(Edited Churchill Downs report)
Circle E Racing’s Mr. Sidney pulled away from Inca King in the final sixteenth of a mile to win the $167,700 Firecracker Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) by 1 1/2 lengths on the July 4 card at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Mr. Sidney covered the mile on a Matt Winn Turf Course rated as “yielding” in 1:37.28 in defeating six rivals. The victory was worth $101,896 and increased Mr. Sidney’s earnings to $407,275 with five wins in 10 starts. The Firecracker was the first start for Mr. Sidney since the 5-year-old horse finished 11th in the grade I Metropolitan at Belmont Park May 25. Previous to that outing, he won the grade I Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland.
Thorn Song, seeking to become the first repeat Firecracker winner, quickly assumed command out of the gate and led the field through fractions of :23.79 and :47.28. On the far turn, Thorn Song was joined at the front by Inca King, who slipped through along the hedge, Wise River and Tizdejavu with Desormeaux beginning to move from sixth on Mr. Sidney.
As the field straightened for home, Inca King took over, but was joined by Mr. Sidney just past the eighth pole. Desormeaux, winning the Firecracker for the second year in a row, steadily drew clear to give Mr. Sidney his second graded stakes win to go with the Maker’s Mark Mile this spring at Keeneland, also over yielding turf.
Mr. Sidney carried the second high weight of 120 pounds, three fewer than Thorn Song. It was the second Firecracker victory for Mott, who also won the race in 1993 with Cleone. Mott now has a record 75 career stakes wins at Churchill Downs.
A 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Storm Cat, Mr. Sidney returned $6.40, $4 and $2.80. Inca King paid $7.80 and $4.20 with Seaspeak finishing another 3 3/4 lengths back in third under Robby Albarado and paying $3 to show. Completing the field in order were Thorn Song, Tizdejavu, Wise River and Passager.
“Obviously he proved at Keeneland that he likes this kind of course with a little give in the ground," said Mott's assistant, Kenny McCarthy. "The weather didn’t bother us in the least. It set up good with the speed in there. I thought actually they’d go even a little quicker that what they did, but you know it set up nicely for us to come. He was right on today.”
“Today we were hoping for Mother Nature to play our card and it really did," Desormeaux said. "He is a playful horse but today he was totally professional. He really gave me a lovely ride. He was always in hand and attentive to my needs. He really gave me a great ride.”