Thorn Song Lights Up Firecracker

Thorn Song Lights Up Firecracker
Photo: Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer
Thorn Song holds scores a front-running victory in the Firecracker Handicap.
Front-running Thorn Song slammed the door on prohibitive choice Einstein in the stretch and held on for a one-length victory in the $213,250 Firecracker Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) over a yielding Churchill Downs turf course July 4.

The victory was the Zayat Stables' 5-year-old's fourth in five starts over the Churchill grass for trainer Dale Romans. Thorn Song completed the one-mile test in 1:36.89 while feeling pressure from the multiple grade I winner Einstein, who ran on well for second but lacked the needed turn of foot under the conditions to run down the winner. It was just a half-length to the show horse, Steve's Double. Two scratches reduced the Firecracker field to five.

“I expected him to run big today,” Romans said of the winner. “Einstein had beaten us three times and we were hoping to beat him today, but not expecting it.”

Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Thorn Song set out to lead at the start over Faith's Magic while staying off the hedge. After an opening quarter mile of :23.70, Desormeaux angled the distinctive roan four paths wide on the backstretch while completing the opening half in :47.50. Thorn Song was brought back into the two path by Desormeaux on the final turn  while running six furlongs in 1:11.98.

In upper stretch, the rallying Einstein appeared to be making his move on the inside but lacked room and fell a bit to switch to the outside for a clear path under Robby Albarado. Einstein made up good ground in the final furlong, but not enough to challenge the winner. He managed to hold off Steve's Double and Miguel Mena for the runner-up spot, however. Faith's Magic, who prompted the pacesetter all the way, made a strong run at Thorn Song at the eighth pole but settled for fourth, 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner. The Brazilian-raced import Portuga dwelt at the start and trailed throughout.

"In the first 100 yards, there was a little bit of pressure and at 300 yards they tested him again, but he was in the bridle and did his job," Desormeaux said. "He was a racehorse today, he really was. I think he enjoys the mile and that is another positive for him. I think it was a nice spot with a light field and everything worked out.”

Thorn Song, by Unbridled's Song--Festal, by Storm Bird, owns back-to-back wins at one mile on the Churchill turf. He defeated a high-priced optional claiming field under Albarado as the favorite on June 8. Thorn Song also won the nine-furlong River City Handicap (gr. IIIT) over yielding ground at Churchill last November.

He earned $135,780 for the victory, his sixth in 19 lifetime starts. The win upped Thorn Song's career bankroll to $517,981.

Pinnacle Racing and Taylor Made Farm bred the winner in Kentucky.

Thorn Song, carrying 118, received six pounds from the runner-up and paid $5.60 and $2.20 as the second choice. Einstein, coming off a second-place finish in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) on Churchill's main track June 14, returned $2.10. The $2 exacta paid $7.60. There was no show wagering.

Though he was not at his best distance, Einstein was heavily backed off his grade I turf wins earlier this year in the Gulfstream Park Turf Feb. 23 and Churchill's Turf Classic May 3.

“(Einstein) stumbled a couple of times, but I'm not going to make any excuses," Albarado said. "The winner ran a big race. The mile is conducive to (Thorn Song's) style better than mine. Einstein ran great. He's not stressed -- he's not blowing. He came back good. The goal is the Arlington Million (gr. IT), so we had to run him somewhere. Today was a good fit for him.”

A.P. Xcellent and Inca King scratched.

(Chart, Equibase)

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