FRANKLIN, Ky. (Sept. 5, 2019) — Upon his retirement, Get Western will have a home for life at Old Friends after winning the stakes by the same name at Kentucky Downs Thursday afternoon.
Get Western led all the way, augmenting a trend during today's races, setting fractions of 47.84 seconds for the first half-mile and getting six furlongs in 1:12.95. He coasted home unchallenged under Brian Hernandez, Jr. in 1:43.96 for the mile and 70 yards in the $250,000 Old Friends Stakes during the RUNHAPPY meet at Kentucky Downs.
Cullum Road was second, beaten 1 1/2 lengths, after running mid-pack in fifth until making his move in the stretch. He finished well, reducing a four-length deficit at the furlong marker. Space Mountain and Zero Gravity, both far back after the break, found their best strides in the stretch to complete the superfecta, beaten 2 1/4 lengths and 3 3/4 lengths, respectively.
“He’s one of those horses where he’s so athletic today he was there for me every pole, every step of the way,” said Hernandez. “He never traveled like he was going to get beat. Around the turn, it’s a little chewed up, but he’s so athletic I was able to put him so close to the fence that he was able to get on the good path. He was just cruising. Turning for home when I called on him, he picked it up again. I didn’t even worry about anything else. I thought, ‘If a horse beats him from this point, they really have to be running.’”
A total of $6,609,265 was wagered on the 10-race card, a record for the second day of the meet, which typically is a Thursday. It topped last year's second-day record of $5,825,797.
Get Western, a 4-year-old gelding, has utilized a speedy style in many of his better races. He broke his maiden in front-running fashion at Churchill Downs in his fourth start, then took five races before winning another one, again at Churchill Downs after pressing the pace.
That sparked trainer Charlie LoPresti to race him in Grade 2 company at Churchill Downs in the Wise Dan, a stake named after the LoPresti-trained two-time Horse of the Year.
He was unable to secure his usual position on the front end, however, which contributed to a 10th-place finish. “I wanted to win that race so bad – but he got bottled up and didn’t get the trip," LoPresti said.
Get Western then rebounded by leading throughout to win an allowance race at Ellis Park in his start proceeding the Old Friends.
The gelding’s victory in the Old Friends came despite the horse losing focus nearing the finish, in which he jumped shadows of signage placed alongside the course.
“It just goes to show you how easy he did it,” Hernandez said. “Because he was just paying attention to his surroundings, he was just cruising up there on the lead and that’s what caused him to jump the signs.”
LoPresti said he always possessed high hopes for Get Western, though he was dismissed at public auction, hammering for $1,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2016. He was acquired privately as an unraced 2-year-old, and Ward Pitfield became his owner, LoPresti said.
The purchase has turned out well. With the winner's share of $148,280 from the Old Friends $250,000 purse, Get Western now has career earnings of $281,342, and from 12 starts, he has four wins and a third.
By Get Stormy out of the Marquetry mare Marquetessa, he is a half-brother to Clyde’s Image, a multiple graded-placed gelding who was second in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland earlier this year.
Now Get Western could be headed toward a start at Keeneland, with LoPresti saying he would look for a viable race there during the fall meeting in October.
Cullum Road, second in the Dueling Grounds Derby last year, again ran well over the Kentucky Downs course while falling shy of victory. “He ran big, the winner just never came back to me," said his jockey, Jose Ortiz, who topped the Saratoga standings this year, as well as the Kentucky Downs standings for wins in 2018.
The order of finish after the top four was Choo Choo, Multiplier, Hot Springs, Lamartine, The Tabulator, Mr. Misunderstood and Flight Time. Morning line favorite Catapult, runner-up in the 2018 Breeders' Cup Mile, was scratched, as were Master Merion and Undrafted.
The winner was sent off at 8-1 and returned his $2 backers $19.80 to win, $10.40 to place and $7.00 to show. Cullum Road paid $$6.20 to place and $5.20 to show. Space Mountain, an 18-1 longshot, paid $10.40 to show.
Mr. Misunderstood, sent off at 6-5 favoritism, was never comfortable, losing by 16 lengths, an effort trainer Brad Cox feels was the result of the horse not being at his best over the European-stylle Kentucky Downs course.
“You try once, he didn’t care for it last year,” he said of a third-place finish in the 2018 Tourist Mile. “Obviously he didn’t care for it today. That’s what we were hoping. His last race was pretty good, and to run like that. We’ll draw a line through this one and give him another shot somewhere.”
Mattress Mack earns chunk of his sponsorship money back
Houston furniture magnate James “Mattress Mack” McIngvale got some of his sponsorship money back as his 2-year-old filly Takeitback won her debut at 43-1 odds in Thursday’s seventh race of the RUNHAPPY Meet at Kentucky Downs.
McIngvale campaigned 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner and champion sprinter Runhappy, now a stallion at Claiborne Farm. The owner is heavily promoting Runhappy through a slew of sponsorships at various racetracks, including the RUNHAPPY Travers and being sponsor of the entire Kentucky Downs meet, as well as Saturday’s $700,000, Grade 3 RUNHAPPY Turf Sprint.
Takeitback, 15-1 in the morning line and dismissed at 43-1, tracked the pace before edging away late for a half-length victory over favored Sequin. Takeitback earned $78,000 for the victory.
It was a pickup mount for jockey Jon Court, but he’d heard enough good things about Takeitback that he, seemingly jokingly, said to a track publicist before the race to be sure to have it announced in the winner’s circle that he was a three-time Kentucky Downs riding champion.
“I said, ‘Y’all might want to pay attention, we’ve got a three-time champion going out,’” Court said afterward with great cheer. “What I knew was I was coming down to ride this horse.”
Takeitback is a daughter of Pioneerof the Nile, the sire of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. The $190,000 Keeneland April 2-year-old purchase is trained by McIngvale’s sister in law, Laura Wohlers.
“We loved her today,” said Kelly Wohlers, who trains the McIngvale horses with his wife at Lexington’s The Thoroughbred Center. “First-time starter, we loved her today. She loves the grass. On the way to the dirt track from our barn, they’ve got two big concrete barns and she tries to duck through there to get to the front fields, she loves grass that much. She’s a character.
“What I told Jon is we were relying on his expertise, what I knew about that horse: that ‘she breaks like a rocket out of the gate, absolutely loves grass and she’s fit — and the rest is up to you.’”
Asked about his boss getting some of the money back that McIngvale paid toward the Kentucky Downs meet sponsorship, Kelly Wohlers said with a laugh, “We’re happy when that happens. That’s what it’s all about to stay in the business.”
As far as winning at the RUNHAPPY Meet, he said, “We’re very proud. It’s Jon and the horse. Takeitback just ran an incredible race. She’s just a beautiful filly. She’s been a little grumpy in the past, but we worked through all of that. She had some aches and pains, but she’s fixed and just a pleasure to be around.”
Coady Photography photos