LOUISVILLE, KY – Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s late-blooming Backyard Heaven continued his hot streak on Friday, drawing away convincingly in his stakes debut to take the Grade 2, $400,000 Alysheba Stakes presented by Sentient Jet at Churchill Downs.
Breaking cleanly from post 4 under Irad Ortiz, Jr., Backyard Heaven closely attended the early pace set by the favored Always Dreaming (last year’s Kentucky Derby victor) through fast fractions of :23.86 and :46.79. Taking command with less than a 1/2-mile remaining, Backyard Heaven disposed of his foe and ran off down the stretch, hitting the wire 4 1/2 lengths in front of Hawaakom in a final time of 1:41.73.
“He did everything easy,” said Ortiz, Jr. “He broke and put me in a good position to go from there. Past the 1/2-mile pole, I started to let him do his thing. He picked it up, and when I asked him, he took off. He’s a nice horse.”
Good Samaritan spent the entire race in third, a position that didn’t change by the time he crossed the finish line. Hoppertunity couldn’t overcome a troubled early trip and took fourth. Always Dreaming faded to fifth, a nose past Giuseppe the Great, with Hence completing the order of finish. Awesome Slew scratched in favor of running in Saturday’s Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes.
Backyard Heaven’s win was his third straight and improved his record to 4-3-1-0 with career earnings of $334,240. The 4-year-old son of Tizway didn’t debut for trainer Chad Brown until last September, when he ran a good second at Belmont Park.
“He was training very, very well,” Brown said. “I have to give my assistant Whit Beckman credit, as he’s had him all winter up there. He’s done a fabulous job with this horse. We momentarily thought about running him at Charles Town for a lot more money, but we thought he would need just a little more time, and I really wanted the opportunity to bring a horse down here for the Ramseys. They’ve been so helpful to my career. My very first winner was here at Churchill Downs for them.”
Backyard Heaven returned $6.40 to win, $4 to place, and $3 to show. Hawaakom brought back $13.20 to place and $5.20 to show, while Good Samaritan paid $2.80 to show.