LEXINGTON, KY – George Krikorian’s homebred Big Score collared pace-setting Holiday Stone in the closing strides to win the 29th running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Transylvania Presented by Keeneland Select by a 1/2-length on Friday before a Spring Meet opening-day crowd of 14,301.
Trained by Tim Yakteen and ridden by Javier Castellano, Big Score covered the 1 1/16 miles over a turf course rated as “good” in 1:43.23. It was the first Keeneland stakes victory for Yakteen and 31st for Castellano, who also won the 2015 Transylvania with Night Prowler.
Breaking from the outside post position, Holiday Stone out-hustled Sonic Boom and odds-on favorite Oscar Performance for the lead and led the field of eight through fractions of :23.92, :48.48, and 1:13.17 as Big Score raced in fifth.
Castellano split horses in the upper stretch, shook clear of traffic at the 1/8 pole, and gradually wore down Holiday Stone and rider Luis Saez. Makarios and jockey Corey Lanerie finished 3/4 of a length ahead of Ticonderoga for third. Oscar Performance, Cowboy Culture, Sonic Boom, and Profiteer completed the order of finish.
The victory was worth $90,000 and increased Big Score’s earnings to $237,800 with a record of 5-3-1-0. Now a two-time stakes winner, Big Score was making his first start since finishing fifth behind Oscar Performance in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita in November.
Big Score is a Kentucky-bred son of Mr. Big out of the Unusual Heat mare Not Unusual.
Big Score returned $22.40, $10.40, and $7. Holiday Stone brought back $26 and $13.80, while Makarios paid $9.80 to show.
Trainer Tim Yakteen, Big Score: “We were expecting a strong effort, but until you run, you never know. He’s a good horse. I’m really happy for (breeder and owner) George (Krikorian). He stands (Big Score’s sire) Mr. Big and this is a big start for him.”
On Big Score’s next race: “We’re going to look at Churchill (Downs and the Grade 2, $300,000 American Turf on May 6) most likely next. First we’re going to digest this, and then come up with our next move.”
Jockey Javier Castellano, Big Score: “I had a wonderful trip. I really like the way he did it today – very relaxed, very comfortable, good rhythm all the way through the race. I kept track of the pace. The way he did it (winning from off the pace) was phenomenal. I give all the credit to Tim and the owner (George Krikorian) and the wonderful fans here at Keeneland. Nothing better than to win the Transylvania on opening day of the meet.”
Jockey Luis Saez, Holiday Stone: “Big run – he was very nice. I thought he was gonna get it, then Javier’s horse (Big Score) came by. First time I’ve ridden him. (Trainer George Weaver) said, ‘Just break and be comfortable,’ and that was it. And he was very comfortable. He ran pretty hard. I think he’s gonna learn a lot.”
Jockey Corey Lanerie, Makarios: “He ran an awful good race. He settled toward the back of the pack. I had never been on him before, and I think I left him a little too much to do, or he could have been in the photo. He had a smooth trip, saved some ground, and I tipped him out, and he came running really good.”
Jockey Joel Rosario, Ticonderoga: “I was in a good spot. He just steadied a bit in the end. I thought he was going to have a little more finish. I don’t think they went very fast, and I thought he’d go a little more in the end. (He was) just kind of even today. “
Jockey Jose Ortiz, Oscar Performance: “I broke a bit slow. That is why I was not on the lead. It was a very clean trip.”
Trainer Bryan Lynch, Oscar Performance: “No real excuses. He settled in nicely behind. The pace was not real quick and the rail opened up when it needed to, but he just did not quicken. (First race since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in November) was a concern. He could have gotten tired. He was working on a much faster turf course at Palm Meadows (training center in South Florida). Maybe he was not as tight as I thought he would be.”