A last minute decision to race in the $125,000 Durham Cup (Grade 3) paid off for the connections of supplemental entry Lookin for Eight, who earned his first stakes win as the longest shot on the board in 1-1/8-mile event for older horses on Sunday at Woodbine Racetrack.
Facing defending champion Melmich among the shortened field of four, Jerome Lermyte put 12-1 longshot Lookin for Eight on the lead and never looked back. The homebred Lookin At Lucky-Somalia gelding scored the first win of his four-year-old campaign for trainer Mark Casse and owners Gary Barber, John Oxley, Ralph Kinder and Ervine Woolsey.
“Mark's very good at that. It was a last minute decision,” said assistant trainer Kathryn Sullivan. “We entered him yesterday for an allowance race and opted to run here and it worked out very well.”
Even-money favourite Melmich flashed early speed from the inside post, but Lookin for Eight forged ahead as they raced into the clubhouse turn through a :24.37 first quarter while Florida Won moved up into second on the outside. Melmich tracked inside third while Avie's Mesa followed at the back of the compact field.
Lookin for Eight continued to lead the four-pack through a half in :49.46 and three-quarters in 1:13.47 before Melmich launched outside on the final turn to take his shot in the stretch. However, Lookin for Eight was untouchable as he cruised home for the 1-1/4-length victory in 1:50.55. Melmich chased in vain and had to settle for third-place honours as Florida Won came back on for the runner-up role.
“When I saw Melmich trying to go, at first, I thought I'd just let him go if he's going at a good pace and once he tried to rate it then I said I'd take it on my own and see where we can go,” said Lermyte of his racing strategy.
“In the back of my mind, I always thought maybe one was going to come at the end, but it worked out great and we just kept on going.”
Lookin for Eight returned $26.50 to his backers at the betting windows.
The win was his first at Woodbine and third lifetime from 12 starts with the lion's share of the purse pushing his bankroll to nearly $180,000.
Casse, who now has three Durham Cup titles to his credit, lifted his meet-leading stakes win total to 16.
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