Ammerland Stud’s Nordic Truce took advantage of a strong speed duel to go three-for-three in his career in the $100,000 Transylvania Stakes (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) for 3-year-olds April 2, opening day of the Keeneland spring meet.
More than 24,000 patrons were on hand for opening day, which featured sunshine and temperatures in the low 80s. The attendance was a spring-meet record for an opening day at the Lexington racetrack.
Ridden by Julien Leparoux for trainer Christophe Clement, Nordic Truce rated in mid-pack as Strike the Tiger and California shipper Macias dueled on the firm turf course through sharp fractions of :22.78 for the opening quarter-mile, :45.80 for the half-mile, and 1:10.85 for six furlongs. The leaders began to come back to the rest of the field at the top of the stretch, but Nordic Truce didn’t get the lead until near the wire to win by a neck.
Strike the Tiger, trained by Wesley Ward and ridden by John Velazquez, ran lights out. Despite the duel, Strike the Tiger was just caught by Nordic Truce and held safe by a nose a fast-closing Guys Reward, who finished third. Final time for the 1 1/16 miles on turf was 1:41.31, about one second off the course record set in 2000.
Call Shot and Lost Aptitude were scratched, leaving a field of seven.
Leparoux, who won the 2009 Transylvania with Stormalory, said Nordic Truce relaxed early and took advantage of the fast fractions. Nordic Truce broke his maiden on turf in his career debut at Calder Casino & Race Course last year, and in January won the Dania Beach Stakes on the grass at Gulfstream Park.
Nordic Truce, by Yes It's True out of the Night Shift mare Nyramba, was bred in Kentucky by Ammerland and others. He paid $4.20 to win as the heavy favorite in the Transylvania.
Ben Colebrook, assistant to Clement, said Nordic Truce “has always shown a lot of promise in the morning.” The colt has been working steadily at Payson Park Training Center in South Florida in preparation for his trip north.
As for Nordic Truce’s next start, Colebrook said: “I don’t know where we go from here, but we’re enjoying this for now.”
The April 2 attendance easily topped the previous spring-meet opening-day record of 21,371 set in 1978. The all-time opening-day crowd for a Keeneland meet was set in the fall: 27,234 on Oct. 10, 1998.
The opening-day program featured speed, as inside front-runners ruled and no horse came from more than a few lengths back in the first seven races on the Polytrack. In the final Polytrack race, Lady Etienne rallied from fourth on the far turn, about five lengths off the lead, to get the win.
It was unusual on a track that’s usually fair, but on April 1, the Polytrack was used for speed breezes in advance of the 2-year-olds in training sale to be held April 5 at Keeneland.