Saturday, March 4, 2006 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . March 4, 2006 . . . A four-month layoff and an unfamiliar surface might have given Laity pause in the opening furlongs of the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park Saturday, but by the end he was zeroed in on the finish line, holding off a blazing late charge to win by half a length.
It was the second stakes win of the hour for trainer Frank Brothers, who saw First Samurai’s number moved up to first in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on the disqualification of Corinthian.
Laity was making his first start as a three-year-old and had not run since November. He shipped in from Florida for the John Battaglia Memorial and had had no works over Turfway’s Polytrack surface.
“I was a little concerned about that coming in,” said winning jockey Corey Lanerie, “and he might have been wondering what he was running on, but he liked it. Frankie did a great job getting him ready. The track can be tiring but he was fit today and ready for it.
“I inherited the lead in about the middle of the first turn and he was running real easy,” Lanerie said. “Then on the backside, I don’t know if he lost interest, but I really thought I was out of horse. About the half-mile pole I had to pull the stick out and go to work on him and he responded from it.”
That response put Laity right back in the race as he sat just off the pace set by New Awakening. With Lanerie keeping him at the task, Laity got the lead with about half a furlong to go. New Awakening couldn’t come again but looked to have second locked up when Pair of Kings came flying up on a long closing run that took him from last to second. New Awakenings finished half a length back in third, just a neck ahead of Malameeze in fourth.
“He made me work harder than I think I really had to because he wasn’t going to let them by,” Lanerie said. “I was asking him for everything, but obviously he had something left because he felt that horse [Pair of Kings] coming—the horse kind of carried him to the wire. I felt him coming and I thought he was going to run right by me. But then my horse spotted him out of the corner of his eye and he dug deep and he was good enough today.”
Completing the order of finish were Skeleton Crew, Temporary Saint, the 2-1 favorite Kilimanjaro, With a City, Trailing Twelve, Readily, Go Bucky Go, and Warrior Within.
Following moderate fractions, Laity finished the race in 1:46.88. The bettors’ fifth choice in the 12-horse field, he went off at 6-1 and paid $15.80 for the win.
Laity, whose last win came in the Miller Lite Cradle Stakes at River Downs last September, now has three wins from six career starts. The winner’s share of the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial boosted his career earnings to $213,200. Laity is owned by Claiborne Farm.
The John Battaglia Memorial is the last local prep for the Lane’s End Stakes on March 25, itself a prep for the Kentucky Derby six weeks later.
Saturday also was Brass Hat Day at Turfway Park. Trained by William “Buff” Bradley at Turfway, Brass Hat is on his way to the $6 million Dubai World Cup. The horse posted a public work after the seventh race Saturday, going five furlongs in 1:00 3/5. “That’s the fastest he’s ever worked,” said Bradley, “probably because it’s the afternoon.” The horse is known for taking it easy in the mornings and saving his energy for the races. The strategy works; he now has six stakes victories and earnings of more than $1.2 million. After the workout, Turfway presented Bradley with a personalized blanket that Brass Hat will wear in Dubai.
Brass Hat is scheduled to arrive in Dubai 10 days before the race, which also runs March 25. Turfway will open its gates early that day to include simulcasting of several races from Dubai, including the World Cup. The World Cup is the highlight of a day of racing from Nad Al Sheba Racecourse that includes six graded stakes that together are worth more than $21 million.