Robert and Beverly Lewis and trainer D. Wayne Lukas had plenty to celebrate in Sunday's Independence Day $110,800 Debutante (gr. III) at Churchill Downs when their favored Classic Elegance surged past stablemate Paragon Queen in the final stages.
Pat Day, aboard the 9-5 choice Classic Elegance, took advantage of quick fractions set by Paragon Queen to record a one-length victory in a time of 1:04 for the 5 1/2-furlong test for 2-year-old fillies.
"She's an exceptionally nice filly," said Day, who won four races on the afternoon. "I mean she was just push-button and when I really put her task off the turn she responded and went on by the leader and went on about her business. It was a very pleasureable ride."
Paragon Queen, at 8-1 a separate betting interest in spite of common owner and training connections, set all the fractions with Daniel Coa aboard, and they were quick ones – :21 3/5, :45 2/5 and :57 3/5 – before giving way grudgingly in the final sixteenth.
As the field turned for home, Paragon Queen shook off a challenge by Sweet Miss El, but could not hold off her stablemate.
At the quarter pole I thought I had the race because I still had plenty of horse," Coa said. "The last eighth of a mile she started hanging in a little bit. When I switched my stick to the right hand again she came over and tried to give more, but that was it."
Day settled back early while traveling five or six wide down the backstretch. Classic Elegance made up a couple of lengths in the lane to collar Paragon Queen at the sixteenth pole and was hard-ridden to the wire, pulling away in the final 50 yards.
Cool Spell was a late-running third for Cornelio Velasquez, but was no danger to the first two, finishing 4 1/2 lengths behind. I'm a Dixie Girl was fourth, while Sweet Miss El and Limitless Lady, both sent off at 3-1, were sixth and last, respectively, in the field of nine.
After a poor Santa Anita meeting, Lukas continues to enjoy a resurgence at the Churchill Downs spring meet, which ends Monday. He has won 18 races and boasts a winning percentage of more than 20%. The victory Sunday was a record sixth in the Debutante for the Hall of Fame conditioner, who leads all trainers with 67 career stakes victories at Churchill.
"Bob and Beverly (Lewis) have got to be ecstatic," Lukas said. "I'm so happy for them."
Lukas said he would take both fillies to Saratoga for their next starts.
A Kentucky-bred bay filly by Carson City–Taegu (by Halo), Classic Elegance was the only filly in the field with prior stakes experience. She was coming off a third-place showing against colts in the Juvenile at Churchill Downs May 1. The victory was her second in three starts and the winner's share of $68,696 increased her earnings to $111,506. Bred by Brereton C. Jones, Classic Elegance was a $650,000 Keeneland September sale.She paid $5.60, $4 and $3.20. Paragon Queen returned $6.80 and $4.80 to complete a $36 exacta. Cool Spell, sent off at 16-1, was $9.40 to show.(Chart, Equibase)