April 12, 2024

Encino rallies past Epic Ride to win John Battaglia Memorial

Encino wins the John Battaglia Memorial (Photo by Coady Photography)

Saturday’s $150,000 John Battaglia Memorial S. at Turfway Park ended in a mild upset as Encino wore down favored Epic Ride to prevail at 5-1 odds.

Following the scratches of Gettysburg Address, Break Out, and Katheeb, 11 three-year-olds took their chances over 1 1/16 miles on Tapeta, each vying for a share of the Road to the Kentucky Derby qualification points split 20-10-6-4-2 among the top five finishers.

Bettors landed on Turfway’s speedy Leonatus S. winner Epic Ride as the 11-10 favorite, but in a mad rush to the first turn, Epic Ride found himself racing off the pace in fourth place as 7-2 second choice Bolt At Midnight assumed the front through fractions of :23.84, :48.31, and 1:12.98.

Whereas Epic Ride was headstrong behind the leaders, Encino settled nicely under jockey Axel Concepcion, rating midfield in a departure from the gate-to-wire tactics he successfully employed in a Jan. 26 maiden special weight racing 1 1/16 miles at Turfway.

Rounding the final turn, Epic Ride advanced to challenge the leaders, and Encino followed his every move. The favorite appeared to have winning momentum at the top of the lane, but Encino proved relentless in the drive, wearing down Epic Ride in the waning strides to prevail by one length in 1:44.22.

Epic Ride pulled clear of Blue Eyed George, Mugatu, and Ode to Balius, who rounded out the top five. Bolt At Midnight faded to sixth place, followed by Mission Ready, Karlwithanarl, Good Bali, Fidget, and Mr. Faversham.

A Godolphin homebred conditioned by Kentucky Derby (G1)-winning trainer Brad Cox, Encino has competed exclusively on Tapeta so far, compiling a 3-2-1-0 record with earnings of $141,971. He debuted in a one-mile maiden special weight on Dec. 29 at Turfway, rallying after a slow start to finish second by a neck.

But as a son of 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist out of a mare by 2006 Preakness (G1) hero Bernardini, Encino has the pedigree to shine on dirt, so a tilt at the Run for the Roses isn’t out of the question. Future plans are still to be determined, but he could wheel back in three weeks for the March 23 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park or wait two weeks longer for the April 6 Blue Grass (G1) on dirt at nearby Keeneland. Both are Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifiers worth 100-50-30-20-10 points to the top five finishers.