In 2012 and the first half of the 2013 season, Centre Court was at the top of her game and one of the top turf fillies in the United States. Halfway through the 2013 season, however, the dark bay daughter of Smart Strike began to lose form, finishing 4th in a field of six before finishing dead last in her next two starts. After the trio of disappointing efforts, the mare was sent to Rood and Riddle for an examination but nothing significant was found. Trainer George Arnold, II and owner G. Watts Humphrey, Jr. decided time off was what their graded stakes winner needed, so she was turned out for two months.
Off since then, Centre Court faced a tall task in defending her G2 Honey Fox title, but she proved that the time off truly was the ticket. Fresh and ready to run, Centre Court attempted to get a head start on her seven rivals, breaking through the gate before the field was finished loading. She was immediately captured by an outrider and brought back around to reload. Despite her antics, she broke well with the rest of the field at the start and took up position near the back of the field.
Rail drawn Effie Trinket went straight to the front and was joined there by Triple Arch and Run a Risk. Running in tandem, Effie Trinket and Triple Arch clicked off splits of 23:65 and 47:17. As they exited the turn and straightened for home, Run a Risk and Triple Arch gave way. Effie Trinket continued showing the way home despite blowing the final turn, but in the final eighth of a mile, she could not hold off the late cavalry charges of Centre Court and Kitten’s Point.
Closing from 6th and 8th respectively, Centre Court and Kitten’s Point made their moves in the final quarter mile. With an eighth of a mile left to run, Centre Court had moved into second and was breathing down Effie Trinket’s neck, but Kitten’s Point had only moved into sixth, less than 3 lengths off the lead. Surging forward with every stride, Kitten’s Point made Centre Court sweat out a photo review before the finish was declared official. Centre Court had prevailed by a nose on the wire. Denied first, Kitten’s Point was still a length and a half clear of third place finisher Effie Trinket, who held off fourth place finisher Triple Charm by a neck. The order of finish was completed by Tapicat, Parranda, Triple Arch, and Run a Risk.
Sent off as the 3-1 second choice in the competitive field of eight, Centre Court paid $8.40/$4.40/$3.80 for a $2 wager. She completed the mile long race in 1:33.61. Co-third betting choice Kitten’s Point paid $4.20/$3.60 for the place, and Effie Trinket returned $4.60 for the show. The $2 exacta paid $40.80, the $1 trifecta returned $141.80, and the $1 superfecta was worth $644.50.
Trainer Rusty Arnold was pleased with the mare’s effort despite her gate antics. “I was hoping for that. She ended up last year on such a bad run, but Dr. (Larry) Bramlage was really sure he had found the problem [pulled muscle]. It was a tough race to come back in, and when she broke through the gate..I never had a horse run good who breaks through the gate, ever. And she’s a good gate horse. I just asked (jockey Julien Leparoux) what happened and he said she was standing a little funny and they tried to move her behind. When they tried to move her, she just lunged forward, but it worked out alright,” he said.
Jockey Julien Leparoux was a bit critical of his ride, saying, “I was laying about fifth and she was relaxed. I had to come a little wide on the second turn, but I really didn’t want to get her stopped. Maybe I made her move a touch too early, but she hung onto it. She’s a nice filly, a great kick, and the main thing is that she came back good. Hopefully we’ll have a good year with her. Last time she didn’t really kick, but this time she did what she usually does.”
The original plan for Centre Court was to wait for the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland on April 12. When asked if he still planned to take Centre Court to Kentucky to attempt to defend that title also, Arnold replied, “That’s the plan. She’s tired, but when you don’t run for five or six months that’s expected. But that’s the plan. That’s where we want to go.”