Poker Player Upsets Bourbon on Polytrack

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Poker Player wins the 2013 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland Poker Player wins the 2013 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland

In the race preceding the Juddmonte Spinster, Gary and Mary West’s Poker Player rallied late for a one-length victory in the 23rd running of the $150,000 Bourbon, a race that was taken off the turf and run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

Because of the surface switch, the race lost its designation as a “Win and You’re In” race for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).

Trained by Wayne Catalano and ridden by Channing Hill, Poker Player covered the distance in 1:43.46 in the Bourbon. It marked the first Keeneland stakes victory for Hill.

Hill gave Poker Player a ground-saving trip near the back of the pack in the run down the backstretch as Solar Flair and Manaus dueled for the lead. Turning into the stretch, Bashart took over from the two leaders while Hill swung Poker Player six wide behind the leaders.

Poker Player breezed by Bashart in deep stretch to collect his second victory in three starts and improve his bankroll to $145,900 with Sunday’s $90,000 check.

A 2012 Keeneland November Sale graduate, Poker Player is a Kentucky-bred son of Harlan’s Holiday out of the Red Bullet mare Revel in the Win.

Poker Player returned $48.40, $15.40 and $9.40. Bashart, the second choice in the field of 13, returned $5.20 and $4.20 in finishing a nose in front of Bon Accord, who paid $10.60 to show under Eddie Castro.

All Cash finished three-quarters of a length back in fourth and was followed in order by Medal Count, favored Boji Moon, Culprit, School On a Hill, Oogeley Eye, Tiger Bourbon, Whyruawesome, Solar Flair and Manaus.

See the full chart here.

Bourbon Stakes Quotes, courtesy of Keeneland

Wayne Catalano (winning trainer of Poker Player)

“I saw (jockey Channing Hill) was saving ground around the corner; everything was working out real nice. When he turned for home, he got clear right there, and I thought we had a big shot. I had two horses in the race. I was watching the 1 horse (School On a Hill) down on the rail. He was bottle-necked in there. I was hoping he’d get a little room, then all of a sudden here comes Poker Player on the outside getting clear running, and here we are.”

On Poker Player’s next start

“Mr. (owner Gary) West and (racing manager) Benny Glass – we’ll talk it over, but I’m sure they’ll want to go to the Breeders’ Cup.”

 

Channing Hill (winning rider)

“He put me in a really good spot, just even down the backside when he broke so well. He relaxed nice into the backside. He got a little jumbled down the backside and into the turn, but he really matured even from the last race at Kentucky Downs into today. He really found himself and when I took him out I knew that we were going to be really tough to beat. He was a still a little green (early in the race), but he was absolutely professional getting to the wire.”

 

John Velazquez (rider of runner-up Bashert)

“We had a decent enough trip. They kind of backed up right in my face on the backstretch and I was finally able to pull him out and tried to get him to relax behind the other two horses. Then outside, another horse made a premature move and that cost me a little bit.”

On seeming to be headed to victory a few jumps from the finish

“When he took the lead, he pulled up. He was looking out in the infield and the horse coming on the outside he didn’t even pay attention to; he just kept looking in the infield.”

 

Eddie Castro (rider of third-place finisher Bon Accord) 

“I stayed in a little pocket. When we came into the stretch he passed some of the horses a little bit. He came on a little more at the end at the eighth pole.”

 

Ricardo Santana Jr. (rider of fourth-place finisher All Cash)

“My horse put in a beautiful (effort). I was stopped everywhere (in the race). I tried to find him some room; I tried to find a hole. But my horse still tried to finish nice.”


Brian Hernandez Jr. (rider of sixth-place finisher and 2-1 favorite Boji Moon)

“It might have been the Polytrack today; we don’t really know. (Trainer) Chris (Richard) will get him back to the barn and see what happens. We had the position (he likes) to be in. He didn’t get it done from that point.”

 

Chris Richard (trainer of Boji Moon)

“He broke really good and got himself into the race early. I don’t think he was quite into the bit as he normally is. That was a little concern of mine. The (all-weather) surface was a question mark with him (but) I am not going to use it as an excuse. I don’t think it is his favorite kind of footing. I think he will be able to get two turns, but not on (all-weather) footing.

“Our goal with him has always been the spring races (at Oaklawn Park). We’ll probably give him a break and point for that series.”

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