LOUISVILLE, KY – Skychai Racing and Sand Dollar Stable’s Fancy Liquor rallied to the front in deep stretch, then held off a late-running foe to triumph in Saturday’s $500,000 American Turf Stakes Presented by Smithfield (G2) at Churchill Downs.
Fancy Liquor was the 9/2 third choice as he broke from post 8 under Florent Geroux and settled off the pace. American Butterfly, Sugoi, and the 6/5 favorite Smooth Like Strait dueled heads apart through opening fractions of :23.04 and :46.48.
The other two dropped anchor heading into the far turn, but Smooth Like Strait kept fighting and straightened for home with a slim advantage. The 9/5 second choice Field Pass soon overtook him after making a strong move in the far turn.
Still in mid-pack as he exited the far turn, Fancy Liquor tipped out and commenced a rally toward the front and stole command from Field Pass, his Mike Maker stablemate, at the 1/16 pole.
Fancy Liquor then held off a late push from Taishan to cross victorious by a 1/2-length while completing the 1 1/16-mile firm turf route in a final time of 1:42.83.
“This horse seems to be still learning,” Geroux said. “He broke really well, but the horses in front of me were going really fast. He’s shown in the past he’s run well on the lead, but he doesn’t necessarily have to have the lead. The race I rode aboard him at Keeneland (the Transylvania [G3]), he came from just off the pace and we got beat by Field Pass that day, but I know (Fancy Liquor) was still learning and getting better. Even back in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3), where he beat us there, too, (Fancy Liquor) ran a really solid race.”
Taishan was 1 1/4 lengths clear of Field Pass, himself 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Smooth Like Straight. King Theo, Sugoi, and American Butterfly completed the order of finish.
Sunsation was scratched.
Fancy Liquor’s win was his second straight following the Caesar Stakes at Indiana Grand and improved his overall record to 6-3-1-2 with $465,050 earned. The 3-year-old Lookin At Lucky colt waited until February 2 to debut, but his maiden-breaking inauguration set the stage for an adventurous campaign that has visited five tracks so far.
“The day we finished third to Field Pass in the Jeff Ruby, I knew that we’d beat him one of these times,” said Dr. Harvey Diamond, co-managing partner of Skychai Racing. “We picked the right time to do it: home track in front of my friends.”
Fancy Liquor returned $11.60 to win, $5.20 to place, and $3 to show. Taishan brought back $10.20 to place and $5.20 to show, while Field Pass paid $2.60 to show.