LEXINGTON, KY (Oct. 13, 2017) – G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s 3-year-old filly Morticia -- third in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint in her last start -- swept past the pace-setting Kasuga in the upper stretch and had more than enough left to turn back Justa Lady and post a half-length victory in the 21st running of the $100,000 Buffalo Trace Franklin County (G3) for fillies and mares before a sun-splashed Friday afternoon crowd of 17,546.
Lull, the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint winner, finished third.
Morticia is the third Keeneland graded-stakes winner this meet who made her prior start at Kentucky Downs, joining Heavenly Love (Grade 1 Alcibiades) and Zipessa (Grade 1 First Lady).
Trained by Rusty Arnold and ridden by Jose Lezcano, Morticia covered the 5½ furlongs on a firm Keeneland turf course in 1:03.92. Humphrey and Arnold, who teamed to win Sunday’s Juddmonte Spinster (G1) with Romantic Vision, are the breeders of Morticia. It was Morticia's fifth stakes victory but her first in a graded stakes and came against older fillies and mares.
“She got beat here in the spring, but that was at a mile," Arnold said, referencing the Grade 3 Appalachian. "Jose knows her so well I don’t even say anything to him.
“She threw a little fit in the Paddock; she got a shoe off. We couldn’t get it back on. She ran with three (shoes), believe it or not. We were a little nervous, but she handled it well.”
“She’s a very nice filly," Lezcano said. "She does what you ask her to do. She broke good, and I let her sit right behind the horse on the lead (Kasuga). Then I asked her and she went on to win the race.”
Brian Hernandez Jr. (rider of third-place finisher Lull)
“Our filly, she ran her race. It was a little short for her. She’s probably better at 6½ (furlongs) and a little further distance, but she didn’t disappoint herself today. She showed up.”
Kasuga led the field of 12 through fractions of :22.31 and :45.92 with Morticia in closest pursuit. Turning for home, Morticia drew even with Kasuga and spurted clear in the upper stretch with the winning move.
The victory was worth $60,000 and increased Morticia’s earnings to $366,475 with a 9-6-1-1 record and a perfect 3-for-3 mark going 5½ furlongs.
Morticia is a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Twirling Candy out of the Mr. Greeley mare Halloween Party. Her win in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County marked her fifth stakes victory and first graded victory.
Morticia returned $7.60, $4.20 and $3. Justa Lady, ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., returned $17.80 and $8.60 with favored Lull finishing another two lengths back in third under Brian Hernandez Jr. and returning $2.80 to show.
“Our filly, she ran her race," said Brian Hernandez, rider of Lull. "It was a little short for her. She’s probably better at 6½ (furlongs) and a little further distance, but she didn’t disappoint herself today. She showed up.”
Kasuga finished a nose farther back in fourth and was followed in order by Always Thinking, Nobody’s Fault, defending champion Miss Ella, Boom Bam Bing, Scatter Gun, Carolina Shag, Indriya and Childhood.
Racing continues Saturday with a 10-race program headlined by the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Presented by Lane’s End (G1) for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles on the turf. First post time is 1:05 p.m. ET with the QE II slated as the ninth race with a 5:30 p.m. post time. Among the QEII contenders is Daddys Lil Darling, winner of Kentucky Downs' $350,000 Dueling Grounds Oaks.