Green Lantern Stables’ homebred Karelian held off favored Court Vision in the stretch to win the $300,000 Maker’s Mark Mile (gr. IT) (VIDEO) under Julien Leparoux April 9 in Keeneland’s feature. It was the first grade I win for the 8-year-old gelding.
In addition to scoring the biggest win of his career, Karelian extracted revenge on Court Vision, who nosed out the son of Bertrando in the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) over the same Keeneland turf course last October.
Karelian, trained by Lexington native Rusty Arnold, entered the Maker’s Mark Mile off a nose victory over dual champion Gio Ponti in the Feb. 20 Tampa Bay Stakes. In that win, the bay went wire-to-wire under Rosemary Homeister Jr., but this time Leparoux took him back just a bit as they stalked longshot pacesetter Pictural through splits of :24.20 and :47.23.
Karelian made his winning four-wide move around the second turn, taking over from the tiring leader while Passager, Society's Chairman , and Court Vision also moved into striking position. Though Karelian took a half–length advantage at the eighth-pole, Court Vision and Robby Albarado had the entire stretch to run him down. But with steady urging from Leparoux along the inside, the gutsy veteran held his rival at bay with a sub :24 final quarter. He crossed the wire in a stakes-record time of 1:34.33 on the firm turf, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Court Vision. Society’s Chairman rallied for third under Jose Lezcano.
“He relaxed very good for me around the first turn, so I was comfortable,” Leparoux said. “He was very comfortable behind. He kicked away for me very nicely in the stretch.”
Karelian won for the 10th time in 21 starts. His other graded stakes victory came in the 2008 River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs.
“He hadn’t been out in 11 months last year (prior to the Shadwell Turf Mile) and he ran fabulous,” Arnold said. “He’s a little better horse this year.”
Bred in Kentucky by Richard Masson’s Green Lantern Stables, the winner is out of the Theatrical mare Leaning Tower. He has now earned $738,635.
“He kept getting little injuries and instead of patching him up and trying to get back in three months, we’ve given him six or nine months and not until he was fully healed,” said Massone when asked why Karelian has only started 21 times in his career. “When we brought him back this last time, he’s stayed incredibly sound. Rusty always said he was one of the best horses he’d ever had and just wished that we’d give him a chance.
“We bought the dam at the (1997) Keeneland July sale (for $175,000). She was one of the first yearlings we bought. She was placed in California. We brought here to Kentucky and kept going back and forth trying to get a Cal-bred by Lear Fan and it never quite worked out. Instead we got a Kentucky-bred Bertrando. So, you never know.”
Sent off as the second choice in a field of eight, Karelian paid $7.60, $3.20, and $2.80. The exacta (5-6) returned $18.80 and the trifecta (5-6-2) was $75.60.
Wesley was fourth, followed by Passager, Rogue Victory, Cherokee Artist, and Pictural.