Long-distance specialist Epicentre emerged from the pack to take the lead in midstretch en route to a decisive victory in the $150,000 Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIIT) as Keeneland closed its record-breaking 15-day spring meeting Friday. Rated in fifth-place early by jockey Jerry Bailey, the Juddmonte Farms-owned 5-year-old caught two-time Elkhorn winner Kim Loves Bucky passing the eighth pole and drew away by 4 3/4 lengths. "The only speed horse I saw in the race was the three horse (National Pride) and when he didn't go to the lead I didn't want to get too far behind," said Bailey, who finished the day with four winners. "You can place this horse anywhere you want. I wanted to stay close early because in a mile and a half race with a slow pace you know it's gonna be boot to boot turning for home. In this kind of race, you just gallop the first mile and a quarter and then run the last quarter. It all worked out very well." Time for the distance on the soft course was 2:31.96. The 8-year-old Rochester rallied from ninth place in the 1 1/2-mile turf race to be second, a neck in front of Art Variety. It was a half-length back to fourth-place Kim Loves Bucky, who won the race in 2002 and 2003. Epicentre improved his record to 15-5-3-3 and increased his earnings to $249,382. Trained by Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, he finished first in the 1 1/2-mile Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. ITO in November but was disqualified and placed third. "He had a great trip," said Frankel. "I was just hoping he could get out turning for home. This is the best this horse has ever been since I've had him. I'll probably take him to New York or maybe California for his next start."
Epicentre returned $4.40, $3.40 and $2.60 as the 6-5 favorite. Rochester, ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, paid $11.20 and $6.60 and Art Variety with Brice Blanc up paid $3.80. (Chart, Equibase)