G. Watts Humphrey Jr.'s homebred Centre Court brought her sterling
credentials, and fondness for the Matt Winn Turf Course, to bear in a smashing
performance in Saturday night's Grade 2, $202,125
Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs. Striking the front turning into the
stretch, the 3-2 favorite soon turned the 1 1/16-mile test into a rout, and
remained perfect from three starts over the local turf.
Centre Court's first two victories came during the spring meet -- a 4 3/4-length maiden conquest on May 19, followed by the Grade 3 Regret in her stakes debut on June 16. The Rusty Arnold filly made it three in a row when taking a rough running of the Grade 2 Lake George at Saratoga. Runner-up to Stephanie's Kitten next time out in the Grade 2 Lake Placid at the Spa August 19, Centre Court was most recently second to the front-running Dayatthespa in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland October 13.
That record made her the one to beat during the "Downs After Dark" program, and none of her rivals proved up to the task. As the free-wheeling English Class scampered clear through fractions of :24 1/5 and :48 2/5 on the firm turf, Centre Court was content to stalk in second. Nearing the final turn, however, Centre Court cruised up to join English Class through six furlongs in 1:13.Once Julien Leparoux set her down in earnest, Centre Court provided an immediate response. The Smart Strike filly surged 2 1/2 lengths clear in midstretch, and put the race away. Leading Astray trimmed her margin a bit late, but it was still a good-looking two lengths. Centre Court, who stopped the teletimer in 1:42 2/5, rewarded her backers with $5, $3.20 and $2.60.
"I rode her like she was the favorite," Leparoux said. "She ran a big race (in the QEII) at Keeneland with a slow pace and kicked on very nice at the end. Today, she did the same thing. She kicked on very nice at the end and won pretty easy. When I asked her, she kicked away and I knew that if someone could beat me at that point, it would have been a very good filly."
Leading Astray deftly split rivals to finish with interest, three-quarters of a length ahead of Colonial Flag. Solid Appeal checked in fourth, trailed by Miz Ida, English Class, Somali Lemonade, Peace Preserver, Regalo Mia, Volcat, Lateegra and Charged Cotton.
Bred by Humphrey in partnership with the Louise Ireland Humphrey Revocable Trust in Kentucky, Centre Court advanced her record to 9-4-4-0, $476,012. Her improvement over the season can be measured by her rival Colonial Flag, who beat her narrowly in a Keeneland maiden back in April. Centre Court repaid the favor by defeating Colonial Flag by a length in the Regret. On Saturday, Centre Court was 2 3/4 lengths better than Colonial Flag.
"She's been there all year," Arnold said. "Dayatthespa, you have to give her the credit, she's been the best probably. We took a big shot at her at Keeneland, but couldn't get by her. We beat Stephanie's Kitten, twice, so I put mine right below the top one.
"She's had eight starts on the turf and has never been worse than second. I haven't had one much more consistent. She just hasn't run a bad race on the grass. Sometimes you'll have a bad trip or you'll get in trouble, but she's just been there all year for us."
Arnold had originally toyed with the idea of sending her on vacation after the QEII, but opted to take a final swing at the Mrs. Revere. Centre Court has now definitely earned her time off.
"She's going to Palm Meadows, but she won't run till April," the trainer said. "We'll point her to the (Grade 1) Jenny Wiley (at Keeneland)."
Humphrey was delighted with Centre Court's win.
"That was fun -- she comes with her race every time," Humphrey said of his homebred.
The aptly-named Centre Court is out of the Grade 2-winning A.P. Indy mare Let, who placed in the 1998 Grade 1 Ashland Stakes. Humphrey described his sentimental attachment to Let.
"One of the first mares that I bought with my mother (Louise Ireland Humphrey) when she decided she wanted to get involved was the dam (Let)," he said. "My mom was in New York working with the (Metropolitan) Opera and said she wanted to get back into racing. We went out and bought three yearlings, and one of them was the dam of Centre Court."
Let has also produced Grade 3 victor Ravel. Let is herself a half-sister to Eagle Cafe, winner of the 2002 Japan Cup Dirt, as well as to the dam of dual stakes victress Marianne Rose.
Centre Court's third dam is the Grade 3-winning Damascus mare Doubles Partner, who is a daughter of French Group 3 victress Fabuleux Jane. Other foals of Fabuleux Jane, who was third in the 1977 runnings of the Group 1 Prix de Diane and Group 1 Prix Vermeille, include Grade 1-winning stallion Joyeux Danseur and listed-scoring sire Fabuleux Dancer.
Fabuleux Jane is a half-sibling to English and French champion sprinter Ajdal; Grade 1 queen Flying Partner, who ran third in the 1982 Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks; and English Group 1 winner Formidable. However, the mare is probably best known for being the granddam of champion Arazi and English highweight Noverre, both sires.
This is also the family of Grade 2-winning sire Exchange Rate and Japanese champions Dance in the Mood, Dance Partner and Dance in the Dark.