Lydgate closed with a huge rush to win the Ageon Turf Sprint (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs Friday on the Kentucky Oaks undercard.
Under top local rider Pat Day, the California shipper was flying the last eighth to move by Mighty Beau and take the 5 ½-furlong grass sprint. Owned by Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stud and trained by Eoin Harty, the winner is a 4-year-old colt by Pulpit
"I didn't want to rush him," Day said. "You tend to do that in these short race. So he broke real sharp and I just let him find his spot. About the quarter pole I asked, and he gave. He fired on through the lane and we got the job done."
Shane Sellers, who rode Mighty Beau, said his horse's chances were compromised by Bayou Buster forcing his way to the lead.
"I wasn't going to jeopardize my horse's chances by running a :21 first quarter," he said. "When we got to the lead I really felt that I had the win. I had a lot of horse, and he ran hard and we just got beat. I think the soft turf may have hurt him."
Lydgate had previously won just one of six turf starts, but he liked the yielding course at Churchill. He won the race in :56.56 after the early fractions were :21.84 and :44.60. The winner was bred in Kentucky by the late Henryk deKwiatkowski's Kennelot Stables.
"We always thought he had this quality and ability," Harty said. "He has a good turn of foot and always gives you what he has when you ask. But he was always breaking right into the race. Last out, I asked the jockey (Corey Nakatani) just to take hold and let him settle from the gate, and he ran an improved race. Today I told Pat not to send him, or to take hold, just let him break on his own and settle. I knew he'd give all he's got because he's genuine. I think the softer ground helped him today."
The winner was rewarded for his effort with a prize of $71,114, more than doubling his career earnings to $137,074. Lydgate, who ended a five-race losing streak, is 2-4-0 in 10 lifetime starts.
Bayou Buster made an easy lead in the race but Shane Sellers moved Mighty Beau on the rail and he opened up in the stretch. Day got Lydgate rolling for his first stakes win. He paid $17.40, $7.40, and $4.60. Mighty Beau was worth $5 and $3.20 and Banned in Boston finished third and returned $3.60.
The race was the first event in the $500,000 guaranteed pick four that ends with the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).