What a day of racing at Keeneland this past Saturday! There were six graded stakes races worth over $2 million up for grabs. Jockey Joel Rosario had a tremendous evening, winning four of those stakes races, while Luis Saez won the other two. Let's get to recapping.
The $800K Blue Grass Stakes (G2) was won by ESSENTIAL QUALITY, ridden by Luiz Saez, trained by Brad Cox, owned by Godolphin LLC — outdueling HIGHLY MOTIVATED in a stretch battle for the victory.
ESSENTIAL QUALITY veered to his right at the break, but recovered for Luis Saez to run up to be second, while HIGHLY MOTIVATED seized the lead and set the early fractions of 23.83 and 48.21. The top two favorites controlled the front end with HIGHLY MOTIVATED in front narrowly by a neck. With three furlongs to go, they quicken and clear the field. HIDDEN STASH and ROMBAUER commence their rallies from the back of the pack. But turning for home it's a two horse race! ESSENTIAL QUALITY and HIGHLY MOTIVATED are set down for the drive, seven lengths ahead of the rest of the field. They duel through the final furlong but it is ESSENTIAL QUALITY with winning stamina — in the final strides he forges past HIGHLY MOTIVATED to win by a neck. It was another six lengths back to ROMBAUER in third. The final time for the one mile and one-eighth distance was 1:48.50.
ESSENTIAL QUALITY paid $3.00 to win, $2.20 to place, and $2.10 to show. He is by TAPIT out of DELIGHTFUL QUALITY by ELUSIVE QUALITY. He remains undefeated with his fifth consecutive victory. He pushes his earnings to $2,265,144 while earning 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. He reclaims the #1 spot on the Derby Leaderboard with 140 total points.
The $400K Ashland Stakes (G1) was won by MALATHAAT, ridden by Joel Rosario, trained by Todd Pletcher, owned by Shadwell Stables — wearing down PASS THE CHAMPAGNE in the final jumps for the win.
MALATHAAT broke smoothly and was taken back toward the rear of the field, while SIMPLY RAVISHING led through opening fractions of 24.46 and 48.56. It was a comfortable pace. MALATHAAT was mid pack, galloping in the clear for Joel Rosario. With three furlongs to go, PASS THE CHAMPAGNE is boxed in at the rail but looks like she's going to run a big one. She splits in between the top pair and bursts forward to take command. She opens up by five lengths turning for home, but MALATHAAT is also given her queue. She is swung four wide by Joel Rosario and begins to motor home. In the last sixteenth of a mile, MALATHAAT lengthens her stride and charges past PASS THE CHAMPAGNE to win by a neck. It was a break of five lengths back to WILL'S SECRET in third. The final time for the one mile and one-sixteenth was 1:42.94.
MALATHAAT paid $5.00 to win, $3.00 to place, and $2.40 to show. She is by CURLIN out of DREAMING OF JULIA by A.P. INDY. She achieves her fourth consecutive victory while earning 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks. Her earnings now exceed $412,000 and she just earned her highest speed figure to date.
The $300K Madison Stakes (G1) was won by KIMARI, ridden by Joel Rosario, trained by Wesley Ward, owned by Ten Broeck Farm, Inc. — outclassing this field to win comfortably.
KIMARI broke sharp for Joel Rosario and was keen to go, but conceded the lead to the speedy MUNDAYE CALL, who opened the quarter in 22.90 and the half in 45.58. It was a moderate pace with only five lengths separating the front and back runners. KIMARI raced three-wide along the backside before ranging up to MUNDAYE CALL to vie for the lead. SANENUS was running well along the rail but would need to find room, and ESTILO TALENTOSO, the 50-1 longshot, was making an eye catching move toward the leaders. When they hit the stretch, KIMARI struck the front, but had a host of pursuers to hold off. ESTILO TALENTOSO emerged as the lone threat. But Joel Rosario was still handling KIMARI confidently! She was still being hand-ridden with a final eigth of a mile to go. Joel Rosario taps on the engine and KIMARI pushes forward to secure the victory. ESTILO TALENTOSO ran second, BELL'S THE ONE got up for third. The final time for the seven furlongs on dirt was 1:21.53.
KIMARI paid $3.40 to win, $2.40 to place, and $2.40 to show. She is by MUNNINGS out of COZZE UP LADY by COZZENE. She earns her first graded stakes victory in her first try beyond six and a half furlongs. She pushes her earnings to $758,777.
The $200K Shakertown Stakes (G2) was won by BOUND FOR NOWHERE, ridden by Joel Rosario, trained by Wesley Ward, owned by Wesley Ward — storming home to nail IMPRIMIS at the wire. This was his second time winning the Shakertown Stakes.
BOUND FOR NOWHERE hopped at the break but regained composure for Joel Rosario and positioned himseld toward the rear of the field, while JOHNNY UNLEASHED and THE CRITICIAL WAY pushed the early tempo of 21.42 and 44.60. They were winging up front. They raced strung out with at least twelve lengths separating the front and back markers. Turning for home, THE CRITICAL WAY forces the issue and puts a head in front. IMPRIMIS swings into the clear to commence his rally, and BOUND FOR NOWHERE gets set down for the drive as well. But it is BOUND FOR NOWHERE who is closing the strongest. He chases IMPRIMIS all the way to wire and accelerates past him right at the line to win by a headbob. It was three lengths back to THE CRITICAL WAY in third. The final time for the five and a half furlong dash was 1:02.19.
BOUND FOR NOWHERE paid $6.60 to win, $3.60 to place, and $2.40 to show. He is by THE FACTOR out of FANCY DEED by ALYDEED. He improves his record to 7 wins, 2 seconds, and 3 thirds, from 15 starts, and pushes his earnings to $999,857.
The $200K Commonwealth Stakes (G2) was won by FLAGSTAFF, ridden by Joel Rosario, trained by John Sadler, owned by LAne's End Racing and Hronis Racing LLC — forging clear to win convincingly. Finds the winner circle for the first time since San Carlos (G2) victory in March 2020.
FLAGSTAFF broke awkwardly under Joel Rosario but sped forward along the rail behind pacesetter SPECIAL RESERVE, who opened the quarters in 22.98 and 45.97. They bunched up leaving the backside with three horses making a line on the front end: SPECIAL RESERVE, BANGO, and MUCHO. When they hit the stretch, Joel Rosario switches FLAGSTAFF to the outside and sets dead aim on the three leaders. FLAGSTAFF is much the best; he mows them all down in the final strides for the win. SPECIAL RESERVE ran on for second, ATTACHMENT RATE got up for third. The final time for the seven furlong event was 1:21.84.
FLAGSTAFF paid $5.80 to win, $3.40 to place, and $2.80 to show. He is by SPEIGHTSTOWN out of INDYAN GIVING by A.P. INDY. This marks his second graded stakes victory and he pushes his earnings to $703,285.
The $200K Appalachian Stakes (G2) was won by JOUSTER, ridden by Luis Saez, trained by Todd Pletcher, owned by Starlight Racing — going gate to wire for a commanding score.
JOUSTER broke the best for jockey Luis Saez and cleared the lead to set the tempo of 24.82 and 49.87. She raced uncontested along the backside, extending her lead to three lengths while the rest of the field's position remained unchanged. Approaching the turn for home, JOUSTER is still running strong! She opens up to a five length lead while still on a hand ride. GIFT LIST commences her rally from the back of the pack, along with a three-wide PLUM ALI. But JOUSTER has plenty in the tank to keep on with it. She speeds home to win by three diminishing lengths. GIFT LIST and PLUM ALI both ran very well in the end to be second and third. The final time for the one mile on turf was 1:36.83.
JOUSTER paid $5.40 to win, $3.60 to place, and $2.80 to show. She is by NOBLE MISSION out of PLAYTIME by STREET CRY. She's now won 3 of her last 4 races while pushing her earnings to $214,920. She tied her highest speed figure with this victory.