Ill Conceived, after rallying in gutsy fashion, settled for second in the race for 3-year-olds. Dynamical was third, 3 1/2 lengths further back. The final time for 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack was 1:46.55.
With Stewart Elliott aboard, Ill Conceived was out of the gate first and set a deliberate pace, getting the first quarter in :24.69 and the half in :49.83 as State of Play rated to his outside. Ill Conceived led by a length nearing the quarter pole but drifted wide, opening the way for State of Play to come inside, and winning jockey Victor Lebron made the most of the opportunity.
Owned by Team Valor International and trained by Graham Motion, State of Play took over at the top of the lane and appeared to put Ill Conceived away. But the runner-up reached for more and fought back, forcing State of Play to do the same. Ill Conceived actually looked as if he took the lead back in the final jumps, but State of Play put his head down at the perfect time.
“When I saw Stewart’s get the lead, I thought we’d be in good shape,” said Lebron. “I was a little worried with his horse going that slow, but it helped me to have an easier pace, so I could finish harder with my horse. His horse was getting out around the second turn and he was fighting with him, so I dug right in to the inside. I got the jump on him and started riding a little earlier than I would have. My horse just did not want to lose."
“He’s still learning, but I was really pleased to see him battle back,” said John Servis, trainer of Ill Conceived. “He ran a great race.”
Mr. Prankster, the 4-5 favorite, settled into good position through three-quarters but had no run when running was required and finished fourth. Posey Rose, hampered by a slipped saddle, completed the short field of 3-year-olds. Phantom Fury was scratched..
State of Play was the second choice at 2-1 and paid $6, $4.20, and $4.
The John Battaglia Memorial put State of Play back in the winner’s circle after off-the-board finishes in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) in November and the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) one month ago at Tampa Bay Downs. A grade II winner in his second start, the With Anticipation Stakes, State of Play now has three wins in five starts and earnings of $166,500.
He was bred in Kentucky by Stone Farm and Dell Hancock and is by War Front out of Valeta, by Procida.
The Battaglia Memorial is the third and final local prep for Turfway’s Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) on March 24.