Half the field was in contention at the top of the stretch of the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park Saturday, but Catman Running with Willie Martinez aboard proved best in the lane.
Breaking from post 8 in the 11-horse field, Martinez moved Catman Running four wide down the backstretch to find a comfortable spot in fourth. Third entering the final turn, the colt commenced a steady run outside that earned him the lead, gradually pulling away for a 1 3/4-length victory on the all-weather track.
"He's been kind of a 6-foot-tall 12-year-old, so to speak," said winning trainer Eric Reed. "Each time we run him he gets a little better. For instance, the gate used to be a problem -- he's thrown his rider twice -- but today he was a gentleman. I told Willie if he wanted to run early not to take his race away, and he rode a great race."
Joe Got Even finished second as the 6-5 favorite. With Miguel Mena up, Joe Got Even raced easily along the rail in fifth through much of the 1 1/16-mile race, but mid-stretch traffic trouble helped foil his closing run. Mena aimed for a hole to the inside of Catman Running, steadied his mount when the hole closed, and then split horses to the outside. Cobrador, the horse to the outside of that hole, finished another length back in third.
Completing the order of finish were Approval Rating, Legacy Reserve, Tanyard Hill, Rutledge Cat, Eighteenthofmarch, Digger, Bubber, and Dicey.
After following easy opening fractions of :24.88 and :49.91, Catman Running finished the Battaglia in 1:45.42. He paid $11.20, $4.80, and $3.80 as the 9-2 third choice. By Tactical Catout of Nurse Dopey, Catman Running is owned by Joe Harris. The victory was worth $62,000.
Reed said he next wants to run Catman Running in the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) on March 24 at Turfway. The Battaglia Memorial is the last prep race for the Lane's End.
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