MERVIN MUNIZ MEMORIAL H. | PURSE: $300,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP | GRADE 2 | 1 1/8-MILES (TURF)
Ten months removed from a gate-to-wire upset of the Dixie on the 2013 Preakness undercard, Calumet Farm's Skyring pulled off a similar feat on Saturday in the Grade 2, $288,000 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap on Louisiana Derby day at Fair Grounds.
Sent off as the 7-1 third choice in a field of five, Skyring set fractions of :25, :50 3/5 and 1:15 over the soft turf, turned back a brief challenge from Burn the Mortgage turning for home, and bravely held off a late charge from 4-5 favorite Amira's Prince, whose Muniz title defense fell a neck short. Skyring paid $17.40 after completing about 1 1/8 miles in 1:52.
"When we turned for home and he switched leads for me, he kicked so hard I would have been surprised if anyone came and ran him down," said Joe Rocco Jr., who rode the five-year-old for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. "I knew (Mike Smith's) horse (Amira's Prince) was coming for me, but even though the stretch here is so long, I thought we were going to get there."
Amira's Prince, finished three lengths clear of 18-1 chance Burn the Mortgage, who was 3 1/2 lengths clear of last year's Arlington Million winner Real Solution. Potomac River trailed throughout and was vanned off after pulling up in distress, while Mister Marti Gras was scratced.
The Muniz Memorial and Dixie have been Skyring's two Grade 2 victories. The son of grass champion English Channel also captured the 2012 James W. Murphy over the Pimlico turf, and has placed in five other stakes. He entered the Muniz off a nose loss to Potomac River in the February 22 Fair Grounds Handicap. His record now stands at 28-5-4-2, $659,061.
Skyring, who was produced by the Seattle Slew mare Violet Lady, is a half-brother to Grade 2 winner Greenspring, stakes winner Caballero Negro, and the stakes-placed Dyna Penny, Loow Key, and Dressed to Kill. His second dam was Grade 1 winner Top Corsage.
Calumet owner Brad Kelley bred Skyring in Kentucky in the name of his previous racing establishment, Bluegrass Hall.