Rochester Repeats in Ky. Turf; Art Variety DQ'd

(from Kentucky Downs report)
In the featured event on a four-stakes card at Kentucky Downs, Augustin Stable's Rochester earned a repeat victory in the $200,000 Kentucky Cup Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) when Art Variety was disqualified for a bumping finish while making his winning move Saturday at Kentucky Downs.

Jockey Eddie Martin, Jr. and Rochester were reunited for the race and proved a tough team, successfully defending their title in the 1 1/2-mile contest. Last year, Martin rode the gelded son of Green Dancer to his first graded stakes win in the Turf Handicap and Saturday, he rode him to his second. Rochester ended a streak of eight losses, but it was an eventful ride.

As the field bunched up at the top of the stretch, three horses emerged as the most likely to win: Quest Star, Art Variety (BRZ) and Rochester. Quest Star, ridden by Robby Albarado, took a narrow lead midway through the stretch, with Art Variety, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, alongside. That one fought back on the inside and nearing the wire, drifted out and bumping with Quest Star as he took a narrow lead, going on to win by a head. Quest Star was subsequently forced into Rochester near the finish, and both Art Variety and Rochester crossed the finish line ahead of Quest Star.

Both Martin and Albarado lodged foul claims against Bejarano on Art Variety. Ultimately, the stewards agreed and dropped Art Variety to third. Rochester was declared the winner and Quest Star second.

Rochester paid $11.80, $4.80 and $3.60. Quest Star returned $4.20 and $3. Art Variety's show price was $4.60. The $2 exacta returned $44.60 and the trifecta $393.20.

Trainer Jonathan Sheppard has been racing his 7-year-old gelding in tough company since winning last year's Turf Handicap: two grade Is; one grade II; and three Grade IIIs.

His last victory came in the Sycamore Breeders' Cup at Keeneland last fall, immediately following his win in Franklin. Heading into Saturday's race, he held a record of 6-0-2-1 this year and had earned only $40,757 – compared to $443,124 he made in 2002.

Saturday's $124,000 payday puts Rochester over $837,000 in career earnings and improves his record to 29-10-6-2.

Rochester's victory highlighted four stakes on Kentucky Cup Turf Festival Day at Kentucky Downs.

Apasionata Sonata Takes Ladies Turf For Ward
John Ward's Apasionata Sonata and jockey Rafael Bejarano closed along the rail to take the Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf over longshot Curious Conundrum and Jon Court. The win was the second in a row and fourth overall for the daughter of Affirmed and boosted her career earnings over the $150,000 mark.

The race began with jockey Calvin Borel and his mount Blu Spur assuming the early lead, but 31-1 shot Curious Conundrum soon took over. Court held the lead until mid-stretch, where Apasionata Sonata had steadily closed from last in the field of 10 to reach the leader. The 5-year-old mare went on to win by two lengths. Blu Spur held of Peacefally (IRE) for third.

Apasionata Sonata paid $18.40 to win. With longshots Curious Conundrum and Blu Spur (10-1) rounding out the top three, the exacta and trifecta paid $537.20 and $6,457.80, respectively.

The Fred Seitz-owned mare has compiled an 8-4-2-0 overall record and earnings of $155,535, with all four of her wins coming on the turf..

Hard Buck Holds Off Gretchen's Star In Mile
Hard Buck (BRZ) remained undefeated in two U.S. starts by edging Gretchen's Star in the Kentucky Cup Mile. The son of Spend A Buck was coming off a Labor Day win in Ellis Park's Tri State Handicap at 1 1/8 miles in his U.S. debut.

With an overall record of 12-7-2-0, Hard Buck was already a group I winner in his native Brazil. The 4-year-old trained by Ken McPeek and ridden by Brice Blanc earned $62,000 to nearly double his $64,012 in prior lifetime earnings by taking the Mile.

Last Stand and jockey Jesus Castanon opened a quick six-length lead and maintained a large edge through the turn as the rest of the field bunched up behind. By the top of the stretch, Castanon's mount began to falter and Hard Buck and Gretchen's Star emerged as the strongest finishers. They rallied outside Last Stand, who was tight on the rail, and pulled away in a two-horse battle to the wire. Last Stand managed to hold on for third.

Hard Buck paid $8.60 to win and keyed a $69.20 exacta with Gretchen's Star. The trifecta with Last Stand paid $318.60. The winner is owned by Team Victory II.

Fredericktown Fights Back In Dash
Fredericktown, under jockey Rafael Bejarano, fought back gamely in deep stretch to win the Kentucky Cup Turf Dash by a nose over Abderian (IRE) in the first of four stakes races on the $500,000 Turf Festival Day.

After shooting to a quick lead just after the start of the six-furlong sprint, Fredericktown was soon tracked by Bonapaw through the turn. As they straightened for home, Callthesheriff joined the leaders on the outside and Abderian (IRE) on the rail. Abderian took a narrow lead over Fredericktown midway through the stretch as Callthesheriff and Bonapaw failed to sustain their momentum. But Fredericktown resurged near the wire to nip Abderian and remain undefeated in three starts under Bejarano.

The 4-year-old son of Williamstown has now won three consecutive turf sprints, following two wins over the Ellis Park course earlier in the summer. He has a 4-3-0-1 record in 2003, all on turf. Trainer Darrin Miller tried Fredericktown on the grass for the first time this June in a Churchill Downs' allowance, in which he ran third. He had made three dirt starts over a two year period and failed to hit the board.

Fredericktown paid $14.80 to win and keyed a $61.20 exacta with Abderian. Callthesheriff held on for third to complete the $221 trifecta.

(Chart, Equibase)