I was blocked that way, too. She still was finishing a little bit, and had a little energy left and kept running to the end.”

Walsh said that Family Way, an Uncle Mo filly, has been a bit of a challenge since the Kentucky-bred was imported from Europe for this season.

“She has been a little bit temperamental, but not too bad,” he said. “It’s a tribute to my team that they have done a great job on her because she was a little bit of a project from the get-go. But we’ve got her turned around and I think she showed that today. It’s great to win this with her because she belongs to a bunch of friends of mine, who bought her last year in France.”

Walsh said the ownership group of Fergus Galvin’s Hunter Valley Farm, Debra L. O’Connor and Marc Detampel were attracted to the filly by her breeding.

“She has a great pedigree,” Walsh said. “The pedigree actually goes back to a filly called Mekko Hokte, who Eddie Kenneally trained when I worked for Eddie. It’s the family of Caravaggio. It’s a serious pedigree. It’s huge to win something like this with her.”

Family Way’s dam Susie’s Baby, by Giant’s Causeway, is a half-sister to Caravaggio, a Group 1 winner in Ireland. He stood at Ashford Stud this year.

The Ladies Marathon was on the schedule that Walsh developed for the filly and she earned $317,130 for her fourth career victory.

“This was going to be our plan at the end of the year. It was always on the cards,” he said. “We thought that the distance was maybe going to stretch her a little bit, but she seemed like she got it pretty good. She loved the track here today.”

Family Way was calm before the race, as Walsh and his staff had hoped.

“She had been doing really good and she behaved very well in the paddock today, which gave me an inkling that maybe today was going to be a good day for her,” he said. “It was a question of whether she was good enough or not. She beat some nice fillies today.”

Trainer Ed Vaughn came away impressed with the way the British-bred La Lune, owned by Alex Frost, ran in the Marathon.

“It’s her first run since she came from England just a little while back. She’s a tiny filly but she’s all heart,” he said She’s a Grade 3 winner in England and a listed winner. She skipped around there very well. It’s gutting to come so close and not get it done. She’s come from last.

“But she’ll have a future here for sure. The Dowager at Keeneland, that’s where I’d say we’ll go next. She’ll probably have one more, maybe two. … She’s at the top of her game now, so we look forward to running her next time. I think just a bit more experience like American style, just jumping out of the gate quickly.”

Rosario — who else? — wins Ainsworth aboard Koala Princess

FRANKLIN, Ky. (Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021) – A patient, clever ride by leading jockey Joel Rosario earned Koala Princess a ticket to the winner’s circle after the $500,000 Ainsworth Stakes Sunday at Kentucky Downs.

Rather than let her use her speed to set the pace as she did breaking her maiden on Aug. 21 at Monmouth Park, Rosario managed to reserve her early then let her do her best running in the stretch of the 6 ½ furlong test for 2-year-old fillies. She rolled up the inside to win by 2 ½ lengths over Mystic Eyes in 1:15.25.

Sent off at 5-1 in the field of 11, the Runnymeade Farm, Peter Callahan and Chris Zinkhan homebred returned $12.00, $5.60 and $4.40. Poppy Flower was third, while the even-money favorite Lady Danae ended up fifth.

“It looked like she was handling it really nice today,” Rosario said. “She’s showed a really good turn of foot turning for home.”

Starting in post 2, as she had in the maiden race, Koala Princess, a daughter of More Than Ready, followed Rosario’s instructions. She sat eighth, about five lengths back through an opening quarter of 21.87 and was 3¼ lengths behind pacesetter Mystic Eyes, who hit the half-mile at 45.54. Koala Princess and Rosario were on the move and a half-length behind at the top of the stretch.

“She broke fine. There were a couple there that looked like they were in a hurry a little bit,” Rosario said. “We got to the turn and found myself in a good spot with the speed they were going. I just tried to stay there for a little while. She was handling everything inside there nice and so I tried to stay there and look for the clear path.”

Rosario said that trainer Arnaud Delacour asked him to bide his time and put to filly in position to finish on the best part of the track.

“It’s good to win races; they’re tough to win here,” Delacour said. “Everybody shows up with what they think is their best stock at the time. Whoever will handle the track, that is always a question mark.

“I was very happy with Koala Princess. We were a little worried about the timing. She ran three weeks ago. We had to ship, but obviously she handled everything fine. We had a great ride by Joel; he didn’t panic. He just sat there and she came with her run, so it was exciting.”

Koala Princess remained unbeaten after two starts and earned $291,400 in the Ainsworth.

Mystic Eyes, a daughter of Maclean’s Music, led from gate to wire winning her maiden race at Saratoga on Aug. 5, and tried to do it again under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.

“She ran very good,” Velazquez said. “She has a lot to learn. She needs to relax a little bit in the first part. She finished it OK but the other horse just finished a little bit better than her. But I think the first part of the race made the difference for her.”

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