LEXINGTON, KY (April 23, 2016) – Skychai Racing’s Da Big Hoss, under a ground-saving trip from Florent Geroux, held off a late bid from Kaigun to win the 31st running of the $250,000 Dixiana Elkhorn (G2) by a half-length before a Saturday afternoon crowd of 32,731.
Trained by Mike Maker, Da Big Hoss covered the 1½ miles on a firm turf course in 2:31.29. It was the second Dixiana Elkhorn victory for Maker, who won the 2013 renewal with Dark Cove. It also was his third victory of the afternoon.
Da Big Hoss, who broke from post position one, raced closest to the rail in the early going as A Red Tie Day raced on an uncontested lead through fractions of :25.62, :51.11, 1:17.11 and 1:43.11.
On the far turn, Idolo Porteno (ARG) and Twilight Eclipse made moves at A Red Tie Day, moves that were quickly repelled by jockey Gary Stevens, who opened a daylight advantage entering the stretch.
Da Big Hoss took aim on the leader racing along the rail, surged past at the eighth pole and had enough to hold off Kaigun, who rallied four wide.
The victory was worth $150,000 for Da Big Hoss, who improved his record to 18-9-1-3 and earnings of $858,936. Saturday’s triumph was the third graded stakes score for Da Big Hoss, who previously won the Kentucky Turf Cup (G3) at Kentucky Downs and the John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3) at Sam Houston.
Da Big Hoss is a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Lemon Drop Kid out of the Touch Gold mare Lady Struck Gold.
Sent off as the favorite in the field of eight, Da Big Hoss paid $7.40, $3.80 and $3. Kaigun, ridden by Joe Bravo, returned $3.40 and $2.40 with Royal Albert Hall (GB) finishing another half-length back in third under Flavien Prat and paying $4.60 to show.
A Red Tie Day finished fourth and was followed in order by Up With the Birds, Twilight Eclipse, St. Albans Boy and Idolo Porteno.
Keeneland stewards conducted an inquiry into the stretch run inside the sixteenth pole but following a review of the race made no change to the order of finish.
Racing continues Sunday with a nine-race program that begins at 1:05 p.m. ET.
Quotes from the $250,000 Dixiana Elkhorn (G2)
Florent Geroux (winning rider of Da Big Hoss)
“He’s a very neat horse, push-button. You can put him exactly where you want to be. If there’s a bit of an opening, when you ask him to go, he can push through very clear and very quickly. I think that made the difference today, the trip and saving ground. When I was able to see the opening at the top of the stretch, my horse kicked on very nicely and kept going.”
Mike Maker (trainer of Da Big Hoss)
On what made the difference today vs. his last start on March 5 at Gulfstream when he finished fifth in the Mac Diarmida (G2)
“Gulfstream has a very firm turf course, and I’m not sure it was to his liking. That day, I thought it was a very speed-favoring turf course. We tried to put him in a hot pace, and it just didn’t work out.”
Joe Bravo (rider of runner-up Kaigun)
“What a warrior. What can’t you say about Kaigun? He just loves to win, runs good. Trip makes such a big difference when it comes to turf racing. Da Big Hoss and Kaigun are pretty much dead-even horses, but having the inside post got (Da Big Hoss) in the winner’s circle today.”
Flavien Prat (rider of third-place finisher Royal Albert Hall [GB])
“I got a good trip. I would have liked a little bit of a faster pace, but I was behind the winner and I think that’s the way to ride this horse. He likes to be a little quiet (at the beginning of the race) and then make the first move. He ran really great. He always tries his best.”
Gary Stevens (rider of fourth-place finisher A Red Tie Day)
“My horse was wanting to drift out just a little bit and I don’t know whether it was the inside (horse, Da Big Hoss) coming out or (Kaigun) coming in. It was kind of a combination. I told the stewards that is where I was going to finish anyway; my horse was tiring. He ran a great race. I was very happy with the pace. I was walking the first part; the second quarter was real slow. I didn’t see the fractions (on the tote board), but I know in my head the second quarter was very slow. I was happy. This was a fun race to ride. It is the first time he had tried running this far and (trainer) Richard (Baltas) did a helluva job with him. It was a good effort from him.”