LEXINGTON, KY – A late surge between foes secured Team Valor International’s homebred Oleksandra her spot in the winner’s circle for Friday’s $150,000 Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes (G3) at Keeneland.
Breaking from post 2 under Joel Rosario as the slight 5/2 favorite, Oleksandra took back early and watched the pace unfold from near the rear. Meanwhile, Girls Know Best broke sharply from post 11 and secured held a moderate advantage into and through the far turn while posting fractions of :21.73 and :44.17.
Rosario kept Oleksandra tucked along the rail through the corner and waited until the 3/16 pole before asking her. Responding immediately to her cue, Oleksandra began advancing quickly along the inside and was soon within range of the pacesetter.
Seeing Morticia struggle to pass Girls Know Best in mid-stretch, Rosario tipped Oleksandra out and placed her in the gap between her two foes. Surging strongly inside the final 1/16, Oleksandra kicked clear late to win the 5 1/2-furlong sprint over the firm turf course in a final time of 1:01.79.
“She just relaxed, and then she came with a big run,” Rosario said. “She had a tremendous turn of foot. It seemed like I had room to go through (an opening between rivals). She was just rolling at the end.”
The Neil Drysdale-trained victor was 2 lengths clear of Morticia, who necked out Girls Know Best late for second. A Little Bit Me showed late gain to nose out Violent Times for fourth, while behind them came Painting Corners, Ruby Notion, Miss Gossip, Beechwood Ella, and Take These Chains to complete the order of finish.
Change of Control, Goldwood, Hotshot Anna, Rocky Policy, and Stillwater Cove were trainer scratches. La Dame Blanche was unable to draw into the field from the Also-Eligible list.
Oleksandra’s win was her sixth in 10 American starts (having raced three times in Europe) and her second against stakes foes, having won August’s Smart N Fancy Stakes at Saratoga. The 5-year-old Australian-bred daughter of Animal Kingdom improved her record to 13-6-2-3 with $359,853 earned while giving Team Valor International its 100th graded stakes victory.
“She had such a head of steam,” said Barry Irwin, the founder and CEO of Team Valor International. “You knew she had the energy, but whether there was room… Usually, (Rosario) won’t go in a place where he’s not going to get out. I felt pretty confident he was on it.”
Oleksandra returned $7 to win, $3.60 to place, and $2.40 to show. Morticia brought back $4 to place and $2.60 to show, while Girls Know Best paid $2.80 to show.