Honor Marie, Intricate Score Key 2-year-Old Stakes Wins at Churchill Downs

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Honor Marie, Intricate, Churchill Downs, 2023 Golden Rod Stakes, 2023 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes
Honor Marie wins the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. (Coady Photography/Jetta Vaughns)

Honor Marie rallied from last to prevail in the $400,000 Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club on Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs for trainer Whit Beckman. His two-length victory in Saturday's race for 2-year-olds earned Honor Marie 10 qualifying points on the Road to the 2024 Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve.

Beckman, formerly an assistant for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher and four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, won his first race as a trainer with claiming horse Irrepressible in late 2021 at Turfway Park and his first stakes race when Harlan Estate took the Tapit Stakes this summer at Kentucky Downs. Now, he has added a graded stakes win to accompany those milestones.

"He's a very nice horse, and we were confident with his pedigree, and the way he trained he'd enjoy longer distances," said Beckman, a graduate of Saint Xavier High School in Louisville. "It's very exciting to have a horse like this and win our first graded stakes with him."

Real Men Violin, in traffic along the inside for much of the race, closed up the rail to out-finish Stretch Ride by a length for second, while Risk It settled for fourth. Favored Awesome Road tired to fifth after breaking slowly and launching a second turn advance. The second through fifth finishers also garnered points on a 5-3-2-1 basis toward the run for the roses.

Jockey Rafael Bejarano kept Ribble Farms' Honor Marie relaxed early in last as Nomos, Stretch Ride and One Red Cent took off with a contested opening quarter in:23.70 in the 1 1/16-mile dirt race. The pace then slowed with splits of :48.45 and 1:13.40, causing the field to bunch and several runners, most notably Risk It, to become aggressive. Risk It ended up being steadied sharply behind horses.

Meanwhile, Honor Marie and Bejarano bided their time, and angling out leaving the second turn, the colt closed past his rivals on the outside. He was timed on a fast track in 1:44.31, which was .70 of a second faster than Intricate's clocking one race earlier in the in the Golden Rod Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. Honor Marie returned $19.62 to win.

Seven horses exiting the Kentucky Jockey Club have won the Kentucky Derby, with five winning both races, most recently Super Saver in 2009-10.

Beckman said Honor Marie would probably go "down to Fair Grounds after this. They have a good program for 3-year-olds."

"I was thinking the two turns would help out," jockey Bejarano said. "I saw there was a lot of speed in the race which would fit him. He came with a big run. In his last start he ran OK, but that was seven furlongs. I was more confident with him going two turns today."

Intricate Beats the Filies in Golden Rod

One of the fillies flying below the radar before the start of the $400,000 Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes, Intricate stamped herself as a contender to watch on next year's Longines Kentucky Oaks trail by the race's end with a commanding victory Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs.

The 2-year-old daughter of Gun Runner, who trainer Brendan Walsh always thought would be "better around two turns," was fifth in her six-furlong debut Sept. 16 at Churchill Downs. Stretching out to 1 1/16 miles in her next outing, Intricate rallied to a handy 3 1/2-length score during the Keeneland fall meet in her springboard to stakes competition.

Intricate leads the way. (Coady Photography/Renee Gallagher)

Overlooked at 6-1 odds and facing formidable rivals like West Sunset, the last-out victress of the $200,000 Rags to Riches Stakes, and the undefeated Thorpedo Anna, Intricate pulled off the mild upset and pocketed 10 points on the Road to the Longines Kentucky Oaks in the process in the final weekend of the Churchill Downs fall meet.

As expected, West Sunset tore through early splits of :23.30, :47.31, and 1:12.48 on an unhinged lead while jockey Tyler Gaffalione nursed Intricate through the perfect stalking trip in third. Saving ground along the rail, Gaffalione bode his time around the final turn and when the wavering pacesetter drifted in, he spurred Intricate through a seam at the top of the stretch. Intricate drove past her rivals and thundered to the wire in a 5 1/4-length score.

Galloping out powerfully past the wire, Intricate ($14.66) stopped the timer in 1:45.01 for the 1 1/16 miles on a fast main track.

Favored Thorpedo Anna finished second, a neck better than Central Avenue in third. West Sunset faded to finish last in the field of eight. Thorpedo Anna (5), Central Avenue (3), fourth place finisher Dozen Diamonds (2), and fifth place finisher Gin Gin (1) all earned points toward the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.

"She's a very easy filly to train and does it all by herself," said Walsh of Intricate. "She's just been starting to come around and really put things together today. We've always thought she's a true two-turn filly. We'll see where we end up down the road with her but I'm sure we'll entertain the Fair Grounds races like we did last year."  -- Molly Rollins

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