Skelly only had a maiden win to his credit when the Oaklawn Park meet began in December, but will leave the winter resort a rising star in the older male sprint division after making a serious statement in Saturday’s $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint H. (G3).
On paper, the 10-horse Count Fleet Sprint appeared to have a surplus of speed. In the event, the stakes debuting Skelly, under Ricardo Santana Jr., had far more than anyone else.
“I think it was all the break,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “Ricardo got him away from there well.”
Popping out of the stalls on top and maintaining a clear advantage through fractions of :21.44 and :44.46, Skelly turned on the afterburners in upper stretch, increasing his lead to four lengths. At the finish, he remained comfortably in front by 2 1/4 lengths over the highly-regarded Strobe, another stakes newcomer who started as the 5-2 second choice.
Tejano Twist, the 9-5 favorite was another length behind in third. Rounding out the order of finish were Surveillance, Pirate Rick, Payne, Cogburn, Edge to Edge, Radical Right, and Candy Man Rocket.
Owned by Red Lane Thoroughbreds, Skelly sped six furlongs over a fast track in 1:09.20 and paid $14.
This was the fifth Count Fleet Sprint win for Asmussen, who won the race in recent years with Mitole (2019) and Jackie’s Warrior (2022), both of whom won Eclipse Awards as champion male sprinter during their respective careers.
This was the fourth win in eight starts for Skelly, who debuted last July. A six-length maiden winner at Churchill Downs in his second start, he finished second twice in his next three starts. However, he preceded this initial stakes triumph with back-to-back allowance wins over the Count Fleet Sprint track and distance.
Bred in Kentucky by H. Allen Poindexter, the four-year-old Skelly is by Practical Joke and out of Adande, a Bwana Charlie half-sister to Grade 2 winner Isotherm and the Grade 1-placed Gio Game and Giant Game.