Union Rags Racing LLC’s Big Bend pulled off a 18-1 upset in Thursday’s $100,000 Sycamore Stakes (G3) at Keeneland when rallying for a three-quarter length victory under jockey Drayden Van Dyke.
The duo bided their time just in the back of the first flight of runners as Infinite Wisdom and Hardest Core led the way up front. Final Copy and Majestic Pride ran to Big Bend’s inside as the colt stayed well off the rail with a clear path heading into the final turn.
Big Bend began his move rounding the turn, grabbed command in the lane and drew off with Nessy closing strong. Nessy inched ever closer but ran out of room late as Big Bend crossed under the wire in a final time of 2:33.24 for 1 1/2 miles on the firm turf.
Big Bend paid $39 for earning his first stakes win. Nessy was best of the rest, 1 3/4 lengths up on 3-1 favorite Canessar, who had a neck to spare on fourth-placer Flashy Chelsey. Completing the order of finish were Tasit, Final Copy, Manitoulin, Some in Tieme, Renown, Majestic Pride, Hardest Core and Infinite Wisdom.
Trained by Tom Proctor, Big Bend boosted his earnings to $327,510 and now boasts an 11-4-1-1 scorecard. The bay son of Union Rags took five tries to break his maiden, finally getting the job done while making his turf debut on February 12 at Tampa Bay Downs. He followed that with a seventh-placing in his stakes bow, the Columbia Stakes, at that same track, before finishing third at Keeneland in April against allowance company.
Big Bend was given a brief freshening and returned June 10 at Monmouth Park to be sixth in an allowance. A month later he stretched out to 1 1/2 miles for an allowance/optional claimer at Delaware Park and wired that contest by four lengths. The bay sophomore entered the Sycamore off a three-quarter length triumph in the Dueling Grounds Derby going 1 5/16 miles at Kentucky Downs on September 10.
Bred in Kentucky by Daniel J. Burke and Kathleen Schweizer, Big Bend is out of the Grade 2-placed stakes-winning Broad Brush mare Lenatareese. He counts as half-siblings dual Grade 3-placed stakes heroine Miss Chatelaine and last year’s Dueling Grounds Oaks runner-up Taralena.
Big Bend’s fourth dam is dual Canadian champion Northernette, a full sister to English and Irish champion Storm Bird who is best known as the sire of breed-shaping stallion Storm Cat.
Braxton Lynch, owner Big Bend, winner
“He’s been a mile and a half before. We just figured out this might be his distance. Drayden (Van Dyke) rode him excellently.
“First time against older horses, so we didn’t know what to expect. We’re very pleased.”
Drayden Van Dyke, jockey Big Bend, winner
“He doesn’t have to be on the lead to win, and he stepped it up today. He sat, relaxed and when he needed to run, he took off. What else can you ask for?”
Brian Hernandez Jr., jockey Nessy, second
“We had a great trip from the 12 hole. We followed the winner the whole way. I wish I wouldn’t have followed him the whole way – I wish I would have gotten by him but it didn’t work out. We were able to save ground on two of the three turns. We were five wide on the final turn but that kept us clear of the traffic. He had a clean, fair trip and he responded. We were second best today.”
Ian Wilkes, trainer Nessy, second
“We are very proud of him. He is getting better. No thoughts on where he will run next, but I definitely want to keep him at 1 1/2 miles on the grass.”