G. Watts Humphrey Jr.'s homebred Centre Court ran down 2012 Jenny Wiley (gr. IT) winner Daisy Devine in the final furlong of the 2013 renewal to get her first grade I victory for trainer Rusty Arnold at Keeneland April 13 (VIDEO).
Jockey Julien Leparoux guided the 4-year-old Smart Strike filly to her third graded-stakes win in a row; she is 2-for-2 in 2013 after taking the March 16 Honey Fox Stakes (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream Park.
"This one was easier than the last one; she'd come off a long layoff (before the Honey Fox)," Arnold said. "She has improved, she's a better horse than last year, she's easier to deal with, and she did it on her own."
Centre Court sat third off a pace set by Daisy Devine, who went a quarter in :23.99 and a half in :48.08 while opening a three-length lead up the backstretch. Daisy Devine clocked three-quarters in 1:12.18 and had an advantage of about six lengths turning for home, but Leparoux had the defending victress in his sights.
Centre Court made her move coming off the far turn and steadily wore down the winner, passing midstretch for a mile in 1:35.71 before crossing the wire two lengths in front. The final time for the 1 1/16-mile turf event was 1:41.73.
"I got a little worried around the three-eighths pole, but coming to the quarter pole, I knew I was running faster and I knew I was going to catch Daisy Devine," said Leparoux. "Centre Court is a good filly. She's gotten a lot better from last year. She was already good, but she got a lot better this year. We're looking forward to a great year from her."
Off at odds of 8-5, Centre Court paid $5.40, $3, and $2.40. Daisy Devine, 7-2 under jockey James Graham, brought $4.20 and $3.20. Finishing third was 9-2 Samitar, who paid $3.20. Better Lucky, Ausus, Abaco, Old Tune, Quiet Oasis, and Hard Not to Like completed the order of finish.
"I would have liked to slow it down a little more," jockey James Graham said of his lead on Daisy Devine. "I didn't have to use her but she broke so sharp and so quick, and everybody was scrambling to get their positions but not going anywhere, so I ended up being on the lead, in hand, comfortable, relaxed. She ran her race but the filly ran by her."
Said Andrew McKeever, trainer of Daisy Devine: "She ran huge. She just got outrun by a better horse."
Centre Court, bred in Kentucky out of the A.P. Indy mare Let, now has six wins and four seconds from 11 starts, with earnings of $746,012. In 2012 she won the Mrs. Revere Stakes (gr. IIT) at Churchill Downs, the Lake Placid Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga Race Course, and the Regret Stakes (gr. IIIT), also at Churchill.