Flameaway Battles to Victory in Off-the-Turf Bourbon
By Mary LaRue, courtesy Blood-Horse
Mark Casse-trained Flameaway got his nose down on the wire in a sloppy, off-the-turf edition of the $250,000 Dixiana Bourbon Stakes for 2-year-olds at Keeneland Oct. 8.
The race was automatically downgraded from its grade 3 status when it was moved to the main track from the grass course because of wet conditions. It will be reviewed by the American Graded Stakes committee and its grade may be reinstated later. Breeders' Cup president and CEO Craig Fravel stated after the race that the Bourbon would remain a "Win and You're In" event for the Juvenile Turf (G1T).
Under the rules of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series, Breeders' Cup reserves the right to review the results of the race and can reinstate the automatic berth privilege.
"Connections entered their horses in the Dixiana Bourbon with the opportunity to gain an automatic berth into the Juvenile Turf, and the overall quality of the Dixiana Bourbon held together with just one scratch before the race was taken off the turf," said Dora Delgado, Breeders' Cup Senior Vice President of Racing and Nominations. "After reviewing the race, we believed that Flameaway had earned to right to the free berth."
John Oxley's Flameaway survived an objection by jockey Florent Geroux aboard Tap Daddy, who was pinched between the winner on his outside and Tigers Rule to his inside. Tigers Rule was disqualified from second to third for interference when he drifted out midstretch. The three finished within a half-length of each other.
Flameaway, with Julien Leparoux up, came out of the gate sharp and went straight to the lead, but was carried three-wide on the first turn and settled into third. Tap Daddy led the first quarter-mile in :23.35 with Tigers Rule at his neck. The two dueled down the backstretch and the half-mile went in :48.46, as Tigers Rule took the lead. Flameaway settled well and held third.
Around the final turn Arawak and Admirality Pier made runs, but the leaders pulled away and battled down the stretch to the wire in a final time of 1:45.77 for 1 1/16 miles.
"We had a good trip. We traveled very nicely," Leparoux said. "The other two horses, they had a good fight. He ran big."
Flameaway returned $12.80, $6.40, and $4.40 across the board, while the re-ordered Tap Daddy paid $5.40 and $3.80, and Tigers Rule returned $4.80.
"It was good. It was a clear trip," Geroux said of his ride aboard Tap Daddy. "He broke sharp and we knew we had good tactical speed. We got bumped around and beat at the end."
Prior to his start in the Bourbon, Flameaway broke his maiden in his first start by 2 1/2 lengths May 28 at Woodbine. He then took the Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on a muddy track Aug. 18, just before he came in sixth in the Sept. 16 Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. The Bourbon was supposed to be Flameaway's first turf effort, and although Casse said he was proud of his charge, he was disappointed his colt didn't get to try the grass.
"I've (wanted) to run him on the grass, so I was a little disappointed," Casse said. "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 Julien, 'Use some of your speed.' He did."
The victory was the third straight in the race for Casse, who also won with Keep Quiet in 2016 and Airoforce in 2015.
Bred by Phoenix Rising Farms, the Ontario-bred Flameaway, by Scat Daddy, was a $400,000 purchase by Oxley from the Taylor Made Sales consignment at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale. He is out of the Fusaichi Pegasus mare Vulcan Rose.