Velazquez Unstoppable as Melhor Ainda Wins

Velazquez Unstoppable as Melhor Ainda Wins
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Melhor Ainda wins the Appalachian Stakes to complete John Velazquez' string of eight straight winning mounts.

(from Keeneland report)
Heavily favored Melhor Ainda rallied five horses wide on the final turn en route to a decisive victory in the $112,800 Appalachian Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Sunday at Keeneland.

The Bobby Frankel-trained daughter of Pulpit remained undefeated in three starts and gave jockey John Velazquez eight straight wins over a three-day period at two different racetracks.

"I was trying to hide her behind horses and she just wanted to go," said Velazquez. "I kept saying 'hold on mommy, not yet.' I knew the first time I rode her she was something special."

Melhor Ainda ran one mile on the yielding turf in 1:37.69 and finished 3 1/2 lengths ahead of runnerup Paddy's Daisy, winner of the Jessamine County Stakes last fall at Keeneland. It was 1 1/2 lengths back to third-place Sweet Talker.

Godsend finished fourth followed, in order, by Ascot Dream, Insan Mala, Polish Grove and Sweet Solairo.

Melhor Ainda earned $69,936 for Gonzalo Torrealba's T N T Stable. She was purchased at the 2003 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $125,000.

The winner paid $4.20, $3 and $2.80 while adding the Appalachian to a previous stakes victory in the Miss Grillo in October.

"She's really something else," said Frankel. "The first time she ran, she finished the last eighth in:10 4/5 and you just don't see that with two-year-old fillies. She wasn't totally fit for this race but I thought she was so good, she would probably win it anyway."

Paddy's Daisy returned $3.60 and $2.60 and Sweet Talker paid $3.60.

Velazquez won with his final three mounts Friday at Keeneland. He traveled to Chicago where he won with his only two mounts Saturday at Hawthorne, both in graded stakes races. The 33-year-old native of Puerto Rico returned to Keeneland to win with his first three mounts Sunday before finishing fifth aboard Supercell in the ninth race.

"I didn't think anyone was counting," said Velazquez, who was the Eclipse Award winning jockey in 2004. "I've been riding really nice horses. I get great support from the people I ride for and I'm riding really good horses."

The record for consecutive wins by a jockey is nine, set by Albert Adams in 1930 and equaled by Tony Black in 1993.

(Chart, Equibase)

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