Buttonwood Farm's Downhill Racer overcame several issues throughout the seven-furlong $100,000 Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes, catching leader Heat Dome with a sixteenth of a mile to go and getting up late to win the Commonwealth's biggest race for 2-year-olds by a neck. The son of Jump Start won for the second time in two starts and earned the first stakes victory of his young career Saturday at Parx.
Breaking from the inside gate in a shortened field of five, Downhill Racer got off to a bit of an awkward beginning and was last in the opening jumps but nonetheless quickly gathered himself and moved up to be third as the field completed the first furlong. Heading toward the half mile pole, however, he appeared uncomfortable, his stride “climbing” as he fell almost five lengths off the leader, the 6-5 race favorite, The Gemini Man. Winning jockey Andrew Wolfsont did a good job of getting his colt settled down and past the half, began to make a steady gain on the front runners rounding the far turn and approaching the quarter mile mark.
Downhill Racer had moved into contention, but now found himself with nowhere to go. Blocked in behind the leading trio, Wolfsont patiently waited until the horse on the inside of the group, The Gemini Man, gave way, and found himself running room up the rail. Heat Dome, who had rallied from third to take the lead turning for home, dug in with an eighth of a mile to go and valiantly tried to fend off the oncoming challenge from Downhill Racer. Downhill Racer just kept coming and finally drew even as the two passed the sixteenth pole. Heat Dome held tough, but Downhill Racer was determined, finally putting his head in front nearing the wire and gamely got up to win.
Off as no better than third choice at 3-1, Downhill Racer, trained by Jonathan Sheppard, paid $8.40, 4.80 and 3.00. Heat Dome (5-2) ran great in defeat and paid 4.40 and 3.20. Indominus Rex (4-1), who had rallied into contention at the top of the stretch, weakened in the final three-sixteenths, and paid 3.20 to show. The final time over a track labeled fast was 1:27.04.
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