LOUISVILLE, KY – In a repeat of last year’s edition, Katherine Ball’s homebred Limousine Liberal edged his foes at the wire to take Saturday’s Grade 2, $500,000 Churchill Downs Stakes presented by Twinspires.com at Churchill Downs.
Off well under Jose Ortiz from near the outside, Limousine Liberal ran quickly to move down and gain position closer to the rail, then closely tracked the favored Imperial Hint through opening splits of :22.10 and :44.57. Eased back slightly nearing the 3/8 pole, Ortiz tipped his steed out and began a four-wide run down the front stretch. Taking a slim lead to the inside of last year’s runner-up Awesome Slew, Limousine Liberal was faced with a late rally from Warrior’s Club to the far outside. Under a heavy drive, the Ben Colebrook trainee dug in gamely to prevail by a pair of heads over Warrior’s Club and Awesome Slew in a final time of 1:22.73 for the 7-furlong sprint over a sloppy (sealed) main track.
“He broke good and I got into a good position,” Ortiz said. “I just sat, and at the 3/8, I got him out. It took a lot of guts to win this race. They made him run. I hit him left-handed and he kept fighting with that other horse (Warrior’s Club). By the 1/16 pole, I knew we had it. He’s very game. Ben’s done a great job with him. I’m very happy.”
Whitmore couldn’t quite stick with the top trio and finished fourth. Chief Cicatriz headed a fading Imperial Hint for fifth, with Outplay, Unbridled Outlaw, and Conquest Windycity completing the order of finish.
Limousine Liberal’s was his sixth at Churchill Downs and improved his overall record to 21-8-6-3. The 6-year-old gelded son of Successful Appeal increased his career earnings to $1,333,261.
“Ecstatic, it’s awesome,” Colebrook said. “Ideal conditions for him maybe, he loves the wet racetrack and he’s a fighter. He just wasn’t going to get beat today. He was a little closer I think than we probably had planned, but they didn’t go as fast as it kind of looked like. The first quarter was in :22, and I didn’t see the 1/2, but I would have thought it would have been :21. And he was a little closer, and I think that made the difference. He was able to kind of sneak away there a little bit, and then he fought back after they passed him, and just a phenomenal ride by Jose and blessed, really, to have a horse like this.
Limousine Liberal returned $10.80 to win, $5.40 to place, and $3.40 to show. Warrior’s Club brought back $15.80 to place and $6.80 to show, while Awesome Slew paid $3.20 to show.