Closing from the rear of the field after the opening half-mile, Robert V. Hovelson’s homebred Swingit proved a game winner when she bettered Luna Dorada by a head to win the $171,500 Edgewood for 3-year-old fillies on Friday at rainy Churchill Downs.
Moving as a team entering the stretch, Swingit, wearing blinkers for the first time with regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. up, and Luna Dorada, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, swept past favored Moonee Ponds. They dueled to the wire with Swingit prevailing in 1:43.99 for the 1 1/16-mile test over a “yielding” turf course.
The daughter of Victory Gallop posted her third career victory in seven starts, all on the turf. The winner’s share of $102,929 improved Swingit’s career earnings to $211,279.
Queen of the Ridge set the pace for the opening half-mile, clicking fractions of :23 4/5 and :48 3/5 before giving way to Moonee Ponds, who led after six furlongs in 1:11 1/5 for Jamie Theriot. Moonee Ponds led by a length in the stretch but couldn't hold off her challengers after a difficult trip.
Trained by Hal Wiggins, Swingit paid $17.80, $7.80 and $4.80 to her backers in the Kentucky Oaks Day crowd. Luna Dorada returned $20.20 and $8 while the Irish-bred Good Mood, ridden by Julien Leparoux, was another 2 1/2 lengths back in third and was $3.40 to show. Moonee Ponds, the 3-2 betting choice, was 1 3/4 lengths back in fourth in the field of eight 3-year-old fillies.
Nola Star, Queen of the Ridge, Nice Inheritance and Striking Tomisue completed the order.
It was the second stakes win for Swingit, who captured the Jessamine on the Keeneland turf last October. Winless in two previous starts in 2007, she was coming off a sixth-place finish April 22 in the one-mile Appalachian at Keeneland.
“After the last time she ran at Keeneland, we thought that maybe she needed blinkers," Hernandez said. "She trained with them and improved by tons. That’s what made the difference today.”
“I thought she would handle the softer going today," Wiggins said. "She won at Keeneland last year, and that track is softer than Churchill even when they call it firm. She had two weeks between races when she won, so we followed that same pattern here. She loves the outside and it worked out for us. I’ll give her five or six weeks off now and look for a graded race for her.”