Centre Court already had proven to be a filly who likes a good
tussle, and she got one Wednesday at Saratoga Race Course. Careening
through tight quarters just outside the sixteenth pole, the rising
Smart Strike filly bulled her way between opponents and scored an
impressive victory in the Grade 2, $200,000 Lake George for 3-year-old
fillies on the turf.
Ridden by Julien Leparoux for owner G. Watts Humphrey
and trainer George “Rusty” Arnold, Centre Court won her third straight
race by conquering seven others including Samitar, who took the Group 1
Irish 1,000 Guineas this year, and 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Turf winner Stephanie’s Kitten.
On the heels of her victory in the Grade 3 Regret last
month at Churchill Downs, Centre Court moves to the upper ranks of
3-year-old turf fillies in the country.
“It got a little rough in the stretch, but she got
through,” Arnold said in the winner’s circle after Centre Court ran
the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:41.71. “She’s smart, she’s brave, she always
fights her way through.”
Centre Court, out of the Grade 2 stakes-winning A.P.
Indy mare Let, came from 11 lengths back in her fourth start to break
her maiden in May at Churchill Downs. She raced up close up to the lead
when victorious in the Regret but wanted no part of the pace in the
When the gate opened, jockey Junior Alvarado sent 55-1
long shot Elusive Rumour with to the front from the inside post, and
she galloped two lengths in front of a tracking Medolina through a
quarter-mile in 23.44 seconds and a half in 47.13.
After bumping with Dancing Solo near the first turn,
Leparoux elected to lay back and settle Centre Court near the inside, in
sixth place, 12 ½ lengths back.
“I left it to [Leparoux] because she’s laid close
before, but he sensed those two [leaders] were doing too much,” Arnold
When the field turned for home, Medolina inherited the
lead, but Centre Court, eventual runner-up Better Lucky and Samitar
all ganged up on her and fought it out. The favorite, Stephanie’s
Kitten, meantime, under comebacking rider John Velazquez, was bottled
up inside in the stretch and unable to get going until too late.
“I thought we had a good trip all the way to the eighth
pole,” Velazquez said. “I made the decision to try to split horses, and
the horse in front came out. I ended up behind heels and had to steady
and go back inside, and we lost the race right there.”
Centre Court drifted slightly outside when asked by
Leparoux, found herself sandwiched between Better Lucky and third-place
finisher Samitar and prevailed by a neck in a blanket finish. Better
Lucky was a head in front for second and it was another head back to
“She’s small but pretty tough,” said Leparoux, who won
three races on the card. “It was a rough race. There was a little bit
of bumping. She stayed there and still finished up to win the race.”
The victory was Centre Court’s third in six starts with
two seconds. Her only finish out of the exacta came in her debut at 4 ½
furlongs on the dirt.
She paid $7.50 for a $2 win bet as the second choice.
The $120,000 winner’s purse increased her lifetime earnings to
“We are going to look at the [Grade 2, $200,000 Woodford
Reserve] Lake Placid [on August 19 at Saratoga], but the ultimate goal
is the Queen Elizabeth [at Keeneland]. That’s our home track,” Arnold