Saturday, March 5, 2005 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . March 5, 2005 . . . Magna Graduate went to the head of the class in the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park Saturday, setting him up for the Lane’s End Stakes (G2) three weeks away.
Ridden by Turfway’s leading rider, Dean Sarvis, Magna Graduate broke first and then relaxed patiently behind the pacesetter, Ultimate, until the final turn. He drew alongside the leader and then drew away to win by 3 3/4 lengths.
“He’s a very smart colt,” said Sarvis. “As soon as I asked him to go with that horse, he gave me another gear. He drew away with authority and actually had a little something left. He got the horse on the lead on his own, and when we turned for home and I asked him to go, he gave me a good kick. He was very well prepared. He did everything right.”
Ultimate, who jumped to the Battaglia from a maiden special weight win at Gulfstream, was the bettors’ favorite on the strength of that impressive eight-length win and the reputation of his trainer, Nick Zito. The colt had only Magna Graduate to contend with until about mid-stretch, when Pavo slipped by to take second by 1 1/2 lengths. Ultimate stayed in for third, finishing half a length in front of Malibu Moonshine.
Elisabeth Alexander purchased Magna Graduate privately from Northern Kentucky attorney Burr Travis after the colt ran second to Greater Good in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (G3) at Turfway last September.
”I watched him in the barn behind me,” said trainer Patrick Byrne. “We watched him all last fall, and we thought he’d be a nice horse if he could be bought. We really liked his Kentucky Cup Race, which brought us back to this race because it’s a steppingstone to the Lane’s End.
“He was very impressive in this race today. He’s a nice colt; I think his best days are ahead of him. He’s so immature mentally but he’s still coming around. Like Dean said, he got to the front and was kind of just loafing, so Dean got into him a little bit and got him back to the task and he galloped out strong.
“Who knows about the Kentucky Derby? It’s a dream for us; who knows if we can get there. But the next step is the Lane’s End.”
Byrne said he also plans to bring Catch Me to Turfway on Lane’s End Day to run in the 1 1/16-mile Rushaway Stakes. Catch Me ran second to Snack in the WEBN Stakes at
Turfway in early February and later that month won a mid-level allowance race at the track.
Completing the order of finish in the John Battaglia Memorial were Cat Shaker, Interline, the filly Smart Voyager, Chirinda Forest, and Western Bulldog.
Sent off at 3-1 as second choice, Magna Graduate finished the 1 1/16-mile course in 1:43.94. He paid $8.00 for the win.
Butler up and about
Jockey Dean Butler visited Turfway Saturday for the first time since undergoing surgery February 21 to stabilize his left tibia, broken in a spill at the track on February 18. He expects to be out of action about three months. “I’m not going to rush it,” Butler said. “A jockey’s legs are like gold. That’s where all your weight is and how you balance. I’ll let my body tell me when I’m ready.
“When you ride, you know things can happen that you can’t control. It’s just part of the job. I was lucky. My leg broke in four or five places but there wasn’t any damage to the joints.”
Butler sustained the injury when Bugatti’s Booty, his mount in the day’s 12th and final race, broke down while on the lead and landed on the jockey. Butler’s fiancée, LeAnn Rhone, was first on the scene and pulled him free.
Beyond returning to riding, Butler is looking forward to another special event: he and Rhone have chosen June 20, 2005, as their wedding date.
Lopez out with collarbone break
Jockey James Lopez will be out of action four to six weeks due to a collarbone fracture sustained at the beginning of Saturday’s fifth race. Lopez’s mount, The Rain is Gone, stumbled leaving the gate, unseating the rider.