Pellegrino, a grade I winner overlooked at odds of 24-1, took the lead with less than an eighth of a mile remaining and gamely held off two challengers to win the $200,000 Fifth Third Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIIT) Friday, the final day of Keeneland's spring meeting.
The 7-year-old Brazilian-bred son of Nugget Point gave owner Gary Tanaka and trainer Roger Attfield their second win in a 1 1/2-mile graded turf race in three days. Noble Stella, the other one, won the Bewitch (gr. IIIT) for fillies and mares on Wednesday.
Pellegrino held a three-quarter of a length advantage on Go Deputy at the finish. It was a nose back to third-place Silverfoot, the 5-2 favorite who finished a length in front of fourth-place Dynantonia.
Pellegrino ran the 12-furlong distance in 2:29.84 under Shaun Bridgmohan and increased his career earnings to $412,705. Returning to action for the first time since mid-December, he won for the fifth time in 23 lifetime starts. Pellegrino won the 2004 Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) when trained by Donald Burke,
"He left running and I got him covered up and he relaxed really, really nice," Bridgmohan said. "I got him outside and he was just waiting for me to ask him. Once I did, he just took off."
The winner paid $50.20, $21.20 and $10.40. Go Deputy, ridden by Garrett Gomez, returned $4.80 and $3.20 and Silverfoot, with Mark Guidry aboard, paid $2.80.
After Dynantonia, the order of finish was Watershed, Ramazutti, Dynalympic, Dreadnaught, Rochester, Gunning For and Westmoreland.
The final day of racing attracted 17,624 people, increasing the total for the 15-day meeting to an all-time record 244,145. The previous record was 235,220 for 16 days last year.
Apprentice jockey Julien Leparoux escaped injury in the sixth race when his mount, Sanibel Storm, ducked into the rail less than a sixteenth of a mile from the finish line, sending the rider somersaulting into the infield.
When the 2-year-old daughter of Stormy Atlantic
crashed against the rail, Leparoux went head over heels onto the safety rail and tumbled again into the grass. He quickly rose to his feet and walked off the track without assistance.
After a brief visit to the first aid room, Leparoux returned to the jockey's quarters and rode in the next race. The young Frenchman won 17 races to finish in a tie with Rafael Bejarano as the spring meeting's leading jockey.
With 12 wins, Nick Zito was the leading trainer. He finished one win ahead of Todd Pletcher. Ken and Sarah Ramsey were the leading owners with six wins.