Saturday, September 12, 2009 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . September 12, 2009 . . . Nite Light controlled the $100,000 Turfway Park Fall Championship (G3) from gate to wire Saturday, securing his first graded stakes win and an automatic spot in the Breeders' Cup Marathon in November.
The mile-and-a-half Fall Championship is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series "Win and You're In" race for the $25.5 million Breeders' Cup World Championships, the richest racing event in North America.
Saddled for the race by Mike McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, Nite Light took an early lead and then fully dictated a pedestrian pace before drawing off to win by 5 3/4 lengths. The 5-year-old son of Thunder Gulch ran the first half-mile in :51.58 and the mile in 1:43.11 before stepping up the pace slightly to clock 2:32.55 for all 12 furlongs.
Nite Light's stablemate Alaazo moved up into second as the field approached the quarter-pole and kept the runner-up position, a length better than Dominican in third. Completing the order of finish were Gangbuster, Eleuterio, and Ran Ran Ran. Lord Kipling and Super Class scratched.
"I was able to get out and dictate the pace, and it worked favorably," said Court. "Rarely do you see them going that slow, but nobody was challenging him. I initiated a little quicker pace to keep a length or two in front of them, and we were uncontested until we turned for home. I had plenty of horse left at the head of the stretch. I thought the late runners were going to make a run so I put a little bit of margin between us."
The Fall Championship was Nite Light's first start on an all-weather surface. The Breeders’ Cup World Championships are to be contested for the second consecutive year on the all-weather surface at California's Santa Anita Park. McCarthy said the horse is expected to take advantage of his automatic berth in the Marathon.
The 6-5 favorite in Saturday's race, Nite Light paid $4.40, $3, and $2.40. His record now stands at 6-5-0 in 14 starts with career earnings of $379,900 for owner Edward P. Evans.
Gonçalves off to fast start
With multiple wins three of the meet’s four days including five on Friday, Brazilian jockey Leandro Gonçalves has jumped to the lead in the rider standings, counting 10 wins through Saturday's card.
In other "racing" news Turfway Park now holds the Guinness World Record for gathering the most stick ponies in one place. Officially sanctioned by Guinness, the event drew 445 adults and children for a gallop of sorts along the Polytrack, shattering the previous record of 265. As required, both the number of participants and the time—10 minutes, 49 seconds—were verified by local officials, with Florence Mayor Diane Whalen and Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore doing the honors.
Records also were produced at Turfway Saturday during a cornhole tournament sponsored by the American Cornhole Organization (ACO). Chris Hobbs of Eaton, Ohio, ranked 13th in the world by the ACO, made 469 cornholes in 60 minutes. Dyana Tolliver set the women’s 60-minute record with 268. The records and their verification will be submitted to Guinness by the ACO.
Live racing and Turfway's 50th anniversary celebration continue Sunday. Racing begins at 1:10pm, and Boone County Day, featuring games, giveaways, and local vendors' booths on the track apron, will be open from 12:30 to 5:30pm. Admission is free to all activities.