ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL – It was with a strong, sustained bid that Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s homebred Keystoneforvictory ran down The Pizza Man in the late stages of the Grade 3, $100,000 Stars and Stripes at Arlington International Racecourse.
The 86th edition of the Stars and Stripes was the third of four Grade 3 stakes offered on the Ride to the Million card presented by Miller Lite. It was preceded by the American Derby and the Modesty Handicap and was followed by the Arlington Handicap.
Under Julien Leparoux, the 4-year-old colt by Kitten’s Joy trailed a pacesetting Belomor by almost a dozen lengths up the backstretch of the 1 1/2-mile turf event while the frontrunner kicked clear in splits of :25.24, :49.80, :1:15.75, and 1:38.93.
“It set up perfect for us,” said Leparoux. “A couple of horses on the lead, and my horse relaxed. We had a perfect race.”
Florent Geroux, aboard Roger Brueggemann’s 2015 Grade 1 Arlington Million winner, kept The Pizza Man in position to tackle the tiring leader as they turned for home in 2:05.32. They briefly hit the front up the stretch but had to settle for second, 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner. With a strong finish down the middle of the turf course in the final 1/8, Keystoneforvictory stopped the clock in 2:29.89.
“He’s a pretty easy horse to train,” said Maker. “He’s a win machine.”
The second-place effort was Geroux’s first aboard The Pizza Man in seven starts.
“He felt good,” said Geroux. “Turning for home, I thought I was going to get the win, but (Keystoneforvictory) just ran him down the last 1/8 of a mile. He ran great. I think he’s improved on his last race and I think he’s moving in the right direction. He’s a little bit older now and it might take him a bit longer to get to his top form.”
Mikhail Yanakov trainee Applicator settled along the rail under Jose Valdivia, Jr., tracked between the two favorites while saving ground throughout, then rallied late for third, a head behind The Pizza Man.
“Couldn’t ask for a better trip,” said Valdivia, Jr. “I had a dream trip on the inside and he hesitated a little bit, which might’ve been the difference between second and third, but nonetheless, very happy with the placing.”
One Go All Go, Belomor, Flashy Chelsey, Bodhisattva, Mongol G, and Feodor completed the order of finish.
Keystoneforvictory won for the eighth time in 15 career starts while landing his first graded stakes win, bringing his bankroll to $307,590 with the winner’s share of $57,600.
Keystoneforvictory returned $5.80, $2.80, and $2.60. The Pizza Man brought back $2.60 and $2.40, while Applicator paid $3.60 to show.