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FRANKLIN, KY – A patient, clever ride by leading jockey Joel Rosario earned Koala Princess a ticket to the winner’s circle after the $500,000 Ainsworth Stakes Sunday at Kentucky Downs.
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Rather than let her use her speed to set the pace as she did breaking her maiden on August 21 at Monmouth Park, Rosario managed to reserve her early, then let her do her best running in the stretch of the 6 1/2-furlong test for 2-year-old fillies. She rolled up the inside to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Mystic Eyes in 1:15.25.
Sent off at 5/1 in the field of 11, the Runnymeade Farm, Peter Callahan, and Chris Zinkhan homebred returned $12.00, $5.60, and $4.40. Poppy Flower was third, while the even-money favorite Lady Danae ended up fifth.
“It looked like she was handling it really nice today,” Rosario said. “She’s showed a really good turn of foot turning for home.”
Starting in post 2, as she had in the maiden race, Koala Princess, a daughter of More Than Ready, followed Rosario’s instructions. She sat eighth, about 5 lengths back through an opening 1/4 of 21.87 and was 3 1/4 lengths behind pacesetter Mystic Eyes, who hit the 1/2-mile at 45.54. Koala Princess and Rosario were on the move and a 1/2-length behind at the top of the stretch.
“She broke fine. There were a couple there that looked like they were in a hurry a little bit,” Rosario said. “We got to the turn and found myself in a good spot with the speed they were going. I just tried to stay there for a little while. She was handling everything inside there nice and so I tried to stay there and look for the clear path.”
Rosario said that trainer Arnaud Delacour asked him to bide his time and put to filly in position to finish on the best part of the track.
“It’s good to win races; they’re tough to win here,” Delacour said. “Everybody shows up with what they think is their best stock at the time. Whoever will handle the track, that is always a question mark.
“I was very happy with Koala Princess. We were a little worried about the timing. She ran three weeks ago. We had to ship, but obviously she handled everything fine. We had a great ride by Joel; he didn’t panic. He just sat there and she came with her run, so it was exciting.”
Koala Princess remained unbeaten after 2 starts and earned $291,400 in the Ainsworth.
Mystic Eyes, a daughter of Maclean’s Music, led from gate to wire winning her maiden race at Saratoga on August 5, and tried to do it again under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
“She ran very good,” Velazquez said. “She has a lot to learn. She needs to relax a little bit in the first part. She finished it OK but the other horse just finished a little bit better than her. But I think the first part of the race made the difference for her.”
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