LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An affinity for the Churchill Downs strip, off tracks, and a prior victory in the $500,000 Churchill Downs (G2) were all advantages Limousine Liberal brought to the table for Saturday’s renewal of the seven-furlong Derby Day dash. The result was virtually identical to a year ago, with Katherine Ball’s six-year-old gelding gutting out a win over a determined Awesome Slew, thus becoming the first back-to-back winner of the race in three decades.
An early challenger to favorite Imperial Hint through the first quarter before settling a couple lengths behind the leader into the far turn, Limousine Liberal and the eventual place-getters were all aided by a quick pace of :22.10 and :44.57. Taking first run at the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) runner-up in the stretch, Limousine Liberal withstood a fierce challenge from both Awesome Slew and Warrior’s Club to win a three-way photo by a head in a time of 1:22.73 over a sloppy track.
Trained by Ben Colebrook and ridden by Jose Ortiz, Limousine Liberal paid $10.80 as the 4-1 third choice in a field of seven.
“It took a lot of guts to win this race,” Ortiz said. “They made him run. I hit him left handed and he kept fighting with that other horse (Warrior’s Club). By the sixteenth pole, I knew we had it. He’s very game.”
Unlike last year, when he finished second by a head, Awesome Slew yielded that position late to Warrior’s Club, upset winner of last month’s Commonwealth (G3) over both he and Limousine Liberal. That margin was also a head. Imperial Hint, sent away at 13-10, faded to sixth.
Now six-for-eight lifetime at the Louisville track, Limousine Liberal is the first repeat winner of the Churchill Downs since Sovereigns Ace in 1986-87
“The Aristides and the True North (G2) would be the logical (targets for his next race),” Colebrook said. “We’re going to try to work backwards from the Breeders’ Cup here. Obviously he’s got home court advantage, so they’re going to have to run to beat him. We’ll just enjoy this, and nothing committed for right now.”
In addition to his two wins in the Churchill Downs, Limousine Liberal has also won editions of the Aristides (G3), Bet on Sunshine, and Kelly’s Landing under the Twin Spires. His stakes-placings include the King’s Bishop (G1), Smile Sprint (G2), and two editions each of the Phoenix (G2) and Commonwealth. His record now stands at 21-8-6-3, $1,333,261.
Bred in Kentucky by Mike Ball and Katherine Ball, Limousine Liberal is by Successful Appeal and out of Gift of Gab, by In Excess.