Direct Line, battling West Hope all the way around, got up by a nose at the wire to win the $100,000 Gardenia Handicap (gr. III) in an 11-1 surprise at Ellis Park Aug. 14 (VIDEO).
The winner, a 4-year-old daughter of Tiznow , registered her first stakes win in four tries for owners G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and St. George Farm Racing and trainer Vicki Oliver.
The Gardenia is the only graded race at Ellis this season. The one-mile race for fillies and mares, starting out of a chute on the first turn, would presumably have given the inside horses an edge and that is the way it turned out.
Direct Line, leaving the chute from the rail with Tony Farina aboard, was immediately in contention while hard-held for the first-half mile. West Hope, leaving from post 2 for Greta Kuntzweiler, went to the front and opened up a two-length advantage over Direct Line and Secret Kin while clicking off workman-like quarter-mile fractions of :24.27, :47.25, and 1:11.52 over a fast track.
West Hope, off at 36-1 while toting top weight of 124 pounds, and Direct Line inched away from the rest of the field rounding the final turn. Direct Line engaged the leader coming into the stretch and those two fought it out to the wire. Direct Line, fully extended on the outside, eventually got the better of West Hope in the final couple of strides to get up in an exciting finish. The final time was a slow 1:38.32.
It was three lengths back to third-place finisher Choragus, a 6-1 shot ridden by Eduardo Perez, and 2 1/4 more to Lady's Laughter in fourth. Odds-on choice Ravi's Song trailed after a half-mile and made a mild late bid on the outside, but failed to menace. She finished sixth.
The result produced some incredible payouts. Direct Line paid $24, $15 and $11.20 and topped a $595.60 exacta with the Brazilian-bred West Hope, returning $40.20 and $20. Choragus, $6.40 to show, produced a $2,964.80 trifecta. The superfecta, with 9-1 Lady's Laughter, was worth a whopping $190,538.20 for a $2 wager.
Direct Line had not raced since April 8 when finishing last of six at 30-1 odds in the Madison Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland. Farina rode the bay filly, a $500,000 yearling at the 2007 Keeneland September sale, for the first time in the Gardenia.
Glencrest Farm bred the winner in Kentucky. The bay filly is out of Irene's Talkin, by At the Threshold. She earned $60,000 for her fifth win in 11 lifetime starts, extending her career earnings to $160,216.
West Hope, who ran a game race while drifting out in deep stretch, was a grade II winner in Brazil in February that had finished last in her two U.S. starts for trainer Eduardo Caramori.
Irish Witch finished fifth, followed by Ravi's Song, Midway Holiday, Century Park, second choice Secret Kin, and Tap Tap Tapping.