Favored Gouldings Green won a stretch battle with Wild Desert to beat last year's Queen's Plate winner by a head in the $114,500 Alysheba Friday at Churchill Downs.
Gouldings Green and Corey Lanerie were on the outside and Wild Desert raced the inside under Rafael Bejarano as the two battled to the line in the 1 1/16-mile dirt stakes. Wild Desert swept to the lead in the turn for home but Gouldings Green moved right with him and the two had a fierce battle to the finish.
Owned by Eugene Melnyk and trained by Tony Reinstedler, Gouldings Green, who won his first stakes race, is a 5-year-old horse by Charismatic out of the Strike the Gold mare Elusive Gold. He was bred in Kentucky by Marvin Delfiner. In his previous start, Gouldings Green finished third in the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II).
"I actually got by (Wild Desert) pretty easy," Lanerie said. "But my horse takes an aggressive ride and Tony had warned me about that. About halfway through the stretch, I thought I may have been keeping (Wild Desert) running also, because he is so competitive, but I kept working and got to the wire first."
Bejarano blamed himself.
"I might have waited too long to make my move," he said. "I was sit, sit, sit, sitting until the quarter pole; I had a big hold on my horse. Then when I let him go (Gouldings Green) had all the momentum. He was already running hard and my horse was just picking it up. He got the jump on me today."
The top two came from off the pace, with Artemus Sunrise taking the early lead until Chippewa Trail drug his rider, Julien Leparoux, to the front. The half was in :46.79 before Wild Desert took the lead as after six furlongs in 1:11.59. The final time was 1:42.33.
Gouldings Green collected $68,861 for his fifth win in 11 lifetime starts, increasing the chestnut's earnings to $269,616. He won for the second time in three starts in 2006.
"He was graded stakes placed, but had not won a stake and I felt he deserved a shot to win a stake," Reinstedler said. "Corey gave him a fabulous ride. He rode with a lot of confidence, put him in the race and in striking position and had enough left to put (Wild Desert) away."
The winner paid $5, $2.80, and $2.20 and Wild Desert returned $4 and $3. The show horse, Andromeda's Hero, returned $3.20.