LAKE GEORGE STAKES | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 2 | 1 1/16 MILES (TURF)
Centre Court, weaving through traffic in the stretch run on the Saratoga Race Course turf under Julien Leparoux, got the lead in deep stretch and prevailed in a roughly-run renewal of the $200,000 Lake George Stakes July 25.
Rallying through tight quarters in the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds, Centre Court found room late between horses and edged Better Lucky by a neck, with Samitar a head farther back in third. Favored Stephanie's Kitten (2-1), in tight through most of the final furlong, was an unlucky fourth, another head behind in a blanket finish.
Final time was 1:41.71 over a firm course.
A Kentucky homebred owned by the G. Watts Humphrey and Louise Ireland Humphrey Revocable Trust, Centre Court is by Smart Strike out of the A.P. Indy mare Let, winner of the 1999 Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap and a half sister to 2002 Japan Cup Dirt winner Eagle Café.
Centre Court, coming off another rough journey in capturing the Regret Stakes on the Churchill Downs turf June 16, has won three races in a row.
"She's easy to ride. It got a little rough in the stretch, but she got through," said trainer George "Rusty" Arnold. "She's smart, she's brave, she always fights her way through."
Elusive Rumour set honest fractions (:23.44, :47.13, 1:11.74) to lead the first six furlongs while pressed by Medolina and Samitar. Centre Court was sixth rounding the final turn but drawing closer as the field bunched for an exciting stretch drive.
"I left it to [Leparoux] because she's laid close before, but he sensed those two [leaders] were doing too much," Arnold said. "Her best race was further back, but it was 1 1/8 miles, and it was maidens. I was hoping for room, and she got room."
In deep stretch, Centre Court beat Stephanie's Kitten, to her inside, to an opening between horses that enabled her to get the lead past the sixteenth pole. The gritty dark bay filly did the rest.
"She's a pretty tough filly," Leparaoux said after a three-win day. "She's small, but pretty tough. It was a rough race. There was a little bit of bumping. She stayed there and still finished up to win the race.
"It was a tough race and I'm glad she won," he added. "The break was good, but the first turn was a little tight, then after that in the straight, too. We took some bumps. We tried to be patient and find the hole, and we found it. It's always great at Saratoga to win one. But three, that's a big day."
Arnold said Centre Court would aim for the Woodford Reserve Lake Placid Aug. 19 at Saratoga, with the ultimate goal being the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland Oct. 13.
Centre Court, winning for the third time in six starts with a a pair of seconds, boosted her career bankroll to $239,467 with the $120,000 winner's share in the Lake George.
She carried 122 pounds and paid $7.50, $3.80, and $2.80 as the second choice in the field of eight.
Better Lucky, ridden by Eddie Castro, made a big wide bid on the far turn to reach contention in the lane and just miss after a determined fight. She returned $12 and $6.10, rounding out a $77 exacta.
Samitar, a stakes winner in Ireland making her United States debut for trainer Mick Channon, paid $4.20 for the show.
Stephanie's Kitten was followed by Medolina, Somali Lemonade, Dancing Solo, and Elusive Rumor. Harbor Mist was entered for the main track only.
"I thought we had a good trip all the way to the eighth pole," said John Velazquez, who was aboard the beaten favorite in his first day back riding after returning from a broken collarbone. "I made the decision to try to split horses, and the horse in front came out. I ended up behind heels and had to steady and go back inside, and we lost the race right there."