Late-charging Delta Princess closed from dead last with a sweeping move to capture Saturday's $110,100 Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Churchill Downs grass thanks to a well-timed ride from Robby Albarado.
The consistent 6-year-old A.P. Indy
mare, trained by Bill Mott, won for the 10th time in 25 lifetime starts. She was making her first start at Churchill Downs.
The 8-5 favorite in the field of seven, Delta Princess defeated the second choice, Shaconage, by a length in 1:42 2/5 on a good course for the 1 1/8-mile test for fillies and mares. Delta Princess has won 10 of 17 career starts at nine furlongs on the grass with three seconds.
The win allowed trainer Mott to tie fellow Hall of Fame great D. Wayne Lukas for the career lead in stakes wins at Churchill Downs with 67.
Reserved off the pace while racing four wide, Delta Princess was hung out eight wide after moving into contention as the field bunched approaching the stretch. Under urging from Albarado she picked off the field one by one, catching Shaconage and jockey Mike Smith close to home after the runner-up had regained the lead in upper stretch.
"She normally comes from way, way off the pace and she actually fell far back today off a slow pace," said Albarado, who rode Delta Princess for the first time. "They told me to swing her out turning for home and, when I called on her, she exploded."
It was four lengths back to Erhu (Willie Martinez), the longest shot in the field at 18-1 who led after six furlongs along the inside and battled until tiring in the final furlong.
Pretty Jane set a moderate early pace of :24 before Shaconage took over the lead after a half-mile in :48 2/5. Ehru took the lead after six furlongs in 1:12 2/5 and dueled with Shaconage into the stretch before Shaconage regained the advantage.
Saud bin Khaled owns the winner, who was bred in Kentucky by Palides Investments N V Inc. Delta Princess, who was coming off a runner up finish to Intercontinental in Keeneland's Jenny Wiley (gr. IIIT) on April 17, increased her career earnings to $547,257.
The dark bay paid $5.20, $2.80 and $2.40. Shaconage returned $3.40 and $2.60. Erhu was $4.20 to show.
Cape Town Lass, Pretty Jane, Dynamic Cat and Sparkling Humor were next.