Neil Pessin is from Lexington and has stabled at Keeneland for years. On the opening day of the spring meeting Friday, his Chin High pulled a major upset in the $150,000 Central Bank Transylvania Stakes (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds.
The son of Smart Strike
shocked the solid field of turf runners by winning the mile grass race by one length under Shaun Bridgmohan and paying a whopping $139.
It was the third stakes win at Keeneland for Pessin, who won the Elkhorn (gr. IIT) and Keeneland Breeders' Cup (gr. IIIT) in 1993 with Coaxing Matt.
It was not hard to understand why Chin High was such high odds. He had started four times, breaking his maiden in his last start at Evangeline Downs. He had started once on turf, running fifth last year in a race at Arlington Park.
It was no surprise to Pessin, though.
"Yeah, we've kind of been pointing to this spot for awhile," Pessin said. "When we entered we thought we had a big shot to win. We don't own any of the family, so we weren't looking to get stakes-placed."
The winner, who completed the eight furlongs on firm going in 1:37 4/5, earned $93,000 for owner Ike Thrash.
Pessin said a final decision will be made later on a next start for his bay colt, but noted that Chin High is nominated to the Mid-America Triple series at Arlington Park.
Chin High was entered in an non-winner of one other than allowance race at Keeneland Saturday and Daily Racing Form
had him 30-1 in that race.
But while the 4-5 favorite, Bobby Frankel-trainee To Sender, began retreating on the backstretch in the Transylvania, Bridgmohan had Chin High poised for his late kick.
Wherethewestbegins made the lead as the field turned for home and had every opportunity to spurt away to win, but he hung a bit down the stretch as Chin High and Le Plaix, under Edgar Prado, came with their big runs.
Chin High, fourth as the field reached the furlong marker, exploded to the lead and held off Le Plaix, with Wherethewestbegins staying on for third, a half-length behind the runner-up.
"t was a little bit difficult doing it but he kinda managed to bull his way through there and get ahead of them," Bridgmohan said.
Chin High was ninth in the field of 10 early as the Irish-bred In A Flash staked fractions of :22 1/5, :46 and 1:11 4/5.
"Midway down the backside I nudged him a little and thought I'd give him a little encouragement and he picked it up pretty good," the jockey noted.
The mutual board lit up on the dark and rainy afternoon at Keeneland. Chin High, owned by Ike Thrash, paid $139, $62.60, and $17.60. Le Plaix returned $24.80 and $11.20, and Wherethewestbegins was worth $7.20
It goes without saying that the gimmicks were huge. The extaca paid $1,239.20, the quinella $339.60, the trifecta $12,907.80, and a ten-cent superfecta with Unbridled Behavior fourth paid $3,409.34.
Keeneland's first of 15 racing days drew 18,031 people, a record for a Friday opening in the spring. The previous record was 15,811, set last year. Friday's total included 3,417 students drawn by $10,000 in college scholarships.
In A Flash finished fifth, followed by Readily, Tompest, Dawn of War, Indian Hawke and To Sender.
"He got hit from behind by another horse about 50 yards out of the gate and never really relaxed after that," said jockey Alex Solis of the To Sender.
Bred in Kentucky by Sun Valley Farm, Chin High is out of the Sunny Clime mare Damie's Sis.