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File photo by Eclipse SportsWire

By Claire Novak, @BH_CNovakBlood-Horse

Bluegrass Hall's homebred Optimizer continued his climb through conditions on the turf with a powerful 4 1/4-length win in the $200,000 Kent Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Delaware Park Sept. 22, earning his first stakes score in spite of racing on his wrong lead all the way down the stretch.

The 3-year-old son of English Channel completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.27, much the best of nine other sophomore contenders including Cozzetti and Lucky Chappy. He has found his best stride racing on the turf of late, where all three of his career victories have been earned for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

The Kent was his second consecutive vicotry; Optimizer broke through to his first victory since his 2011 maiden special weight score in an Aug. 25 optional claimer on the lawn at Saratoga Race Course. Earlier in the year Optimizer campaigned unsuccessfully on the Triple Crown trail, finishing 11th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), sixth in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), and 10th in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). In 2011 he ran eighth in the 2011 Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).

Off alertly at the break, the bay runner outfooted all but one of his contenders and naturally inherited the inside spot on the rail. Excaper ranged up to claim the lead by about half a length on his outside flank, and those two dueled through early fractions of :22.71 for the quarter and :46.99 for the half.

After three-quarters in 1:10.70, jockey Jon Court rationed out a little more of his mount's speed, and Optimizer struck the lead as the field turned for home. With something left to give after applying steady pressure throughout, he shook off Excaper heading into the furlong grounds and drew off late under left-handed urging. Excaper held for second, while Two Months Rent got up for third.

Optimizer returned $8.40, $5.40, and $5.40 while Excaper paid $8.20 and $6.80 and Two Months Rent brought $15. Star Channel, Twilight Eclipse, Unbroken, favored Lucky Chappy, Cozzetti, Miami Cat, and Corinthian's Jewel completed the order of finish. King Kreesa scratched.

Bred in Kentucky by Bluegrass Hall out of the A.P. Indy mare Indy Pick, Optimizer improved his record to 3-2-1 from 16 starts, with earnings of $428,714.

For an Equibase chart, click here


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