Brendan Walsh walked the turf course, and then he walked it again.
Once before training hours, once later in the morning—after rain began to fall steadily May 5 at Churchill Downs—the meticulous horseman judged the give in the grass and thought of his filly, Proctor's Ledge, entered in the $300,000 Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes (G2T) later on the Saturday card.
Then he decided to run her.
Patricia Moseley's homebred rewarded that gamble Saturday with a half-length victory over On Leave in the mile turf test, a rebound from her eighth-place finish in the April 14 Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1T) at Keeneland.
"I was a little concerned because she has generally done her best running on fast ground, but we really didn't have any concrete proof that she wouldn't mind a little cut in the ground," Walsh said. "It's still very good out there, but they are kicking the top off. I didn't want her to have another bad race. I talked to Mrs. Moseley a couple of hours ago, and we decided we'd give it a shot. … She showed the filly she is today. She's a good filly."
Chasing her first win of the season after the Jenny Wiley and a runner-up effort by a head to Fourstar Crook in the March 10 Hillsborough Stakes (G2T) at Tampa Bay Downs, the Ghostzapper filly settled in hand between horses in fifth early. Pyscho Sister set the pace, with On Leave tracking second, through fractions of :23.85, :48.35, and 1:12.87. At the head of the lane, On Leave kicked clear, only to be overtaken at the sixteenth pole by the winner.
Proctor's Ledge covered the mile in a final time of 1:36.30.
"I had a perfect trip," said Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. "We broke pretty well and got into the position I wanted to be in. I didn't want to be too far back. She settled well, and after that I bided my time to get a nice run down the lane. When the time came, I pulled her out and she responded right away."
The win was the second Churchill stakes score of the season for Walsh, who sent out Newtown Anner Stud's Beckford to win the April 28 William Walker Stakes.
"I was having a ton of seconds and thirds, and of course it's frustrating, and people are telling you, 'Don't worry, they'll fire,'" Walsh said. "We had a great year last year and are trying to keep up to that standard, so thank God today, and last week with Beckford, they're starting to fire—and we've got a few more to come."
Proctor's Ledge returned $15.60, $8, and $5, On Leave paid $5.60 and $3.60, and Dream Awhile finished another length back in third to return $3.60. It was another half-length back to Dream Dancing, who was followed by Madame Stripes, La Coronel, Madam Dancealot,Thundering Sky, Res Ipsa, Pyscho Sister, and Insta Erma.
Proctor's Ledge boosted her earnings to $579,090, with a 5-2-1 record from 12 starts. The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred, out of the stakes-placed Arch mare Archstone, landed her third graded stakes score. She won the Lake George Stakes (G3T) and Lake Placid Stakes (G2T) consecutively last summer at Saratoga Race Course and will eye the Diana Stakes (G1T) there as a major target this summer.
"There's a mile race on Belmont Day (and) there's a mile and a quarter race on Belmont Day," Walsh said of future starts. "The Diana at Saratoga, you would think, would be her main target, seeing that she has such an affinity for Saratoga. We'll be careful with her because I think she'll get better and better as she goes along. I think her best races are still in front of her."