January 29, 2023

Envoutante outclasses Shawnee rivals; Mighty Heart wins Blame thriller

Envoutante wins the Shawnee Stakes (Photo by Coady Photography)

After a couple early-season losses to Shedaresthedevil, Envoutante got the “confidence booster” trainer Kenny McPeek was looking for in Saturday’s $150,000 Shawnee S. at Churchill Downs.

Favored at 2-5 in the field of eight fillies and mares, Envoutante rated a half-length behind pacesetter Miss Bigly to the quarter pole, easily took over in upper stretch and drove home a decisive 4 1/4-length winner under Brian Hernandez Jr.

“I really felt this was good for her,” said McPeek, who trains the four-year-old filly for Three Chimneys Farm and Walking L Thoroughbreds. “I’m known for more ambitious spots, probably, but in this case I thought to keep her at home and this sets us up for the Fleur de Lis (G2). She loves this racetrack.”

Envoutante covered 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:42.59 and paid $2.80. Miss Bigly finished second, 3 1/4 lengths clear of second choice Paris Lights.

Envoutante’s signature victory thus far came in last November’s Falls City H. (G2) at Churchill, which she won by six lengths. She previously won the Remington Park Oaks (G3) and placed in the Ashland (G1).

Envoutante opened her 2021 account with a fourth-place run in the Azeri (G2) at Oaklawn, and was most recently second by a length to Shedaresthedevil in the La Troienne (G1) on April 30 after getting within a head of that classy rival a furlong out. Her record currently stands at 12-5-2-2, $541,738.

Bred in Kentucky by Jumping Jack Racing, Envoutante was a $250,000 Keeneland September yearling. She’s by Uncle Mo and out of the multiple stakes-placed Enchante, by Bluegrass Cat. This female family produced 1987 champion juvenile colt Forty Niner.

Blame S.

Mighty Heart
Mighty Heart (center), with James Graham up, wins the Blame Stakes over Sprawl and Night Ops (Photo by Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)

Mighty Heart, the one-eyed gelding who captured the first two legs of the 2020 Canadian Triple Crown last fall, lived up to his moniker in a big way by taking a three-way photo in the $150,000 Blame S., an ostensible prep for next month’s Stephen Foster (G2).

Ridden by James Graham and coming off a season-opening third in a Keeneland allowance, Mighty Heart raced in close attendance to pacesetter American Dubai, lost ground in upper stretch, but gained it back when that rival weakened in the final furlong. Rallying in between 3-2 favorite Night Ops and second choice Sprawl, Mighty Heart got his nose in front of Night Ops at the wire, with Sprawl a head behind in third.

A homebred racing for Larry Cordes and trained by Josie Carroll, Mighty Heart returned $21.40 after completing nine furlongs in 1:50.

This was the first U.S. victory for Mighty Heart, who romped by 7 1/4 lengths in taking the Queen’s Plate over the Tapeta surface at Woodbine last September, and followed up with a 2 1/2-length win in the Prince of Wales S. over the dirt at Fort Erie 16 days later. However, he set a fast pace in the Canadian Triple Crown’s third leg, the 1 1/2-mile Breeders’ S. on turf, and weakened to seventh. He was subsequently fourth in the Ontario Derby (G3).

Voted 2020 Horse of the Year in Canada, Mighty Heart is by Dramedy and was produced by Emma’s Bullseye, a daughter of City Place. His record now stands at 10-4-0-2, $794,759.

Aristides S.

Bango wins the Aristides Stakes (Photo by Coady Photography)

A change to closing tactics worked to the advantage of Bango in the $150,000 Aristides S., who snapped a four-race losing streak in the six-furlong dash with a half-length score.

Racing near the back of the field after Edgemont Road ripped through opening splits of :21.53 and :44.97, Bango made steady progress to take a short lead one furlong out, and then edged away late while holding off a rush from longshot Long Range Toddy. Sir Alfred James finished third, while 5-2 favorite Tap It to Win beat only Edgemont Road home in the field of 10.

A homebred racing for Tamaroak Partners and trained by Greg Foley, Bango covered the distance in 1:09.65 under Marcelino Pedroza and paid $10.60.

This was the second stakes win for Bango, who previously captured the 2020 Animal Kingdom S. at Turfway Park. He’d been unplaced in four starts since a third-level allowance win at Churchill last November, but had finished only a couple lengths or so off the winning Flagstaff in both the Commonwealth (G3) and Churchill Downs (G1) after racing on or near the lead.

Bred in Kentucky, Bango is by Congrats and out of Josaka, by Smart Strike. His third dam was Grade 1 heroine Runup the Colors, who reared Louisiana Derby (G2) winner and Kentucky Derby (G1) third Revolutionary. Horse of the Year Mineshaft also hails from this family.