Kela Romps in Grade III, $300,000 Texas Mile at LSP

(April 24, 2004)- Southern California invader Kela was given a smooth ride by jockey David Nuesch and the 6-year-old responded with a convincing 5 ¼-length victory over late running Supah Blitz in Saturday's Grade III, $300,000 Texas Mile at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas.

The Kentucky-bred son of Numerous ran one mile on a "sloppy" main track in 1:35.64 en route to his first graded stakes win. Florida-based Supah Blitz, ridden by Eddie Castro, closed well to finish second, 1 ½ lengths ahead of pacesetter Yessirgeneralsir. Snorter, the 2-1 favorite from the Bobby Frankel barn, was fourth.

Jay Manoogian of Mission Viejo, Calif., privately purchased Kela last October from Aaron and Marie Jones for $100,000 on the advice of trainer Mike Mitchell. In his third start off a six-month layoff, Kela made a nice return on the investment by collecting the Texas Mile's $175,000 first prize.

"He likes that mile," said Mitchell, a 12-time leading trainer on the Southern California circuit.

It was Kela's sixth win in 19 starts, and his bankroll swelled to $487,527.

Kela paid $12.80 to win as the 5-1 fourth betting choice in a competitive field of eight older horses.

Lightly raced Yessirgeneralsir set a swift pace of :23.32 - the fastest opening quarter mile in Texas Mile history - :46.28 for the half mile and 1:10.15 for three-quarters of a mile. Kela was never far behind in second and engaged the leader leaving the far turn to draw clear late under left-handed urging by Nuesch.

"He left there with 'run' on his mind," said 34-year-old Nuesch, who won the biggest race of his career. "I was expecting to be fourth or fifth early and just trying to find a place in the clear. Mike said that last time he got kind of far back and didn't care for the dirt in his face. I kind of rode him away from there just to get in position, but he carried me right up to the second spot. Near the quarter pole, it looked like [Yessirgeneralsir] tried to kick away like he had a little horse left. I thought he might make me earn it, so I went ahead and started dropping the hammer. When I called on him, he got it on; he dug down deep and kept on digging. He finished up super."

The victory was an early birthday present for Mitchell, who will celebrate his 56th birthday Sunday.

"We'll leave the silks and [identification] papers here, but we're taking him back to California," Mitchell said. "We'll be back for the [Grade III, $300,000] Lone Star Park Handicap [on Memorial Day, May 31]. I really believe that going back home won't take much out of him. He's a real smart horse and does everything right. We'll ship him back home and train him up to the race much like we did with him today."

Kela and Yessirgeneralsir did have to survive a claim of foul by Jamie Theriot, the jockey of last-place finisher and 5-2 second choice Pie N Burger. Pie N Burger, last year's Lone Star Park Handicap champ, was shuffled back to last entering the first turn, but Texas Racing Commission stewards ruled that the winner and third place finisher weren't to blame.

"They came over quick and just put me into the fence," Theriot claimed. "It took all the run from him. He got sucked back and his running style is up on the pace. He doesn't like chasing horses and getting hit with mud. If that didn't happen, I think it would have been a different story."

Snorter, the Grade III Berkeley Handicap winner, had a similar trip, according to jockey David Flores.

"He broke good, but not as good as I wanted to," Flores said. "When we got to the first turn, I was in a bad position in back. Those guys up front were opening up and it was hard to make up that much ground. I just did my best to make up ground and finish good."

Favorites have won only once in eight runnings of the Texas Mile, and the lone victor was last year's champ Bluesthestandard, who went on to finish second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Beaten favorites in the Texas Mile include Horse of the Year Skip Away (1997) and Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet (1999).

One race later, Cryptograph asserted himself as a 3-year-old with a bright future while winning the $75,000 Grand Prairie Turf Challenge, which was moved to the "sloppy" main track due to heavy overnight thunderstorms. In his first start since likely Kentucky Derby favorite Smarty Jones broke his three-race career unbeaten streak, Cryptograph rallied from the back of a 10-horse field to win the one-mile race by 1 ½ lengths over Mr. Devious and Rollicking Caller. The winning margin could have been wider if not for traffic problems on the second turn. Don Pettinger rode the son of Cryptoclearance for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel and owner Josephine Abercrombie of Pin Oak Stable. As the betting favorite, Cryptograph paid $4.80.

Despite rainfall throughout the day, a crowd of 10,409 attended the Texas Mile - a 20% increase from the 8,667 in 2003. The on-track crowd wagered $835,261 on the 11-race program (up 7% from $785,464), and another $2,728,843 million was bet at simulcast outlets nationwide (up 4% from $2,619,883) for a total of more than $3.5 million. The off-track handle was the largest amount wagered since the Lone Star Derby and Texas Mile have been run on separate programs since 2001.

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