Ellis Park Press Release: The longer distance more than compensated for the shorter time between races as Lookin At Lee reeled in the hard-running filly Caroline Test to take Saturday’s $75,000 Ellis Park Juvenile by three-quarters of a length.
Lookin At Lee, then making his second start, captured a six-furlong Ellis Park maiden race July 22 by 4 3/4 lengths. Normally, trainer Steve Asmussen would not wheel a horse back that quickly, but he loved the opportunity the stakes presented and the fact that it was an extra eighth of a mile.
“He ran like he trains,” said Christy Hamilton, who oversees Asmussen’s Ellis Park operation, which leads the standings with 10 victories. “That’s how his works are: He starts off nice and easy, and then down the lane, he takes off. He’s living up to what I thought he would be.”
Caroline Test broke in front from post 5 in the field of five 2-year-olds and quickly took a clear lead under Jon Court. They went the first quarter-mile in a strong 22.39, then eased down to 23.31 and had a 1 1/2-length advantage after covering three-quarters of a mile in 1:10.33.
Meanwhile, jockey Albin Jimenez had Lookin At Lee settled into third behind Caroline Test, with 3-5 favorite Honor Thy Father providing the closest pressure. Look At Lee was fanned wide on the turn but kicked into gear to wear down Caroline Test late, covering the seven-eighths of a mile in 1:23.34. He paid $6 to win as the second choice.
“The back-so-quick part kind of shocked me when Steve said he was going to enter the horse,” Hamilton said. “It was a little quick. But the added distance was definitely a benefit for him today. We were very fortunate that the speed horses went out there and set the early fractions and he was able to do his thing and close late.
“At the three-eighths pole, I’m watching him like, ‘Uh, come on, guy.’ And at the quarter pole I knew we had it. All he had to do was just finish like he did in the maiden race.”
Jimenez said that at all times he thought he would be able to run down Caroline Test.
“I saw the speed going to the front, so I sat behind,” he said. “He relaxed well and turning for home I asked him, and he gave me all he had.”
Lookin At Lee is a $70,000 Keeneland yearling purchase for Don Nelson’s L and N Racing. The son of Preakness winner and 3-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky made his first start June 11 at Churchill Downs. He finished fifth that day in a race won by the Asmussen-trained Tip Tap Tapizar.
Asmussen said later by phone: “Obviously we’re very happy with his race. I was concerned with it being back in two weeks off a pretty fast race. But he’s a nice, big colt. I thought he handled it well and I’m very proud of his race. I thought he ran a really game race and puts him in kind of an exciting position at the right time.”
Asmussen said the $350,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile on turf Sept. 3 or Churchill Downs’ $150,000 Iroquois Stakes Sept. 17 on dirt are possibilities.
“The main thing is, it will not be back in two weeks,” he said. “This gives him a shot to get in a couple of breezes and get his feet back underneath him.”
Trainer Ben Colebrook had no intention of running Caroline Test, who had won a July 15 Ellis maiden race taken off the turf by 4 1/4 lengths. But when the stakes came up with a short field, he and owners Beverly Anderson and Ed Seltzer opted to take a shot against the boys, in part because even finishing second or third would increase her value because of the stakes placing, known as black type.
“She ran her eyeballs out,” Colebrook said. “Gosh darn it. She got her black type, though. Man, that was big. It was worth running for sure.
“I told Jon, ‘She’s quick out of the gate, figure it out from there. If nobody wants the lead, by no means don’t take anything away from her.’ She maybe went a little quicker than I would have wanted. But hey, she was doing it easy. There’s nothing you can say. The winner was the best. I mean, she’s facing the boys. She’s a tough little thing.”
Said Court: “She dug in the whole way, relaxed when I asked her to. She took no prisoners right away and then relaxed from then on home and punched down the lane.”
Honor Thy Father finished another three lengths back in third.
“He did all right,” said Jeff Hiles, assistant to trainer Kenny McPeek. “Today just wasn’t his day. He’s better than what he showed today. That Asmussen horse, I know they think a lot of us. He’s back there cooling out fine and got some good experience out of it. He’s just learning. It’s his third race and there will be more to come from him.”
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