French Riviera, with the Louisiana connections of trainer Larry Robideaux and jockey Donnie Meche, pulled off a stunning upset in the $125,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. III) over a muddy track at Keeneland Sunday.
The 3-year-old daughter of French Deputy, owned by Barnett Stables, bounded away to a six-length win at odds of 19-1 in a final time of 1:09 3/5 for the six furlongs.
French Riviera came into the race, her first in graded stakes company, off of back-to-back allowance condition wins at Louisiana Downs. Those efforts followed a 14-month hiatus recuperating from operations on both knees.
She broke on top and opened a six-length lead on the backstretch, recording hot fractions of :21 and :44 for the half-mile. In spite of the early speed, French Riviera was pulling away from runner-up Don't Countess Out, who edged Away for the place.
"I knew I was cooking right along the backside," said Meche. "Around the turn she was just out by herself. She threw her ears up to let me know she was relaxed doing what she was doing (in the stretch run)."
It was Robideaux's second win in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes. He sent out Cinemine to win via disqualification in 1999.
"That's what I came here for," explained Robideaux. "This one has a little more ability than Cinemine did. The only time she got beat is when she fractured her knee. This is an extraordinary filly. She's got natural talent."
Robideaux credited the filly's owners for having patience with her.
"She's just a natural athlete, and I'm fortunate to be able to train her," he said. "(The owners) gave her the time she needed. I've gotta' say thanks to them"
Bred by Triple Joy Farm in Kentucky, French Riviera was a $40,000 Keeneland September 2000 Yearling Sale.
Winning for the fourth time in five starts she increased her career earnings to more than $110,000 with the $75,000 purse.
French Riviera paid $40.80, $16.60, $5.20. Don't Countess Out returned $6.40 and $3.40. Away paid $2.60.
Favored Cat Cay, looking to repeat her TCA victory of last year, fell 20 lengths behind on the backstretch and finished ninth in the 10-horse field.