Four-year-old gelding Applicator won for the first time in more than 15 months while upsetting Wednesday’s featured $400,000 Tourist Mile by a length over Flatlined at Kentucky Downs.
Coming off a five-furlong turf sprint 13 days ago, Applicator showed speed early and was able to press the pace from the outside, racing four wide as Western Reserve set fractions of 26.02 and 50.62 seconds over a course labeled “good.” Jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. took command approaching the quarter-pole and edged clear in the straight, finishing the mile in 1:44.79 on a day that had the rail out 30 feet and was producing very slow times.
“Before the race he felt very good,” winning trainer Mikhail Yanakov said of the best horse he’s trained in three years since taking out a license in the United States. “I told (Valdivia), ‘Let him have a good start and let him get comfortable in his stride,’ because it was his first time (on the course). ‘Don’t push him, don’t grab him, whatever he wants, and then let him go.’”
Applicator, by Henrythenavigator, showed he could be competitive against good turf horses earlier this year while finishing second in April’s Grade 3 Miami Mile at Gulfstream Park and third in July’s Grade 3 Stars and Stripes at Arlington Park. The close finish in the Stars and Stripes encouraged Yanakov to try the Grade 3 American St. Leger on the Arlington Million undercard, where an experiment with blinkers led to a disastrous 50-length defeat.
Valdivia said Applicator got confused by all the turns in the 1 11/16-mile St. Leger and tried to run off the track.
“I said just throw it out,” he said. “I always believed in this horse. It’s been a little unorthodox getting here. But as you can tell right now, I think it depends who handles the surface and who doesn’t. At the head of the lane, when a horse came up outside of him, he really jumped on the bit and was traveling well.
“I was laying second the whole way around there, outside of Western Reserve. We came to the home straight and he was finishing strong. At that moment I thought, ‘Man, I can win the whole thing.’ He was traveling good underneath me.”
Flatlined was last at the top of the stretch and closed well for second without ever threatening the winner.
“He ran very well,” jockey Joe Rocco Jr. said. “I tried to get him out to the better ground once we more or less straightened up. He put in a really nice run to close to finish second.
“When the turf is soft, speaking for most horses, speed holds a little more because everyone is more tired toward the end.”
Applicator was not nominated to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund and therefore ran for only half of the purse for which he could have been eligible as a Kentucky-bred. The $120,280 he did take home raised his lifetime earnings to $335,470 from a record of 30-3-2-2.
The winner paid $29.40 as the sixth choice in a field of eight. Flatlined checked in three-quarters of a length ahead of Shining Copper. The order of finish was completed by favored Irish Strait, pacesetter Western Reserve, Zambian, Bandar, and Hootenanny.
Applicator likely will run next at Keeneland’s fall meet, according to Yanakov, while Flatlined will likely aim for the Commonwealth Turf Cup at Laurel.
The race was run as the Tourist Mile for the first time this year in honor of 2016 Breeders’ Cup Mile hero and three-time Breeders’ Cup starter Tourist, who won this event in 2015 when it was known as the More Than Ready Mile.
Photo credits: Reed Palmer Photography