Passed briefly inside the half-mile pole, Golden Marlin repelled the challenge and went on to post a one-length victory in Saturday's $109,000 Dogwood Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Shane Sellers for the Estate of Joe Famularo and William Glass and trainer Greg Foley, the Marlin filly put away Wildcat Queen near the top of the stretch and then held off a second challenge from Double Scoop in the final furlong. Sellers switched from right to left-handed whipping in deep stretch and Golden Marlin prevailed under pressure. The final time for the 1 1/6-mile Dogwood was 1:45 4/5 on a sloppy track.
The stakes win was the first at Churchill for Sellers since the 2000 Pocahontas. Sellers returned from a severe knee injury in October 2002 at Keeneland after being off for over a year.
"I appreciate everybody giving me a chance and sticking with me," said Sellers. "I just want to get back to where I used to be in this game. I was in a little slump the past four or five days and sometimes you take in personally. So this was a real emothional win today."
Golden Marlin, breaking from the outside, ran on the lead while three or four wide through fractions of :23 4/5, :48 and 1:12 4/5.
Double Scoop, the 2-1 favorite in the field of seven who was ridden by Calvin Borel, was second by 2 1/2 lengths over late-closing Throne and Mark Guidry. Wildcat Queen, the 5-2 second choice, faded to sixth.
Golden Marlin earned $67,580 for her first graded stakes victory. Winner of the Bourbonette but disqualified to second at Turfway Park in March, she was coming off a distant fourth-place finish behind Ocean Drive in the Appalachian at Keeneland on a yielding turf course April 18.
"She had one coming," said Foley, who won his second career Churchill stakes. "She had won a stakes at Turfway but was disqualified to second. She is nice and she showed it today.
"I figured that Shane had something left (in the stretch), and I was hoping he just had enough. The other filly (Double Scoop) stuck her head in front and then she drew back off."
Bred in Kentucky by Timothy Thornton, Golden Marlin improved her record to 3-2-1 in eight starts with earnings of $173,540.
The winner paid $9.60, $4.60 and $3.80. Double Scoop returned $4 and $3.60. Throne's show price was $6.60. The $2 exacta was worth $32.40.