Saturday, February 27, 2010 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . February 27, 2010 [Revised Feb. 28] . . . Vow to Wager was awarded the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park Saturday after Codoy was disqualified and placed second for interference in the stretch.
"I saw the race and thought he would have won if he hadn't been bothered," said Vow to Wager's trainer Dale Romans, who was at Gulfstream Park Saturday. "He had a terrible trip all around—wide on the turn, squeezed back."
Codoy finished a length ahead of Vow to Wager, with In the Paint three-quarters of a length farther back in third. Behind them came Slewzoom, Fish, Pathoki, Lucky Chuck, and the 6-5 favorite Kera's Kitten, who was bumped and steadied on the final turn and stopped.
The Battaglia Memorial was roughly run almost from the start, with six horses across the track entering the first turn and an equal number across leaving the second. Vow to Wager, under John McKee, was squeezed back entering the first turn before settling to race in sixth. With Sal Gonzalez Jr. aboard, Codoy raced in eighth to the half-mile mark as Kera's Kitten led the way with Lucky Chuck right behind. Lucky Chuck put a head in front leaving the second turn but veered out, forcing half the field wide, including Kera's Kitten.
Codoy had meanwhile advanced to sixth along the rail and used the resulting hole to take the lead. Gonzalez lost his whip entering the stretch, and Codoy, though clear at that point, drifted under the hand ride. In the Paint also came through the hole but was close on the rail and bumped repeatedly with Vow to Wager, who was back in the hunt after the wide turn. Vow to Wager was gaining on Codoy when he was forced to check as the latter drifted.
"Dale told me to put this horse in the race," said McKee, who broke from post six, "but I found myself squeezed back going into the first turn. I wanted to be closer to the pace, but it didn't fall like that so I had to go to plan B and let my horse relax. And when I asked him on the second turn, Ben Creed's horse (Lucky Chuck) floated the field out, and I ended up cutting the corner. Turning for home I had a lot of horse, and Sal's horse came over and broke my momentum."
After Kera's Kitten set the early pace at :23.86 and :47.79, final time for the 1 1/16-mile Battaglia was 1:48.94.
Asked about Vow to Wager's jump from a maiden special win last month right into listed stakes competition, Romans said, "He's figured out racing. He's figured out how to run, and he should keep moving forward."
Romans said Vow to Wager likely would return in the Lane's End Stakes on March 27.
The longest shot in the field at 23-1, Vow to Wager returned $48.60, $17.80, and $8.
Vow to Wager was bred in Kentucky by Dixiana Stables and is owned by Donegal Racing. He now has two wins from five starts and earnings of $74,024.
Codoy's trainer, Mark Hubley, was pleased with his horse's effort. "He ran really good but of course I'm disappointed,” he said. "It's unfortunate there was an objection. It could have gone either way, but he could have impeded that horse. I do think he was the best horse in the race.
"I'm not sure where we'll take him from here. I'm not sure he can move his form to dirt; I don't think he can. And this race probably took something out of him. He ran hard."
The John Battaglia Memorial is named in memory of John Battaglia, general manager of Turfway Park in the days when it was called Latonia. It was Battaglia who first envisioned a Latonia race for three-year-olds aiming for the Kentucky Derby. First run in 1972 as the Spiral Stakes, the race he developed is today the Grade II $500,000 Lane's End Stakes. The Battaglia Memorial trophy was presented to the winner by members of the Battaglia family, including Turfway's long-time track announcer and oddsmaker, Mike Battaglia.