Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield dominated the closing day feature at Keeneland, as his foreign-bred charges Spice Route and Musketier ran one-two in the $200,000 Fifth Third Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) April 24 on the Haggin turf course.
Ridden by Rene Douglas, 5-year-old Spice Route was making his first career start at Keeneland while taking on an accomplished field of veteran horses that included Champs Elysees, Brass Hat and Better Talk Now. A full field of 12 went to post in the 1 1/2-mile marathon.
Spice Route raced mid-pack for much of the race while Quasicobra, Buddy's Humor and Admiral's Cruise duked it out through moderate fractions of :25.70, :50.63, 1:14.92 and 1:40.01. The gelded son of King's Best made his winning move around the final turn, took over approaching the eighth-pole and drew away to win by two lengths in a final time of 2:29.23 on the firm turf.
German-bred Musketier, who finished fourth in an allowance event about two weeks ago over the same course, was second with Edgar Prado aboard, a neck better than 8-year-old gelding Brass Hat, who rallied nicely to get up for third under Calvin Borel.
Attfield also co-owns Spice Route along with Harlequin Ranches and Ralph Johnson.
"They both ran great," said Attfield of Spice Route and Musketier. "The race is getting better every year in the quality of the race. (Spice Route) is just a genuine little racehorse. I'm delighted with him today.
"They will both go back up to Toronto, and we'll plan the summer with them."
Spice Route entered the Elkhorn off a solid third-place finish in the Feb. 21 Mac Diarmida (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream Park in his season debut. The chestnut ended his 2008 campaign with a victory in the Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Calder Race Course, his first graded stakes score. He is now 5-2-5 from 19 starts with earnings of $719,947.
Spice Route was bred by Usk Valley Stud and is out of the In the Wings mare Zanzibar.
The winner paid $10.20, $5.20 and $4. The exacta (4-6) returned $258.20 and the trifecta (4-6-10) was worth $3,237.20.
Champs Elysees, the 3-2 favorite who entered off a runner-up finish in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), never fired and finished seventh, just behind Better Talk Now, the 10-year-old gelding with more than $4.2 million in earnings.