Lull got tripped up in her last start, clipping heels and falling in Saratoga's $100,000 Bolton Landing. But she stayed on her feet in the $343,429 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies to run down talented pacesetter Caroline Test for a 1 1/4-length victory.
The victory capped a huge opener to Kentucky Downs' five-date meet, with betting on the 10-race card totaling $4,603,239.82 — up 26 percent over 2015. On-track betting totaled $238,118.10 — up 50 percent over a year ago. On a picture-perfect day, there was a huge and enthusiastic crowd. Because Kentucky Downs does not charge admission, there is no attendance count.
“It was a beautiful day of racing,” said Kentucky Downs president Corey Johnsen. “We had a great crowd on track. They had a really good time, and I'm looking forward to the next four days. “It's gratifying to see the horseplayers respond to quality racing, full fields and low takeout.”
Ellis Park resumes racing Sunday and closes out its meet Monday. Kentucky Downs races again Thursday, Sept. 10, 11 and 15.
Owned by legendary Claiborne Farm and major client Adele Dilschneider, Lull won her July 16 debut at Belmont Park by three lengths. Off that performance, the daughter of the Claiborne stallion War Front went off Saturday's favorite in the capacity field of 12 two-year-old fillies.
Caroline Test, with 2015 Kentucky Downs riding champion Florent Geroux aboard her for the first time, set the pace. Lull, in striking distance under Brian Hernandez Jr., wore her down in the final sixteenth-mile to finish seven-eighths of a mile 1:26.04.
“Her last start was very bad, unfortunately,” said Tomas Brandenourger, assistant to trainer Christophe Clement. “She was going okay on the lead, and she just clipped heels so we couldn't judge her, of course. We were just hoping that she would come back okay, and she did so she came back quickly and proved to us that she is fine.
“This was a great day for us and the owner. They are the biggest farm in Kentucky, so it is great to come here and win for them. This race was (seven) furlongs so now we know that she can stretch out and win again, so that's a good sign for the future that we can go a mile or even longer. There is Keeneland and the Miss Grillo at Belmont Park. But I will let Christophe decide on that. We just want to make sure she comes back okay and decide where to go after that.”
The victory gave Hernandez his second win on the card, with Robby Albarado and Carlos Marquez Jr. also getting doubles.
“This is the first time I rode her, and I got lucky that Claiborne and Christophe decided to let me ride her,” Hernandez said. “I talked to Christophe this morning and he just told me that she's really good if you get her covered up and she'll just travel great and that's what happened today. She got a beautiful trip and handled it really well.”
Caroline Test was an impressive off-the-turf maiden winner at Ellis Park, hen was a good second against boys in the Ellis Park Juvenile on dirt.
“She's nice. It was her first time on the turf,” Geroux said. “The winner was a big favorite last time, and unfortunately she went down. I'm very excited. She did great.”
Keeneland-based Ben Colebrook, trainer of Caroline Test, was an assistant to Clement before opening his own stable. It was pointed out that Lull keeps getting in his fillies' way, a joking reference to Exacta Systems starter China Grove, who had to check sharply when Lull fell, finishing fourth that day.
“That's my old boss,” Colebrook said with a laugh. “It's his way of getting back at me. Believe me, no, he's been great. I wouldn't be where I am without him.
“I'm thrilled. She ran her eyeballs out. There was a second where I thought I was clear, but there's no telling how good Lull is”
China Grove finished eighth in the Exacta Systems, with Colebrook thinking perhaps he ran her back too soon.
Lady Hansen, who had broken poorly in her last two races, including a win at Ellis Park in her last start, came out of the gate in fine order. She rallied from seventh under Jesus Castanon to finish third, three-quarters of a length behind Caroline Test. The rest of the field: Forest Circle, Southern Sis, Grandma's Princess, Safe With Me, China Grove, Maluku, Royal Asscher, Zyxyz and Macy's Attitude.
The Mike Maker-trained Lady Hansen is co-owned by breeder Dr. Kendall Hansen, also the owner-breeder of her sire, the 2011 2-year-old champion Hansen. Lady Hansen is part of his first and so far only American crop, having been sold to Korea after one season at stud at Ashford Stud. Also in that crop is the Iowa-bred Han Sense, whom Dr. Hansen bought. Han Sense finished fifth in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile.
“I'm very excited,” said Dr. Hansen, who made headlines when he dyed Hansen the horse's tail blue before he ran in Keeneland's Blue Grass Stakes (the stewards made him wash it out under threat of scratching the horse). “And our horse earlier (Han Sense) is a stakes-winner already (in an Iowa-bred stakes), so we've got a stakes winner and stakes-placed.
“I'm back to racing now. It's been three years breeding these Hansens. Now it's time to race them. It's been on sabbatical. Breeding was something new to me. But we got them through the breeding process and now it's time to race them. So it's exciting. I'm excited. We got beat a couple of lengths, and the horse that won looks scary on paper. So we're happy and we'll keep moving forward. She might even like dirt more. Run her farther. Glad to be back to racing, actually. I'm not a breeder.”
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