The way jockey Geovanni Franco was riding Randy Howg's Inside Straight during the final turn of the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2), it looked like he was sitting on a mountain of horse.
On the inside, behind pacesetter and 1-2 favorite Midnight Storm, all Franco had to do was get his longshot out and into the clear. At the top of the lane, he found the opening he needed and Inside Straight ran past Midnight Storm to win by two lengths. Domain's Rap closed from sixth to edge Midnight Storm by a neck at the wire for second.
"Halfway around the turn, I knew we had a tough horse in front of us," said winning trainer Robertino Diodoro. "The other horses—(the jockeys) were down riding and Franco was there with a lot of horse. I can't say enough about Franco. He's ridden great for us all meet, and again today."
California shipper Midnight Storm set fractions of :22.96, :46.49, and 1:10.60 through six furlongs under jockey Mike Smith, but his lead began to shrink. Goats Town was the first to challenge in the final turn, but was not up to the task. Inside Straight put a head in front through a mile in 1:35.88 and kicked clear to finish of the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.40 and give Franco his first graded stakes win.
"I don't know (what to say). It was incredible," Franco said. "My first graded stakes. I am so happy it happened."
A stakes winner back in August, when he took Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia Downs, Inside Straight won two of his next seven starts, but routed an Oaklawn Park allowance field by five lengths in his start prior to the Oaklawn Handicap. A 4-year-old Super Saver gelding bred in New York by SF Bloodstock out of the Southern Halo mare Dance Alexa, Inside Straight now has a 7-2-4 record from 20 starts and earnings of $752,889. He was a $160,000 purchase by Maverick Racing from Bedouin Bloodstock's consignment to the 2014 Keeneland September Yearling sale, and raced for WinStar Farm through 10 starts before he was acquired by Howg.
"It's just unbelievable," the owner said. "I don't know how this can be true. It's a long ways from Canada. I've got a lot of friends in Alberta up there watching. This is just incredible to win this. I should be home planting beets. But my son and wife are looking after things at home. I think they probably thought I was on a wild goose chase, but I had a pretty good day."