|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
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
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.