There hadn't been a thrilling stretch duel all day, but the ninth race on the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) undercard featured one. Rush Bay, under Robby Albarado, and Rey de Cafe, with Javier Castellano up, hit the wire together in the $114,700 Crown Royal American Turf (gr. IIIT).
When the photo sign went down, it was the outside horse, Rey de Cafe, that just got up to take the 1 1/16-mile grass race for 3-year-olds by a nose.
Castellano was all smiles afterward. "I said 'Robby, what do you think?' He said 'I don't know, pretty close.' And when I saw (the result) I said 'Wow, lucky guy!'"
Moth Ball took the early lead and led through fractions of :23.94, :47.98, and 1:10.86. As he retreated, Rush Bay moved up from fourth, and Rey de Cafe came flying from the back of the pack and the two hooked up down the lane. A head bob determined the outcome.
Rey de Cafe was coming out of the Transylvania Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland, where he was part of a three-horse photo for win. He came out on the losing end, third behind Chattahoochee War and Guillaume Tell, both of whom returned to take him on in the Crown Royal. Guillaume Tell ran third Friday, a length behind and a half-length ahead of Dubleo. Chattahoochee War, the 5-2 favorite in the field of nine, finished seventh after flattening out in the stretch.
Rey de Cafe is a homebred of G. Watts Humphrey Jr. The colt is by Kingmambo
out of the Private Account mare Commodities. Rusty Arnold trains the winner.
"It was too close to call from where I was standing," Arnold said. "It was kind of the opposite of what happened at Keeneland when we got beat a neck (in the Transylvania). He's made the lead twice and then lost. Sometimes he gets to the front and doesn't run on."
Rey de Cafe has now won three of nine starts, two of his victories on the turf. He broke his maiden on the dirt in a race that was taken off the turf. The $71,114 winner's share increased Rey de Cafe's career earnings to $199,318.
The winner went the distance in 1:42 and paid $11.40, $6, and $4.40 as the fourth choice. Rush Bay, who was making his first start on grass, returned $6.80 and $4.60. Guillaume Tell paid $3.60.
After Dubleo came Classic Campaign, Exceptional Ride, Chattahoochee War, Moth Ball and Pirates Bite.