John C. Oxley’s Flameaway must do an efficacious rain dance in his stall whenever he spies himself entered for the turf. His intended turf debut rained off at Saratoga, the Mark Casse pupil went out and won the Skidmore S. in the mud. Two starts later in Sunday’s $250,000 Bourbon, the heavens again opened up, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) “Win & You’re In” got transferred to the sloppy, sealed main track, and Flameaway reaffirmed his love for these conditions to get up in a three-way photo.
In light of the change in conditions, the Bourbon was to have lost its “Win & You’re In” status, as Breeders’ Cup tweeted in confirmation of the rule. The winner would surely have made the cut for an oversubscribed Juvenile Turf field anyway, but without the fees-paid benefits associated with the Breeders’ Cup Challenge program.
After the race, however, Breeders’ Cup officials reversed that position and reinstated the Bourbon as a “Win & You’re In,” giving connections an extra reason to celebrate.
The off-the-turf move also had an impact, at least for the time being, on the Bourbon’s grade. The 1 1/16-mile feature was automatically downgraded from a Grade 3, pending review by the American Graded Stakes Committee. But with only one scratch from the full field – Casse’s other runner, Machtree – the Bourbon figures to have its Grade 3 status restored too.
Casse was hoisting his third straight Bourbon, if not in the way he’d forecast. His last two winners, Airoforce (2015) and Keep Quiet (2016), each had turf experience before their stakes victories over the Keeneland course, and the trainer has been eager to get Flameaway on the lawn.
Judging by the turf influences throughout Flameaway’s pedigree, he’s entitled to thrive on grass. The $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling is by Scat Daddy and out of a Fusaichi Pegasus half-sister to Canadian Grade 2 turf queen Essential Edge, from the all-star family of triple classic heroine Salsabil.
Flameaway, a debut winner over Woodbine’s Tapeta prior to his Skidmore, was given a shot on a fast main track in the Iroquois (G3), but didn’t respond in sixth. Much happier on the off going here, the 5-1 chance stalked the pace out wide from post 11 in a race where it paid to be handy.
The rail-drawn 13-1 shot Tigers Rule and Tap Daddy, the 7-2 favorite, vied through fractions of :23.35, :48.46, and 1:13.93. Tigers Rule tried to edge clear from Tap Daddy in the stretch, but the favorite made a renewed effort to challenge, and Flameaway gained to join them on the outside. Tap Daddy then got bounced around between them as Tigers Rule bore out in the final strides. Flameaway forced his nose in front of Tigers Rule at the wire, with Tap Daddy a tough-luck nose away in third.
Tap Daddy’s rider, Florent Geroux, immediately claimed foul, making the Bourbon subject to yet another kind of review. Although Flameaway’s number was also flagged for being involved in the incident, the replay incriminated Tigers Rule. The stewards accordingly found Tigers Rule culpable and demoted him to third, elevating Tap Daddy to second via the disqualification.
Admiralty Pier checked in fourth, followed by John Tippmann, Arawak, Captivating Moon, Fred’stwirlincandy, King Valero, High Providence, Trenton Traveler, Wicked Trick, Budro Talking, and Shared Value, the also-eligible who drew in upon the scratch of Machtree.
After finishing in 1:45.77 with Julien Leparoux, and keeping his on-track decision in the stewards’ room, Flameaway sports a record of 4-3-0-0, $244,074. Bred by Phoenix Rising Farms in Ontario, he was first sold for $150,000 as a “short” yearling at Keeneland January before appreciating later that summer at Saratoga. Flameaway is the third registered foal from the winning Vulcan Rose, whose only other runner, Ellan Vannin, captured the 2016 Ontario Lassie.
Quotes from Keeneland
Trainer Mark Casse on Flameaway: “I’ve been wanting to run him on the grass, so I was a little disappointed (with the surface switch to dirt). He’s getting better and better. He’s a big strong horse, and I’m proud of him today. He’s been training really well. The only time we ran him on the dirt he didn’t take the kickback too well, so I said to (jockey) Julien (Leparoux), ‘Use some of your speed.’ He did.”
Winning rider Julien Leparoux: “We had a good trip. We traveled very nicely. The other two horses (Tap Daddy and Tigers Rule to the inside), they had a good fight. He ran big.”
Jockey Florent Geroux on Tap Daddy, awarded second via disqualification: “It was good, it was a clear trip. He broke sharp and we knew we had good tactical speed. We got bumped around and beat at the end.”
Miguel Mena, whose mount Tigers Rule was demoted to third for interference: “It was a very good start for me. He broke on top and went into a nice rhythm It was a tough beat at the end. He fought hard. The first quarter was a little quicker than I wanted, but I was inside so I had to use my horse a little bit to get my position. The second quarter, we slowed it down pretty good.”
Tigers Rule’s trainer, Vicki Foley: “It is heartbreaking to get so close, but he ran good and we are proud of him.”
Jockey Luis Saez on fourth-placer Admiralty Pier: “I got a pretty good trip. I’d love to see him on the turf. I think he could be better (on the turf). At the half-mile, I thought I had the race, but somebody moved outside and I tried to protect my spot, but I didn’t have the quick kick to stay there. That cost me a little. I think if it were on the turf, he would’ve kept running and won OK.”
Robby Albarado, who rode John Tippmann in fifth: “(We were) way back – farther back than I wanted to be, but he put in a nice run. He’s a nice colt. We were like quails out there – all over the place.”