Jon A. Marshall’s Tricky Escape just got up to stick her nose in front on the wire of Saturday’s $100,000 Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs to secure victory under jockey Chris DeCarlo.
The 1 1/8-mile contest was originally scheduled for the turf, but a strong line of thunderstorms blew through the area, forcing it to the sloppy, sealed main track and causing it to lose its Grade 3 status pending review by the American Graded Stakes Committee.
None of that mattered to Tricky Escape, though, as the Hat Trick filly tracked the early pace in midpack. Coco Channel, the 30-1 second longest shot on the board, led the way up front through splits of :25.23, :50.60 and 1:15.10 while chased by 45-1 longshot B Rockett and Fair Point. The entire field seemed to go wide around the turn, with Coco Channel three wide, B Rockett in the four path and Fair Point five wide.
Tricky Escape angled off the rail entering the bend, and began her rally down the lane inside of the top three. The dark bay lass came out a bit and bumped Coco Channel in the stretch but that didn’t stop her from running down Fair Point to finish nine furlongs in 1:53.85.
Coco Channel’s rider, Julie Burke lodged an objection with the stewards after the race, claiming interference from Tricky Escape’s and Fair Point’s jockeys, but the stewards disallowed the claim after reviewing the stretch run.
Tricky Escape was sent off the 5-2 second choice in the seven-distaffer field and paid $7. Fair Point filled the second spot, 1 3/4 lengths up on Coco Channel in third. Linda, the near 2-1 favorite, followed another 5 3/4 lengths behind in fourth, and completing the order under the wire were B Rockett, Rattataptap and Weep No More.
Tricky Escape has never finished worse than fourth in her career and improved her scorecard to read 14-4-5-3, $308,480. The Lynn Ashby trainee made her debut last October but wouldn’t break her maiden until taking a seven-furlong Laurel Park contest on February 5 in her third start. Her first five races all came on the main track, but she proved just as capable on turf when capturing her April 23 grass debut at Laurel against allowance foes.
The four-year-old filly ran fourth in her first two attempts against stakes rivals, the Eatontown Stakes (G3) and Robert G. Dick Memorial Stakes (G3), but two races later scored a 1 1/4-length victory in the Violet Stakes (G3) at Monmouth Park. She filled the second spot in the Ramsey Farm Stakes at Kentucky Downs on September 14 and entered this one off a third-place run against allowance/optional claiming rivals at Belmont Park on October 6.
Bred in Kentucky by Robert B. Trussell Jr. and John T. L. Jones III, Tricky Escape is out of the dual stakes-winning Petionville mare Island Escape and counts as a half-brother Grade 3 runner-up Felifran. Her third dam is stakes winner Anjelicco, who produced Grade 1 hero All Fired Up. This female family also includes Grade 1 scorers Competitive Edge, Emcee and Awesome Humor.
CARDINAL HANDICAP QUOTES
Chris DeCarlo, jockey Tricky Escape, winner
“I originally was going to get her out turning for home. When I went inside I think the other riders were probably cussing me at one point. This filly tries so hard. Lynn does a great job with her. We broke well and got into a good spot. She just kept tugging along and dug in in the final stages.”
Lynn Ashby, trainer Tricky Escape, winner
“I was a little concerned when it came off the grass but I knew how much she likes an off track. I was worried when we couldn’t switch her hind shoes so I just told Chris to take care of her in the turns. She’s as game as they come and does everything you ask.”
Tyler Gaffalione, jockey Fair Point, second
“I had a perfect trip. The filly relaxed on the outside and just sat there and waited for me to ask her for run. When I did, she really fought hard. When she made the lead she started to wait a little bit on that horse (Tricky Escape) and when that horse started to come back to her she started to right again, but it was too late. After the wire she was already getting back by her, but they don’t pay us after the wire.”
Were you expecting her to run pretty well when the race came off the grass?
“I had no worries. She had run well on the dirt before. She had had one or two races on the slop and she had always performed well, and she’d never run off-the-board on the dirt. So we had confidence coming in, and (trainer) Mr. (Shug) McGaughey does a great job. Any time he brings one over, you know you’ve got a horse.”
Charlie LoPresti, trainer Coco Channel, third
“I thought she ran really good. We were on the fence about running her if it came off (the turf). But I told (jockey) Julie (Burke) and I talked to the guys at Calumet and told them it was a short field and she’s doing good, so let’s run her. If she likes it, fine. If not don’t beat her up, just ease up on her and let her gallop around there. She broke on top and ran really, really good.”
Julie Burke, jockey Coco Channel, third
“She ran a really game race. She’s tough and never runs a bad race. She loved the slop. She’s never ran on the dirt before, but she loved the slop here today and she’s game, she’s tough.”
You thought you had a little trouble, but the stewards didn’t agree with your objection.
“We got squeezed out at the time when she was battling back again and it cost her a little bit. She probably wouldn’t have beat the two in front of her, but it cost her a little bit of ground.”
Earlier on Churchill’s card, before the storms hit, Katherine Ball’s homebred Limousine Liberal lived up to his 1-2 favoritism in the $81,545 Bet on Sunshine Stakes by romping home a 4 1/4-length winner.
The Ben Colebrook-trained gelding tracked the early pace set by Storm Advisory through the opening half-mile while three wide, took command entering the stretch and pulled off to finish seven furlongs on the fast main track in 1:22.79.
Limousine Liberal paid $3 for the win and was followed under the wire by Warrior’s Club, Storm Advisory, The Truth or Else and Le Ken.
The five-year-old son of Successful Appeal added a fourth stakes win to his resume, which now stands at 19-7-5-3, $985,661. All four black-type victories came this year at Churchill, and the first three came in succession – the May 6 Churchill Downs Stakes (G2), June 3 Aristides Stakes (G3) and June 30 Kelly’s Landing Stakes – giving the gelding a sweep of Churchill’s 2017 sprint stakes.
In his other three appearances this season, Limousine Liberal ran third in the Commonwealth Stakes (G3), Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) and Phoenix Stakes (G2). He finished fifth in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), but was elevated to fourth via disqualification of a rival.
Bred in Kentucky by Mike and Katherine Ball, Limousine Liberal is out of the In Excess mare Gift of Gab.
BET ON SUNSHINE QUOTES
Corey Lanerie, jockey Limousine Liberal, winner
“He has great tactical speed. I knew going in he’d be the best horse in the race. (Trainer) Ben (Colebrook) and his team did a great job with him and I’m just happy to be a part of it once again.”
Ben Colebrook, trainer Limousine Liberal, winner
“I thought it would be fun to go for the grand slam and sweep the sprint races this year at Churchill. He’s just been so consistent throughout his career. He loves it in Kentucky at both Churchill and Keeneland. The one place he doesn’t love is New York. When we shipped him up there he really didn’t take to it well. We’ve learned our lesson and are looking forward to getting him ready for his six-year-old campaign.
“We’ll turn him out for 30-45 days at the owner’s farm and get him ready to do the same thing next year. Hopefully we only go for the trifecta next year and end up in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) to close the year.”