Artie Schiller put away Gulch Approval, but then Miesque's Approval came flying wide to nose out last year's Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner Friday in Keeneland's $250,000 Maker's Mark Mile (gr. IIT).
All eyes were on 1-2 favorite Artie Schiller in the six-horse field and deservedly so. He won the Maker's Mark a year ago by an easy 2 1/4 lengths. It was a beautiful, sunny day at Keeneland with a record Friday crowd of 23,882 for the Lexington track.
Gulch Approval went to the lead in the turf test as Artie Schiller, breaking from the rail under Garrett Gomez in his first start since the Breeders' Cup, eased to the outside and was just off the leader and Rene Douglas. Drum Major and Rafael Bejarano were in third early.
Down the backside, the positions didn't change as they went the quarter in :24.11 and the half in :47.93.
When they straightened out for home, Artie Schiller was on the rail and determinedly put away Gulch Approval and appeared on his way to victory. But out five or six paths from the rail, Miesque's Approval was flying under Eddie Casto. As they hit the wire, it was impossible to tell which horse had won.
The photo gave the nod to the millionaire Miesque's Approval, a 7-year-old horse by Miesque's Son out of the With Approval
mare Win Approval. A homebred for Charlotte Weber's Live Oak, he is trained by Marty Wolfson.
"The other horse was coming on so fast, I don't think he (Artie Schiller) saw him," Gomez said. "But it was a really good effort for him coming off a layoff."
"A tremendous ride from Eddie Castro as usual," said an emotional Karla Wolfson, wife and assistant to trainer Marty Wolfson. "He is a better jockey than even he knows he is. He is one of a kind."
Castro and Wolfson, both based in Southern Florida, have teamed for important victories before at Keeneland. They won the 2005 Juddmonte Spinster (gr. I) with Pampered Princess and the 2004 WinStar Galaxy Stakes (gr. IIT) with Stay Forever.
It was the ninth win in 35 starts for Miesque's Approval, who has made all his starts on turf, and increased his earnings to $1,189,474. His time for the mile was 1:34.06, less than three-fifths of a second off the track record. Miesque's Approval finished second to Royal Spy in the 2003 running of the race.
In his last start March 11 at Gulfstream Park, Miesque's Approval closed strongly to finish second to English Channel in the 1 1/16-mile Canadian Turf Handicap. He shocked at 48-1 in winning the Sunshine Millions Turf over Silver Tree on the Gulfstream course prior to that.
Miesque's Approval, who carried 117 pounds – six fewer than the runner-up – paid $14, $4.40, and $3 while Artie Schiller returned $2.40 and $2.10. Show horse Good Reward wound up two lengths behind and paid $3.40.
Honor in War, Drum Major, and Gulch Approval completed the order.