Stalking Proceed Bee collared odds-on choice Parade Clown mid-stretch and inched away in the final strides for a 1 1/4-length win in the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park Feb. 28.
Proceed Bee, a son of Bernstein making his first start at Turfway, earned his fourth career win in six starts while completing the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds in 1:47.49. The Battaglia is the last major prep stakes at Turfway before the March 21 Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II).
Rodney Prescott rode Proceed Bee to victory for owner William Stiritz and trainer Terry Gestes.
“Rodney did a great job riding him,” said Gestes. “He was a little green around the second turn and wanted to shy away from horses, so Rodney had to stay after him, tap him on the shoulder.
“He’s just young. The first few races he sprinted and ran pretty clean. The last couple of races, going longer, he had little problems -- reared at the start, and then when a horse drifted out turning for home, he propped and dove for the rail. So we’re just figuring him out, trying to put him together. It’s maturity -- some take more time than others, and you’ve got to stick with it and not get in a rush. He’s got to put it all together.”
Gestes said a couple of stakes were on the radar for Proceed Bee, including the Rushaway Stakes on the Lane’s End undercard.
Parade Clown, an easy winner of Turfway's WEBN Stakes Feb. 7, was in trouble early, fanning five wide into the clubhouse turn. Platinum Van hustled to the lead from between horses on the outside of Dynamite Bob. Proceed Bee, after breaking from the gate on the lead, settled into fifth place as Shanes Gold and Parade Clown slid over behind the pacesetters rounding the turn.
Platinum Van, closely pressed by Dynamite Bob, set quarter-mile fractions of :23.85 and :47.82. Parade Clown, still racing on the outside under veteran rider Bill Troilo, went for an early run on the turn to get a narrow advantage, completing six furlongs in 1:13.07. Parade Clown, angling to the inside after getting clear, continued to lead in upper stretch but the advancing Proceed Bee had him well within his sights. Proceed Bee, who rallied five wide on the far turn to challenge for the lead, gradually wore the favorite down and proved best in the final furlong under steady urging from Prescott.
Parade Clown was a clear second by 3 1/2 lengths while Toccet Rocket rallied belatedly under Thomas L. Pompell to gain the show spot by a neck over Shanes Gold. Second choice Stratos finished fifth while never threatening. Dynamite Bob and Platinum Van trailed.
“Our horse was wide and aggressive on the first turn, and the first turn is a big deal in two-turn races," trainer Katherine Ball said of Parade Clown. "It was an uneven trip. He’s changing his running style, getting more aggressive. He’s a three-year-old in the spring; he’s changing. He’s been running about every three weeks, so we’ll see how he comes out and then decide about the Lane’s End.”
Proceed Bee, bred in Kentucky by Hunter Valley Farm, H & W Thoroughbreds, and Mary Wade, earned $60,760 for the victory. The bay gelding made his 2009 debut in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park Jan. 19, finishing fifth while 10 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Flat Out. Proceed Bee closed out his juvenile campaign with a victory in the Grand Canyon Handicap, a Churchill Downs grass event at 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 29.
Proceed Bee broke his maiden at first asking on Arlington Park's Polytrack Aug. 24 and is undefeated in two tries on synthetic tracks. A versatile performer, Proceed Bee has also won on dirt, taking an optional claiming allowance race at Hawthorne in his second start Oct. 9. He has earned $137,594 in his brief career.
Out of the Private Terms mare Procession, Proceed Bee was sold for $40,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2007.
Sent off as the third choice, Proceed Bee carried co-high weight of 121 pounds and paid $10.40, $4.20, and $3.40. Parade Clown, who was sent off at odds of 3-5 while also toting 121 pounds, returned $2.20 and $2.40. The $2 exacta was worth $21.80. Toccet Rocket, a distant fifth in the WEBN, was $5.80 to show.
Fitzaslew, 2-1 on the morning line, turned up colicky in the morning after having shipped from Florida to Lexington and was scratched, said trainer Ken McPeek. “We treated him and he came out of it,” said McPeek. McPeek said the promising colt would be pointed toward the Rushaway.