One of two also-eligibles in an oversubscribed field, Madame Cactus was a longshot to even make the $250,000 Lexus Raven Run (gr. II). But not only did she draw in to the seven-furlong Polytrack event for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland Oct. 19, she unleashed a tremendous wide rally to get up by a neck at odds of 11-1 (VIDEO).
The daughter of Cactus Ridge was shipped in from California by trainer Peter Eurton for Mr. and Mrs. Marc Ferrell off a runner-up finish, three-quarters of a length behind multiple graded stakes winner Gypsy Robin, in the Sept. 4 C.E.R.F. Stakes at Del Mar. The Lexus Raven Run under jockey Joe Rocco Jr. was just her second start this year.
"I tell you it's been a fun week, coming in on Tuesday knowing at 9 a.m. that we're possibly going to not get in the race," Eurton said. "The racing secretary just said 'Hang on, we're likely to get a scratch or two,' and luckily we did.
"She's a filly with a lot of talent and she's always been something special. Unfortunately she got hurt last year but her last race at Del Mar was a big effort, too."
Far outside in a field of 14 after drawing in thanks to the scratches of Plenty O'Toole and Lighthouse Bay, Madame Cactus was 10th early as Turn by Turn eagerly went to the lead for a quarter in :22.17 and a half in :44.67. Eden Prairie took over the lead coming off the turn after keeping a bullseye on the front-runner through the early going and opened up by 2 1/2 lengths mid-stretch, reaching the furlong marker in 1:08.89. But Madame Cactus was closing with a powerful kick after getting fanned nine wide at the head of the stretch.
"On the turn I thought we were in big trouble," Rocco said. "Once we got to the stretch and I realized I didn't lose that much momentum being swung that wide, I wasn't that far off the leaders. I thought we still might have a chance. The trip was OK besides being pushed wide on the turn. Horses were able to kinda run up inside her and keep stacking her out. I was a little worried, but she kept coming. She's got a real good kick that last eighth."
From seventh to first, the eventual winner ranged up just in time to edge Eden Prairie, with My Option just a neck away for second. Final time for the distance was 1:21.71.
Madame Cactus paid $25.40, $12.60, and $8.60 while 10-1 Eden Prairie brought $10 and $7.60. My Option paid $3.80 at 4-1, while Ciao Bella Luna, Irish Lute, Fully Living, Primed for Passion, Elusive Fate, 3-1 favorite Silsita, Sittin At the Bar, Jewel of a Cat, Turn by Turn, Finding More, and Thetaloveandmine completed the order of finish.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith said a troubled trip ruined Silsita's chances.
"We were jammed up the whole race; she never got a chance," he said. "It would have been nice if we'd been (a little freer). But that's horse racing. It doesn't always happen the way you'd like it to. She just had a real rough trip. If I'd have been outside she would have been tough. It seemed the winner was about the only one to get a clean trip."
Bred in Kentucky by La Ciega out of the Mecke mare An Annika Moment, Madame Cactus now boasts three wins and two seconds from six starts, her only off-the-board finish coming at the end of last year when she was fourth in the Delta Princess (gr. III) at Delta Downs. The Raven Run was her first graded score, but she also owns blacktype victory from the My Trusty Cat Stakes at Delta, which she took by two lengths after breaking her maiden by 6 1/4 lengths sprinting six furlongs last September at Santa Anita Park.