Saturday, March 18, 2006 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . March 18, 2006 . . . Setting an easy pace virtually all the way, Ball Four returned to racing after a five-month layoff to win the $50,000 Tejano Run Stakes Saturday at Turfway Park. It was the first stakes win for the five-year-old gelding, who finished second in the Grade II Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway last September. The winning jockey in that race, Julien Leparoux, was aboard for Saturday’s race as well.
“The distance is not a problem for him,” said Rodolphe Brissett, assistant to trainer Patrick Biancone. “He likes to go to the front alone, and nobody put pressure on him. If you look at the Grade II in September, he ran almost the same thing—:24, :48.”
The only pressure in the race came, predictably, from Ask the Lord in the last furlong. The nine-year-old gelding made his textbook closing run, drawing within 3/4 of a length before the wire stopped his bid. Doc D, running easily in mid-pack, moved up to finish another three lengths back in third.
“This is my big horse. He was the first horse I rode here,” said Leparoux, who had been race-riding all of five weeks when Biancone gave him the mount on Ball Four in the Classic. “He went to the front today, and I just left him alone. Toward the finish he got a bit tired, the last furlong, and I got a little [concerned about Ask the Lord]. It’s been a long time [since his last race.] But he finished it.”
Ball Four finished the 1 1/8 mile Tejano Run in 1:51.97. Sent off as the 8-5 favorite, he paid $5.40 for the win. He now has four wins, one second, and three thirds from 14 starts and earnings of $209,070 for owners Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor.
Completing the order of finish were Esprit Du Roi, Royal Gem, Plumwood, Bullion, Collateral Damage, Alpha Tejano, Azucar, and Eroberer.
The win aboard Ball Four was one of five on the day for Leparoux. With 136 wins in the current Turfway Park meet, he leads not only the Turfway colony but also the nation in wins for the year. The Turfway record for the Winter/Spring Meet is 150 wins, set by Rafael Bejarano in 2004.
Racing continues Sunday, with first post at 1:10 p.m.