Trainer Ken McPeek and jockey Brice Blanc teamed for a second graded stakes win on a yielding Churchill Downs turf course Saturday when Sister Star surprised favored Western Ransom by 3 3/4 lengths in the $221,800 Regret (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-old fillies.
Sister Star enjoyed a stalking trip after breaking a tad slowly, kicked in on the outside coming out of the home turn and easily disposed of pacesetting Jinny's Gold and Mark Guidry near the eighth pole. She drew away under hand urging at the end. Western Ransom closed well for Pat Day but could not keep up with the winner, edging Jinny's Gold for second by a head. The final time on the yielding course was 1:54 2/5 for the 1 1/8-mile Regret.
Jinny's Gold set fractions of :24, :49 3/5, 1:14 2/5 and 1:39.
McPeek and Blanc combined with Prince Arch to upset Kitten's Joy in the Jefferson Cup (gr. IIIT) to kick off "Stephen Foster Saturday" earlier on the card.
"(Sister Star) is just kind of one pace," Blanc noted. "(She) just keeps coming. She doesn't have a whole lot of acceleration, just a steady run. I knew (in the turn) that if I could catch up to the leader that she would give me a good run, because she's a hard tryer and she's game. It gives here a lot of confidence when she's running head-to-head."
Sister Star, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Langfuhr
-Little Irish Nut (by Irish Tower), was sent off at odds of 8-1 in the field of seven.
Her first stakes win improved Sister Star's record to 3-2-3 in 10 lifetime starts for owner and breeders Julie and John C. Marker while pushing her career earnings to $223,655 mark. The victory was worth $137,516.
"I told John (Marker) before the race that I knew she would love the soft ground because she's got such a big, long hip on her and she's been getting better and getting stronger, McPeek said. "She and Prince Arch (winner of the Jefferson Cup) are made very similar."
The owner was overjoyed by the win.
"It's the biggest thrill of our life, it really is," Marker said. "We've never bred a horse like this.
"She really ran a huge race. I'm kind of stunned, to be honest with you. I don't even know that it really happened."
Sister Star paid $18, $7 and $4.20. Western Ransom, the 5-2 choice, returned $3.40 and $2.80. Jinny's Gold was $3.40 to show.
Day, aboard Western Ransom, said the footing was a factor.
"She didn't like the footing at all," he said. "She was just bogging down and struggling.
"At the half-mile pole they started to pick it up, and when I gave it to her she just came apart. I had to gather her up and get her feet back under her, and then she fought really, really hard in the drive to get past (Jinny's Gold), but she wasn't going to threaten the winner at any time. It was a credible effort given the fact that she didn't handle the going."
Shadow Cast, Pretty Jane, Gingham and Lace and Baxter Hall were next.