Confirming Bill Mott’s suspicions that he was a natural turf horse, Darley Stable’s Stormalory came from off the pace to take the $150,000 Central Bank Transylvania (gr. IIIT), the opening day feature at Keeneland on April 3.
Winless in five dirt starts in 2008, Mott moved the son of Storm Cat to the turf this season. The Transylvania was his second win in three tries on what now looks like his preferred surface. It was his first graded stakes score.
“He handles the turf very well,” said Mott. “He was floundering on the dirt a little bit. He ran well on the synthetic here at Keeneland when he broke his maiden last year (Oct. 5), but the lawn seems to be a great spot for him. We thought he was a little better horse than he had been showing and he trained better on turf. It was a logical switch.”
Sent off as the 8-5 choice, Stormalory was last in a field of eight through a half-mile, but made his winning move on the second turn under Julien Leparoux. Angled out for the stretch drive, Stormalory had his sights set on stablemate Florentino, who had the lead at the top of the lane, as well as Mikoski and Smart Bid in upper stretch. It wasn’t until the final strides that the 3-year-old ran down Smart Bid, getting up by a neck. The final time for 1 1/16 miles on the yielding turf course was 1:45.73.
“When I went out, I asked him and he gave me a good kick,” Leparoux said. “I was very confident before the race, so I was riding quietly behind. He won nicely today.”
Smart Bid was a tough-luck second under Edgar Prado, a length in front of Japanese-bred Florentino.
Florentino, with Alan Garcia aboard, set a pedestrian pace in the Transylvania, getting a quarter-mile in :24.38, a half-mile in :49.65 and six furlongs in 1:15.05.
Stormalory was making his fourth start of 2009. The bay colt won on the Gulfstream Park turf in a first level allowance Feb. 5 and then was third, only a length back, in the Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) over the same course on March 14. Overall, Stormalory is 3-1-1 from nine starts with earnings of $179,541.
Bred in Kentucky by Stonerside Stable, Stormlalory is out of the Mr. Prospector mare Miss Halory. Mott said his next race would likley be in the Crown Royal American Turf (gr. IIIT) on May 1 at Churchill Downs.
The winner paid $5.40, $3.20 and $2.40. The exacta (8-2) returned $26.40 and the trifecta (8-2-5) was worth $88.80.
Skipadate was fourth, followed by Southern Anthem, Mikoshi, Oil Man and Orthodox.