Under strong left-handed urging from jockey Eddie Martin Jr., favored Halory Leigh pulled away from the rest to post an easy win in the $325,200 Falls City Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs On Thanksgiving Thursday.
The 4-year-old chestnut Halory Hunter filly won her third straight for trainer Dale Romans and her fourth in six tries on the Churchill main track.
Azeri did not to contest the 1 1/8-mile test for fillies and mares due to trainer D. Wayne Lukas' concern over the weight assignments, making it all that much easier for Halory Leigh, the 6-5 choice of the seven who did compete. She won in a time of 1:51 4/5.
Halory Leigh was never far off the pace set by Indy Groove (:24 1/5, :48 3/5 and 1:13 1/5), angling up four wide on the outside of the frontrunner, ridden by Brice Blance, and Susan's Angel, with Pat Day aboard, coming out of the far turn. After battling down the lane, Halory Leigh assumed command under strong handling from Martin and won with relative ease by 2 3/4 lengths.
"By the half-mile pole she had jumped in the bridle and had just started to drag me," said Martin, who scored his first stakes victory at Churchill Downs. "If I had let her go she would have opened up at anytime on them."
Susan's Angel, who Lukas started rather than Azeri, finished second, 3 1/4 lengths in front of Miss Fortunate. Indy Groove, the second choice in the field, wearied to be fourth.
"She made a run off the turn and tried to run with that filly (Halory Leigh) when she came to her, but she was just second best," said Day of Susan's Angel. "But it was a big try."
Mayo On the Side, the 5-year-old grade I winner making what is expected to be her last start for trainer Carl Nafzger, broke well but was not a factor, finishing behind Flower Forest in sixth. Red Cell trailed throughout.
Halory Leigh came into the Falls City off a five-length win in the Churchill Downs Distaff (gr. II), partnering with Craig Perret at a mile on Nov. 7. The victory, her seventh in 21 career starts, was worth $201, 624 to owners Jerry Crawford, Matt Gannon and Charlie Grask, who claimed Halory Leigh for $75,000 at Churchill Downs on June 5, 2003. The Falls City victory, her first win at longer than eight furlongs, upped her career bankroll to $612,872.
"Distance was a big question for her," said Romans, who won his seventh stakes race at Churchill Downs. "We didn't really expect her to be so close, but they weren't going very fast. (Martin) said she drug him up there and he had plenty of horse to finish."
Al Profitt and Larry Demeritte bred the winner in Kentucky. She is out of the dam Graceful Leigh, by Clever Trick.
She paid $4.40, $3 and $2.40 while topping a $16.40 exacta with Susan's Angel, who returned $3.60 and $3. Miss Fortunate's show was $5.20.