Itsinthepost's progression from solid allowance performer to multiple graded stakes winner made trainer Jeff Mullins smile April 22, as he pointed out the obvious.
"Well, it just seems like the further we go, the better he gets," Mullins said in the aftermath of the 1 1/2-mile Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes (G2T) at Keeneland. "I don't know that that we can go much further than this but we'll see what happens."
The turf marathon niche has indeed proven one that suits Jed Cohen's Itsinthepost as the bay gelding scored his second straight graded triumph when he struck the lead off the final turn and ran on under regular rider Tyler Baze to capture the $250,000 Elkhorn Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths over Charming Kitten.
Since joining Mullins' barn in May of last year after previously being conditioned by Darrell Vienna, the gelded son of American Post has only been worse than second once in his last 10 starts. Most notably, the bay runner has successfully taken his form to the next level in this his 5-year-old season, having run second in both an off-the-turf edition of the San Gabriel Stakes (G3) and the San Marcos Stakes (G2T) before breaking through in the March 25 San Luis Rey Stakes (G2T) at Santa Anita Park.
The 12-furlong distance of that outing and the Elkhorn has been a difference maker for Itsinthepost, who improved his overall record to five wins from 25 starts with $512,712 in earnings.
"He's just come into himself. Since he's come to us he's just gotten better and better," said Mullins, who was saddling his first starter at Keeneland since 2009 and just his seventh starter ever at the Lexington track. "I don't know what it is, sometimes it's the change of scenery that helps. He's an honest horse, you just have to be patient with him."
Sent off as the 5-2 favorite in the eight-horse field, Itsinthepost rated third along the rail with Bigger Picture in the two path just behind pacesetter Chocolate Ride, who put up fractions of :25.17, :50.50, and 1:15.18 over a yielding Keeneland turf. The procession remained largely the same as they hit the mile in 1:39.94. Coming into the final turn, Baze let Itsinthepost roll up three wide outside of Bigger Picture, who was also putting in his bid, and secured a half length at the head of the lane that widened as they closed in on the wire.
"This horse has been just a phenomenal horse, especially the last year," said Baze, who celebrated his first stakes win at Keeneland. "He gives it everything. Once I got him to the outside, it was just a matter of being patient because this stretch is a long stretch."
Graded stakes winner Charming Kitten made a game rally from last to get second, but Itsinthepost was hitting his best stride in deep stretch as he hit the wire in 2:31.22.
"I was not expecting to be last early," said Julien Leparoux, jockey of Charming Kitten. "We made a run but it was a little bit too late. He came flying at the end."
Bred in France by Julien Leaunes, Itsinthepost paid $7.40, $4.60, and $2.80 across the board. He made his first five career starts in France before coming to North America in 2015.
"I know Jeff and his whole team have done a great job of working with him," said Tim Cohen, son of Jed Cohen. "It seems like (he's a later maturing type). We're just enjoying his 5-year-old year, and it's going to be a lot of fun."