Crowd Pleaser put away Royal Strand in mid-stretch and then held off Dixie's Crown for a nose victory in the $74,675 Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland on Sunday. Crowd Pleaser covered 1 5/8 miles on a yielding turf course in 2:44. It was another 2 1/2 lengths back to Kim Loves Bucky in the field of seven.
Royal Strand, the 6-5 favorite, was seeking a second consecutive win in the Sycamore. He took the lead on the final turn but couldn't fight off the challengers in the stretch and finished fourth. Code's Best, Arizona Storm, and Phi Beta Doc completed the order of finish.
Crowd Pleaser, ridden by Calvin Borel, earned $44,439 for George Strawbridge Jr.'s Augustin Stable. The win improved his record to nine wins from 24 starts and increased his lifetime earnings to $605,150. In his most recent start prior to the Sycamore, the Jonathan Sheppard-trained Crowd Pleaser finished second in the Kentucky Cup Turf Handicap, beaten by a head by Down the Aisle. The Sycamore marks his first stakes win since a 2 1/4-length romp in the Calder Derby in 1998.
"He ran a big race," said Borel. "I was hoping that there might be a little more pace out there on the front, but when there wasn't I just went ahead and put him in the race early."
The winner, a 5-year-old son of A.P. Indy, paid $6.80, $3.80 and $3.60. Dixie's Crown returned $4.40 and $4.40, while Kim Loves Bucky paid $4.20 to show. (Chart, Equibase