Jon A. Marshall's Tricky Escape bided her time for an opening on the inside around the far turn and prevailed in a three-horse drive to the wire in Saturday's 44th running of the $100,000 Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs, which was taken off the turf and run on the “sloppy” main track. Fair Point was a nose back in second and longshot Coco Channel was another length back in third.
Tricky Escape, who raided Kentucky from the Middletown Training Center in Delaware, clocked 1 1/8 miles in 1:53.85. Chris DeCarlo rode the winner for trainer Lynn Ashby, who is famously known in equine circles as an eight-time champion trainer of Arabians. Tricky Escape is her lone stakes-winning Thoroughbred, according to Equibase.com.
“She's as game as they come and does everything you ask,” Ashby said.
The race was moved to the main track at 4:20 p.m. (all times Eastern) – about an hour before the race – when a line of storms moved through Louisville. As is protocol in situations involving a transfer of racing surfaces, the Grade III ranking for the Cardinal must be reviewed and approved by the American Graded Stakes Committee in the coming days before it can be applied.
Reduced to a field seven fillies and mares after five scratches, 30-1 longshot Coco Channel set the early pace of :25.23, :50.60 and 1:15.10 with 45-1 B Rockett chasing in second and Fair Point stalking in third from the outside. Tricky Escape, who broke from the inside post, chased the pacesetters from fourth. Linda, the 9-5 favorite, swung six-wide around the far to make a bid and join the leaders, as DeCarlo waited for a seam to open for Tricky Escape at the top of the stretch.
As Linda weakened in the stretch, Tricky Escape rallied from the inside to draw even with the leaders at the eighth pole. Coco Channel raced between horses and Fair Point was in the three-path on the outside. Tricky Escape lived up to her name as she narrowly took over inside the final sixteenth of a mile as the trio competed in close quarters.
Julie Burke, who rode Coco Channel, lodged an objection against the winner and runner-up after the race, but Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards disallowed the claim following a review of video tape.
“When I went inside I think the other riders were probably cussing me at one point,” New York-based DeCarlo said. “This filly tries so hard. Lynn does a great job with her. We broke well and got into a good spot. She just kept tugging along and dug in in the final stages.”
Tricky Escape, sent to post as the 5-2 second betting choice, returned $7, $3.40 and $2.80 as the 119-pound starting high weight. Fair Point, the 3-1 third choice ridden by Tyler Gaffalione under 116 pounds, paid $4 and $3.40. Coco Channel, who carried 114 pounds, returned $5.80 to show.
Linda, B Rockett, Rattataptap and Weep No More completed the order of finish. Dona Bruja (Arg), Res Ipsa, Lovely Loyree, La Piba and Beauly (GB) were scratched.
The Cardinal Handicap, worth $60,760 to the winning connections, was the second stakes win for Tricky Escape, who also won the $100,000 Violet (GIII) at Monmouth Park in August. Overall, the 4-year-old filly improved her career record to 14-4-5-3—$308,480.
Tricky Escape is a daughter of Hat Trick (JPN) out of the Petionville mare Island Escape. She was bred in Kentucky by Robert B. Trussell Jr. and John T.L. Jones III.
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