This time Man of Illusion had a clean trip. In his first start in this country, the Australian-bred horse had tons of trouble and still was beaten only two lengths in Keeneland's Shakertown (gr. IIIT). Friday, he had clear sailing and won the $116,000 Aegon Turf Sprint (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs.
Though he had clear sailing under Julien Leparoux, favored Man of Illusion was all out to win the race by a long neck over 38-1 shot Justice for Auston, ridden by Rene Douglas. The runner-up also came out of the Shakertown, running eighth in his first start in six months.
"Everything went right," Leparoux said. "Last time his race was not so good, but in the mornings, he's trained good. In this race, I had no problems."
Atticus Kristy, with Garrett Gomez aboard, closed to get the show spot, three-quarters of a length behind Justice for Auston.
"I had a perfect trip, just the way I wanted to," Douglas said of the runner-up. "The other was the winner today. I had no excuses."
Lion Andthe Lamb and Western Kind showed early speed in the five-furlong dash, going the quarter in :21.90 and the half in :44.15 as Man of Illusion stalked in fifth while racing wide for Leparoux. As they headed down the stretch, Justice for Auston, always close to the leaders had made the lead. But Man of Illusion was closing fast to just get up. The winner hit the wire in :56.28.
The 5-year-old Man of Illusion, by Encosta de Lago, is owned by A.C. Cotter, the DHK Investments of D. Kobritz, and R. Goldbloom. He is trained by Patrick Biancone. Man of Illusion earned $66,886 to vault his career bankroll to $116,862. The win was his sixth in 10 career starts.
"I think the horse was much sharper today," Biancone said. "The last time, he had not run for a long time, and we didn't know much about him. He was a bit surprised to have a handler in the gate. They don't have that over there (Australia). We ran him the last time to prepare for today.
Man of Illusion paid $6.80, $4.80, and $3.40. Justice for Auston returned $30.80 and $12.80 while Atticus Kristy paid $3.20.
Mighty Beau finished fourth, followed by Western Kind, Geronimo, The Nth Degree, Rockhurst, Sgt. Bert, Parker Run, Social Probation and Lion Andthe Lamb.