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FRANKLIN, KY – The Brazilian-bred In Love scooted up the rail in the $330,160 first division of the TVG Stakes while holding off favored Kentucky Ghost for a 2 1/4-length victory, giving French-born jockey Alex Achard his biggest purse victory in America.
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With Brown Storm and Tut’s Revenge setting a resolute pace, Achard settled In Love into fourth in the field of nine older horses, gradually picking up steam before getting through on the inside at the top of the stretch and taking command. Kentucky Ghost ate at his deficit in the final 1/8 of a mile but didn’t threaten the winner. He did, however, nail Brown Storm to take second by a head. In Love covered the mile and 70 yards in 1:38.55.
Those who bet the winner certainly were in love, as the 5-year-old paid $19.40 while racing in blinkers for the first time.
“I won the last time at Arlington,” Achard said, referencing a neck allowance victory over yielding turf. “That was pretty good. We thought that would be an easier swing, but we had to fight. Today was even better.
“I knew that there was enough speed in the race, which is good for us because he can be a little bit tough sometimes. We got the pace and were just behind chilling. When I asked him to go, he just went.”
Trainer Vicki Oliver said the distance was too short for Kentucky Ghost to be most effective. “He ran really well,” she said. “That was our biggest concern, that it would be too short for him. He’s always been a mile and an eighth-type of horse. His mom was a mile and 1/2-type of horse. We were hoping to get the pace that we got. We just couldn’t close into it at a mile and 70 yards.”
Kentucky Ghost’s jockey Rafael Bejarano thought he was in a winning position until Achard made his decisive, clever move.
“I had a good trip. I saved ground and had a beautiful position coming down the lane,” Bejarano said. “I let him out in the stretch and my horse gave me a good run, a good finish, but the winner today he stole the race. He had a good trip inside and he kept going.”
Though born in Brazil, In Love raced in Argentina in 2019 before Bonne Chance farm owner Alberto Figueiredo sent him to Lobo in the United States, where he’s now won 3 of 7 starts. The only times he wasn’t competitive was in the slop in a Keeneland allowance. He also finished eighth, beaten 6 1/2 lengths, in his only previous U.S. stakes, Churchill Downs’ Wise Dan (G2).
“Since he came here, he’s run very well,” the Lexington-based Lobo said. “The day of the Wise Dan, after the race he came back a little sick with a virus. I think that’s why he didn’t perform well that day.”
Since he wasn’t born in Kentucky, In Love wasn’t eligible for the $100,000 in Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund purses that help fatten the pot for each $400,000 division of the TVG. But he still earned a healthy $178,560 to more than double his earnings to $279,700 off a 4-2-2 record in 12 starts.
Even without racing for the maximum purse, In Love still provided the 30-year-old Achard his biggest victory since coming to America 3 years ago. Earlier this year, the Indiana Grand-based jockey won Arlington Park’s Chicago Stakes (G3), but that race was worth $100,000, with Abby Hatcher earning $57,600.
“Now it’s even better,” Achard said of this victory.
In Love is a son of the Japanese Sunday Silence stallion Agnes Gold and out of the Brazilian mare Last Bet, who is by the Irish-bred Know Heights.
“We bred him in Brazil, and we send our best stock to race in Argentina,” said Figueiredo. “This horse is no exception. When all the COVID started to stop all the races over there, we put him on a plane with two others. It was well worth the bet we made on him.
“This horse never disappoints us. And to be frankly honest, I always expected a little bit more from him. Even in his time in Argentina. He was always a horse that worked so well. Sometimes he did not do the same in the afternoon. But with time and more experience, and now maybe with the blinkers, I think we’ll figure out more of him.”
A year ago, Figueiredo and Lobo brought the Brazilian-bred Ivar to Kentucky Downs, finishing third in the race now known as the WinStar Mint Million but in his next start won Keeneland’s Shadwell Turf Mile (G1). Ivar subsequently finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
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