Summerplace Farm's homebred Kelly's Landing found running room along the inside to rally for a one-length victory over an unlucky Areyoutalkintome in Keeneland's $268,600 Phoenix Breeders' Cup (gr. III) Saturday.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano guided the 12-1 shot Kelly's Landing to the inside with a furlong to run, and the Eddie Kenneally-trained 5-year-old gelding got to the wire in front under strong urging.
Areyoutalkingtome, closing five wide on the turn for jockey Victor Espinoza, battled strongly to get a brief lead but was out-finished in the closing strides of the six-furlong event.
The final time was 1:09 4/5, the best time yet recorded on Keeneland's new all-weather surface.
"I saw a lot of speed in the race, so I didn't try to use him too much," Bejarano noted. "A couple of times when I rode the horse before, he broke really quick and, when I tried to stay close in the race, he didn't (win)."
Kelly's Landing was a grade III winner at Churchill Downs, where he set a six-furlong record of 1:07 2/5 in the Aristides Breeders' Cup Handicap more than 15 months ago. He returned to the winner's circle for the first time since claiming an optional allowance heat at Gulfstream Park in March. The Kentucky-bred Patton
gelding was coming off a sixth-place finish in the Arlington Sprint Breeders' Cup Handicap Aug. 26.
The winner was out-sprinted early and languished near the rear of the nine-horse field as Spanish Chestnut got a lonely lead while clipping off quick splits of :22 3/5 and :45 4/5. Spanish Chestnut continued to lead in the stretch as Areyoutalkintome and Coach Jimi Lee challenged on the outside. Kelly's Landing was almost ignored as he made up much ground at the rail and suddenly emerged in front.
"He enjoyed the surface," Kenneally said. "The race set up perfectly for him, and Rafael gave him a fantastic ride. It worked out really well."
"We've gotta' think Breeders' Cup now. He is the track record holder at Churchill Downs for six furlongs, so I think we're going to take a good look at it now."
Kelly's Landing earned $166,532 for his seventh win in 17 starts, bumping his career total to $492,557.
Level Playingfield closed from well back to take third under John McKee, one length behind Areyoutalkintome. They finished a neck in front of Coach Jimi Lee, who came up empty in the final eighth. Silver Wagon, the lukewarm 5-2 choice with Garrett Gomez aboard, settled for fifth.
Spanish Chestnut, Judiths Wild Rush, Vicarage, and Elusive Jazz rounded out the order.
Kelly's Landing paid $26.20, $11.80, and $7.80. Areyoutalkintome returned $7 and $5.20. Level Playingfield was $6.20 to show.