One race before guiding favored West Will Power to victory in the Stephen Foster (G1), Flavien Prat engineered a massive upset in the $395,000 Wise Dan (G2) aboard 46-1 shot Stitched. The other two turf stakes on the Ellis Park card delivered chalky results, courtesy of favorites Wadsworth in the American Derby and Xigera in the Tepin S.
Wise Dan (G2)
Trained by Greg Foley for breeder Nathan McCauley, Michael W. Olszewski, and William J. Minton, Stitched was overlooked after failing to hit the board in his past four starts. The Mizzen Mast colt had begun to look exposed since the peak of his sophomore campaign, when he turned a hat trick including the 2022 Caesars S. and Mystic Lake Derby. But he recaptured his former spark here, as a pick-up mount for Prat.
More predictably, Get Smokin set up shop on the front end, and 1.07-1 favorite Set Piece bided his time at the rear. Get Smokin controlled proceedings in splits of :24.44, :48.10, and 1:11.76 on the good turf course, and continued to hold sway for much of the stretch.
Stitched, who had been parked in fourth, emerged as his only real threat. Staying on relentlessly, he wore down Get Smokin by a neck to furnish a $94.50 windfall.
Set Piece, the 1.07-1 favorite, bided his time at the rear and closed well, but too late. The hero of the 2021 Wise Dan at its usual home of Churchill Downs, Set Piece had to settle for third, a length adrift of Get Smokin. Hozier got up for fourth, followed by Camp Hope; Harlan Estate, another who got involved belatedly; Kittansett; Play Action Pass; Tut’s Revenge; and Cowboy Justice.
Stitched clocked 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.97 to advance his scorecard to 13-6-0-0, $543,021. The Kentucky-bred, who was fifth in the Opening Verse S. two back, was rebounding from a subpar ninth in a Churchill allowance.
From the family of Grade/Group 1 winners Mast Track and Jemayel, Stitched was produced by the Into Mischief mare Walking Miracle. She is herself a half-sister to current Mahab al Shimaal (G3) victor Sound Money.
The Stephen Foster Day stakes action began with the $225,000 American Derby, and Godolphin’s homebred Wadsworth obliged with a stalk-and-pounce decision as the 1.25-1 choice. Nestled on the inside by Florent Geroux, the Brad Cox pupil angled out rounding the far turn and took aim on pacesetter Mo Stash. That leader had something left after posting fractions of :24.20, :48.49, and 1:11.71, but Wadsworth conjured up more to outfinish Mo Stash by one length.
Desert Duke, who stumbled badly out of the gate, recovered for a commendable third. Sharar showed some late interest in fourth, although the addition of blinkers didn’t appear to make much of a difference from his similar fifth in the Audubon S. Next came Hidden Path and the tiring Gigante, who crossed the wire as the last home.
Wadsworth’s time for 1 1/16 miles, 1:40.96, just shaded Stitched’s in the Wise Dan. By Quality Road and out of the Grade 1-winning Medaglia d’Oro mare Dickinson, the bay gelding sports a mark of 8-3-1-0, $295,536. He first attracted attention at Turfway Park over the winter, but could do no better than fourth in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3). Switched to turf for the May 17 Caesars H. at Horseshoe Indianapolis, Wadsworth flew from far back to miss by a nose to Gigante. The added ground, and better early position, helped him gain revenge on Saturday.
In the $224,000 Tepin S. for three-year-old fillies, Rigney Racing’s Xigera likewise justified 1.08-1 favoritism in her first stakes win. The Phil Bauer trainee also struck from a close stalking position with Julien Leparoux. But she was poised in second on the outside of front-running Heavenly Sunday through fractions of :24.01, :47.79, and 1:11.65. Increasingly pressing through the final quarter of the one-mile affair, Xigera prevailed by a half-length in 1:35.37.
The hard-luck story of the race was Safeen. Full of run on the rail with nowhere to go, she was tightened up by Heavenly Sunday in midstretch. Safeen then altered course to come around, and rattled home another half-length back in third. With a clear trip, she arguably would have been contending for the win, if not driving to the fore.
Metaphysical checked in fourth, trailed by Wonderfull Lady, Girl Named Charlie, Santa Fe Gold, and Klassy Bridgette, who never recovered from breaking a beat slow. Sandra D was withdrawn.
A prominent two-year-old last season, Xigera was promoted to third in the Alcibiades (G1) and finished a tough-trip last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1). The Nyquist filly returned triumphant in a Churchill turf allowance June 2 and made it two straight here, enhancing her resume to 6-3-1-1, $330,865.
Bred by Cedar Hill in Kentucky and sold for $190,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, Xigera is a three-quarter sister to Grade 3 scorer Forty Under (by Uncle Mo) and a half to Grade 2-placed Myriskyaffair. Their dam is the stakes-winning Argent Affair, by Black Tie Affair.