Eight-year-old Musketier showed no signs of rust coming back from a more than six-month layoff, as he took over approaching the stretch and bounded home for a 1 3/4-length win in the $200,000 Fifth Third Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) on closing day at Keeneland April 23.
Runner-up in last year’s Elkhorn, German-bred Musketier hit the winner’s circle for the first time since scoring Woodbine’s Singspiel Stakes (Can-III) last June. This was his first win in nine starts in the United States. John Velazquez rode the son of Acatenango to victory for trainer Roger Attfield. He is owned by Johanna Louise Glen-Teven.
The final time for 1 1/2 miles on the firm turf was 2:31.32.
Musketier was in no hurry during the early stages, as he raced mid-pack in a field of a dozen older horses. Timeless Fashion set the pace under James Lopez, carving out splits of :25.70, :51.33, 1:16.24 with Sudden War, Ascertain, Bearpath, and Expansion all closest while tracking the leader.
Ascertain and Pick Six began to advance and drew even with Timeless Fashion after a mile in 1:41.53, and when they rounded the third turn it was Pick Six who took over. But he led only briefly under Shane Sellers, as Musketier, who had advanced around the turn, easily went by him approaching the eighth-pole and went unchallenged in the stretch.
Brass Hat, making the second start in his 9-year-old season, rallied well for runner-up under Calvin Borel, three parts of a length in front of 48-1 Blushing Bear.
“He broke a little slow, and I didn’t want him to be following any horse that was going to be stopping,” Velazquez said of Musketier. “I followed a horse that had been moving really good on the backstretch. When he took the lead, I went to hit him and he didn’t like it at all. And I said, ‘Oh buddy, you’re going to have to at least keep running the way you are’.”
Musketier, sent off at 7-1, won for the seventh time in 34 starts and upped his earnings to $626,430. The gray/roan horse started 24 times in France before shipping to North America, his biggest win coming in the 2004 Prix de Conde (Fr-III).
The winner, bred by Gestut Gorlsdorf and out of the Linamix mare Myth and Reality, ended his 2009 campaign a well-beaten sixth in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont Park last October.
“He’s a really tough, old campaigner,” Attfield said. “He’s a tricky kind of guy to be around. He’s had problems along the way. He’s just taken longer to come back this time from some other layoffs. But then all of a sudden he turned a corner. He’s been training great here this week.”
Musketier paid $17.20, $9, and $7.40. The exacta (6-11) returned $127.20 and the trifecta (6-11-10) was $5,371.40.
Garret Gomez rode two more winners on the closing day card and wrapped up his first jockey’s title at Keeneland. Gomez, who was based at the Lexington track for the first time in his career, collected 22 wins, six more than second-place Julien Leparoux.
One of Gomez’s winners came in the seventh race aboard Armstrong Mill and it helped wrap up the first trainer’s title at Keeneland for Christophe Clement. The Frenchman saddled nine winners at the spring meet, one more than runner-up Todd Pletcher.
Seven owners had three wins apiece to share the owner’s title.