Saturday, December 26, 2009 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . December 26, 2009 . . . The $50,000 Holiday Cheer Stakes came down to a four-way blanket finish at Turfway Park Saturday, with Golden Country getting up by a neck over Agastache to earn his first stakes trophy. It was a nose back to Accredit in third, and a further head back to Flavor, the 2-1 favorite, in fourth.
Accredit and Agastache, breaking from post 4 and 10, respectively, sat just off a sizzling :22.01 quarter set by Forestry Gold. Golden Country was slow getting away from post 7 and found himself sixth down the backstretch, while Flavor was seventh in the field of nine after breaking from post 5. Turning for home, Agastache and Accredit took over from the spent Forestry Gold just before Flavor ranged up from fourth to take a short lead and Golden Country came through on the rail, and the four raced heads apart nearly the length of the stretch. After a half-mile in :45.26 clocked by Agastache, Golden Country posted a final time of 1:10.44 for the six furlongs.
"He broke a step slower than normal so we had no choice but to be back there,” said winning trainer Tom Bergin. "Ideally I prefer him to be closer but sometimes you have to ride the race off the break. [Jockey Orlando Mojica] was able to switch him through [to the rail]. He didn't want to go wide on him. He thought if he went wide he may get beat. And he runs good, he's solid, when he gets down there on the rail. He's pretty aggressive in a race, always gives us 100 percent."
Twice stakes-placed at Turfway, including a third-place finish in last year's Holiday Cheer, Golden Country was making his 14th lifetime start for owner Ted Bates Jr., who also bred the four-year-old Menifee colt. He now has four wins, three seconds, and three thirds and earnings of $153,874.
The bettors' fifth choice at 6-1, Golden Country paid $15.40 for the win.
Victory Notion trailed by 19 lengths early and finished fifth, just two lengths off the lead. Behind him were Dynamite Bob, Forestry Gold, Connections, and Timbucto. Harlan Street was a late scratch.
Flavor's connections, owner Billy Hayes, trainer Joe Woodard, and jockey Yuri Yuranga, ended the day with three wins. The trio connected in the first race with Ask Don't Tell, the sixth race with Four Paws, and the eighth race with Delta Charlie.
Following Turfway's holiday tradition, live racing continues without a break through January 3, including Monday and Tuesday, with first post at 1:10pm each day.