Kim Glenney's homebred Kim Loves Bucky, with Shane Sellers riding, overcame pacesetting Quest Star in the stretch and held off closing Rochester to capture Saturday's $112,000 Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs.
The 6-year-old Green Dancer gelding, who has a pair of grade III wins in Keeneland's Elkhorn (gr. IIIT) to his credit for trainer John Glenney, won the 1 3/8-mile Louisville by a half-length over Rochester in a time of 2:14 on a firm grass course. Dr. Kashnikow came on to take third, two lengths behind the winner. The 5-2 favorite Quest Star faded out of contention and finished fifth.
Sellers was able to take advantage of cozy fractions while settling Kim Loves Bucky in second behind Quest Star, who went :25 3/5, :48 4/5, 1:13 3/5 and 1:37 3/5. Red Mountain and Roxinho were tracking as well, but from well behind the first two. On the far turn, Kim Loves Bucky increased the pressure and got the measure of the leader less than two furlongs from home. Kim Loves Bucky opened a daylight lead and gamely held off Rochester, who rallied five wide from the rear of the pack to make it close at the end.
"John (trainer Glenny) said he might be the lone speed," said Sellers, "but Quest Star came up on my outside so I just let him go. I pressed his hand a bit. My job going into the first turn was to keep Larry (jockey Melancon) honest and put pressure on him. At the three-eighths pole, I saw Larry was peeking on his horse and I knew we had him. He didn't have everything his way but he was the best horse today."
Kim Loves Bucky started 2003 with a repeat victory in the 12-furlong Elkhorn on April 23, but was fifth in his subsequent start, the Jim Murray at Hollywood Park May 10. Overall, he's won six of 25 while registering his first triumph in five tries on the Churchill Downs sod. The victory, worth $69,440, improved his career earnings to $480,199.
"He was supposed to go to the front but Quest Star wanted it so it played out better for us," said John Glenny. "We wanted him to be out front to stay of trouble. You can't get in trouble when you're on the lead. He's an older horse and knows what he wants and he is versatile. He doesn't have a quick turn of foot. He has a nice sustained run."
Sent off at 4-1 as the second choice in the field of eight, Kim Loves Bucky paid $10.40, $6.40 and $4.80. Rochester, ridden by Pat Day, returned $6.40 and $4.60. Dr. Kashnikow, with Mark Guidry aboard, showed for $4.60. Roxinho was fourth. The $2 exacta was worth $54.