Rocketry rallies to win Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance on first day of Breeders’

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LEXINGTON, KY (Breeders’ Cup/Keeneland) – Centennial Farms’ Rocketry rallied from more than 12 lengths off the pace to win Friday’s 13th running of the $200,000 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (G2) on the first day of the 37th Breeders’ Cup World Championships. (Click here for a replay of the race.)

Meanwhile, Todd Pletcher recorded his 5,000th career win at Aqueduct while at Keeneland for first day of Breeders’ Cup.

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In the race formerly known as the Marathon, Rocketry returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since winning this race in 2018 at Churchill Downs.

Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. and trained by Jimmy Jerkens, Rocketry covered 1 5/8 miles in 2:42.57.

Dack Janiel’s, Plus Que Parfait and Signalman dueled on the lead for nearly 1 mile in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. The trio cruised along through early fractions of :24.40, :48.52 and 1:13.59. Following a 1-mile time of 1:38.54, Rocketry began his charge at the leaders. Around the far turn, Ortiz positioned Rocketry in ninth and the duo began to storm down the center of the track to win by 1 length.

Rocketry rewarded his backers at 11-1 and returned $25.20, $12.60 and $9.20. Mirinaque (ARG), under Gerardo Corrales, rallied for second and paid $32.60 and $19.80. Dack Janiel’s, with Declan Cannon aboard, held onto third and paid $23.

Rocketry improved his lifetime record to 6-5-5 through 26 starts with lifetime earnings of $789,710. The 6-year-old Hard Spun horse, a two-time Keeneland sales graduate, was bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds.

Danny California, Muralist, Plus Que Parfait, Signalman, Tenfold, You’re to Blame, Job Security, Farmington Road, Cupid’s Claws, Militiaman and Ry’s the Guy completed the order of finish.

Jimmy Jerkens (trainer of winner Rocketry): “He ran so bad last time (third in the Sept. 18 Miner’s Mark Stakes at Belmont). He came out of it with a real bad out-of-whack blood count. I was scratching my head. It looked like he was training good into it, and he ran so flat. We freshened him up. Didn’t train him quite as hard, just tried to put some flesh on him. It looked like it was a good lively race for this far, and that’s what he needs.”

“He was doing better overall than he was last time, and the horses came back to him last time. Which is what he needs. He sat way back off an honest pace. He needs to see them coming back to him, and that’s what happened.”

On what’s next for Rocketry?

“I don’t know. We’re going to enjoy this for a while. Centennial (Farms), they’ve been wonderful, loyal owners. We’ve had a bad year; for them to win this race was huge for both of us.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. (winning rider): “We broke out of the gates – and he doesn’t have too much speed – so I let him settle. He relaxed so well. By the five-eighths pole, he started picking it up on his own and he was moving really good. When I asked him going by the three-eighths pole, he responded really well. He likes this kind of race, with the long distance, and he ran great. He was picking up a ton of ground in the stretch, so I knew I had a good shot to get there.”

In the other Friday stakes:

Amy’s Challenge Wins McConnell Springs

Novogratz Racing Stables’ Amy’s Challenge recorded her eighth lifetime victory with a front-running score in the $150,000 McConnell Springs. (Click here for a replay of the race.)

Ridden by Jose Lezcano and trained by Mac Robertson, Amy’s Challenge covered the 6 furlongs in 1:09.17.

Amy’s Challenge got away a step slow from the starting gate but assumed the lead in the early stages of the race from dueling Headland and Harmless. Following an opening quarter-mile fraction of :22.01, Amy’s Challenge began to draw clear of her rivals around the far turn and cruised to a 2¼-length victory.

The 5-2 favorite, Amy’s Challenge returned $7.80, $5 and $3.80. Unique Factor, under Joel Rosario, rallied for second and paid $5 and $3.80. Wildwood’s Beauty, with Joe Rocco Jr. aboard, closed for third and returned $5.

Amy’s Challenge boasts a career record of 19-8-4-2 with purse earnings of $641,273. The 5-year-old Artie Schiller mare out of Jump Up, by Jump Start, was bred in Kentucky by Sierra Farm.

Unholy Alliance, Into Chocolate, Bye Bye J, Harmless and Headland completed the order of finish.

Ever Dangerous Springs 74-1 Upset in Bryan Station

Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and R.A. Hill Stable’s Ever Dangerous closed ground in late stretch to spring a 74-1 upset in the 16th running of the $150,000 Bryan Station. (Click here for a replay of the race.)

Ever Dangerous, who drew into the Bryan Station off the also-eligible list, completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.74 over the turf course labeled as good.

Fancy Liquor and Don Juan Kitten shared the lead in the early stages of the race through opening fractions of :23.29 and :47.45. Ever Dangerous, who broke from Post No. 16 under jockey Javier Castellano, was caught four wide into the first turn.

While Fancy Liquor and Don Juan Kitten were battling for the lead up the backstretch, Ever Dangerous rated 1 length behind in the three path. Ever Dangerous sustained his wide rally in deep stretch to pass Fancy Liquor for a half-length victory.

Ever Dangerous returned $150.60, $49 and $25.40. Fancy Liquor, under Florent Geroux, paid $6.60 and $4.60. Bye Bye Melvin finished third with jockey John Velazquez and returned $12.20.

Trained by George Weaver, Ever Dangerous improved his record to 6-3-0-0 with purse earnings of $153,260. The 3-year-old colt by Kitten’s Joy out of the Rahy mare The Rahy was bred in Kentucky by Knowles Bloodstock and sold at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $135,000.

Completing the order of finish were Pixelate, Reconvene and Ajourneytofreedom (in a dead heat for fifth), Taishan, Don Juan Kitten, No Word, Angelus Warrior, Spanish Kingdom, Enforceable, Mo Ready and Fighting Seabee.

Joy’s Rocket Goes Gate to Wire in Songbird

Team Hanley and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ speedy Joy’s Rocket held off the early pace pressure of Farsighted to win the first running of the $125,000 Songbird. (Click here for replay of the race.)

Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen and ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., the fleet-footed Joy’s Rocket blistered through an opening quarter-mile fraction of :21.93 while sustaining solid pressure to her outside from Farsighted and jockey Julien Leparoux. Joy’s Rocket was able to kick clear of her pace-pressing rival at the eighth pole to win by 3 lengths. She covered the 6½-furlong distance in 1:16.18.

Joy’s Rocket rewarded her backers with mutuel payouts of $19, $8.40 and $5.80. Farsighted held on for second and returned $6.40 and $4.20. Roc’s Princess and Jon Court rallied late for third at odds of 70-1 and paid $19.

Joy’s Rocket is a 2-year-old daughter of Anthony’s Cross out of the Special Rate mare Queenie’s Pride. With her victory in the Songbird, Joy’s Rocket improved her lifetime record to 5-3-1-0 and boosted her career earnings to $184,444.

Guana Cay, Off We Go, The Grass Is Blue, Taylor’s Tourist, Music City Star, Princesstapiture, Lady Edith, Novel Squall, California Lily, Kela’s Turn and Thinking completed the order of finish.

Highly Motivated Draws Clear to Win Nyquist

In the first race of the day, Klaravich Stables’ homebred Highly Motivated rallied in late stretch under jockey Javier Castellano to win the first running of the $125,000 Nyquist. (Click here for a replay of the race.)

Highly Motivated, trained by Chad Brown, covered the 6½ furlongs over the fast main track in 1:14.99.

Quick Tempo led the field of 2-year-olds in the Nyquist through a swift opening quarter-mile fraction of :21.73. Highly Motivated broke a step slow but began his charge around the far turn.

Following a half-mile time of :44.65, Castellano tipped Highly Motivated to the three path around pace-setting Quick Tempo and Roderick to draw clear by 4¼ lengths.

Highly Motivated returned $7.20, $3.80 and $3. Quick Tempo, under Jose Ortiz, paid $5.80 and $3.80 while Roderick, with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., returned $6.40 for third.

Awesome Gerry, Sir Wellington, Saffa’s Day, Upstriker and Assertive Style completed the running order.

Highly Motivated is a 2-year-old colt by Into Mischief out of the Warrior’s Reward mare Strong Incentive. He was purchased as a weanling at the 2018 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale for $240,000.

The Nyquist win was worth $75,000, increasing High Motivated’s career earnings to $124,050 for his second win in three starts.

Pletcher reaches milstone

LWhile he was at Keeneland for Friday’s first day of the 37th Breeders’ Cup World Championships, trainer Todd Pletcher earned the 5,000th victory of his career at Aqueduct when Repole Stable’s Microsecond captured the seventh race

“It’s such a great tribute to the whole staff, the whole team,” said Pletcher, who has sent out the earners of more than $395 million. “A lot of people are dedicated and put in a lot of hard work. But mainly it’s about the horses. We’ve just been blessed to have so many good clients providing us with horses that are capable of performing well, and I’m proud of our team for developing them the best we can.”

Pletcher had horses entered in five Friday races at Keeneland, including three races in the Breeders’ Cup.

“It would have been kind of cool to do it in a Breeders’ Cup race,” he said about reaching the milestone. “But we’ve always said that our goal when we get a horse in is to do the very best we can. So every win counts, and we’re happy to get it.”

Pletcher has been especially successful at Keeneland, where he has won 57 stakes races to lead all other trainers. He has won 235 races at Keeneland, good for fifth place on the list of the track’s all-time leading trainers.

Pletcher’s former boss, D. Wayne Lukas, is Keeneland’s all-time leading trainer by wins, with 295.