Favored Lady Tak dictated the pace and led well into the stretch but the standout sprinter was unable to hold off surging outsider Halory Leigh, who scored an impressive win in the $230,400 Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap (gr. II) for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs Sunday.
Ridden by Craig Perret for trainer Dale Romans, Halory Leigh won for the third time in five starts at Churchill, capturing her first graded stakes victory comfortably by five lengths over Lady Tak. The 4-year-old Halory Hunter
filly is perfect in two tries at a mile, finishing the one-turn event in a time of 1:35 on fast going.
"She's run some real big races," said Romans. "She's gotten a lot better in the fall. She flattened out in her training in late summer, but this fall she's turned it all around and she's as good right now as she's ever been."
Sent off at 14-1, Halory Leigh came from well off the pace to collar the leaders in the stretch and win going away. She was 10th early before moving up between rivals on the turn and cutting loose in the stretch.
"She had to run the race of her life today with that group of fillies and she did," said Perret. "I sat on my filly and waited on her like I know her. She's always run well for me and we got lucky."
Lady Tak, who was pursuing her third straight graded stakes victory, held off pace factor Susan's Angel for second by three-quarters of a length. My Boston Gal edged Island Sand by a head for fourth.
Lady Tak was prominent from the start for jockey John Velazquez but had to fight 40-1 shot Revolutionary Act for the early lead through solid fractions of :22 3/5, :45 3/5 and 1:10 2/5. Susan's Angel, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, took up the chase in the stretch as Lady Tak opened up a slight advantage, but neither had a response for Halory Leigh when she challenged inside of the eighth pole.
The winner served notice that she was reaching the top of her form when she won a classified allowance race at Keeneland Oct. 10 by four lengths. That ended a seven-race losing streak for Halory Leigh, owned by Jerry Crawford, Matt Gannon and Charlie Grask. She won for the sixth time in 20 career starts while earning $142,848 for the victory. Claimed for $75,000 at Churchill Downs in June 2003, her total winnings now stand at $411,248.
Al Profitt and Larry Demeritte bred Halory Leigh, produced by the Clever Trick mare Graceful Leigh, in Kentucky.
Halory Leigh paid $31.20, $8.80 and $7. Lady Tak returned $3.20 and $3 and completed a $115.80 exacta. Susan's Angel was $8.40 to show.
Following Island Sand came Mayo On the Side in sixth, My Trusty Cat, There Runs Hattie, Wildwood Royal, Miss Fortunate, La Reason and Revolutionary Act.