Jockey Albin Jimenez guided WinStar Farm's General Election past a melee at the start and avoided trouble in the stretch to bring the 3-year-old colt home a 13-1 winner in the $75,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park March 2.
After contesting the pace, Giant Finish finished half a length behind in second. For Greater Glory was another three-quarters of a length back in third.
The gate melee erupted as Admiral Kitten stumbled badly out of post 5. As that colt regained his balance, Mellow Fellow lunged out of post 3 and came over onto both Admiral Kitten and Let's Run, who broke from post 4. Mellow Fellow then shot to the front and set a :23.65 and :47.80 pace as 2-1 favorite Bye Bye Bernie and Giant Finish tracked him.
Trained by Kellyn Gorder, General Election, who broke from post 7, had avoided the tangle and settled five wide while racing seventh in the field of 11 3-year-olds. He made a bold move on the turn and went wider still into the stretch, wisely removed from what became a roller derby contest to his inside. Both Giant Finish, who led briefly after six furlongs, and For Greater Glory, who came from far back, were caught in the bump fest that marked the stretch run.
When the Polytrack settled, final time for the 1 1/16-mile Battaglia Memorial was 1:46.13.
General Election's victory proved that patience through trial and error pays off. He broke his maiden at first asking on the Churchill Downs dirt but since then had posted two disappointing finishes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
"He really hadn't run well on the dirt at Fair Grounds," said Gorder, who brought him up to his Keeneland operation from New Orleans a week ago. "He won his first race on dirt, so we thought he just didn't get hold of the racetrack at Fair Grounds. We tried blinkers [in his second race there] and that didn't work. We were deciding between the OBS Stakes or here, and we decided to send him here.
"I told Albin to lay mid-pack and make a nice run. We knew there was plenty of speed in the race, so it set up good for us. I thought this race came up tough."
Takin the Sloroad finished fourth, followed by Stormin Monarcho, Let's Run, Bye Bye Bernie, Silver Tongued, Mellow Fellow, Avare, and Admiral Kitten. Star Contender was scratched.
General Election returned $28 for the win, $12.40 to place, and $8 to show. Giant Finish paid $11.60 and $7, while For Greater Glory returned $5.80 to show.
Given his performance Saturday, Gorder said General Election could return for the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes March 23 but that he would discuss the colt's next move with Elliott Walden, president, CEO, and racing manager of WinStar Farm.
General Election now has two wins and one second from four starts and earnings of $81,910. By Harlan's Holiday out of Menekineko, by Kingmambo, he was bred in Kentucky by Meg and Mike Buckley.
First run in 1982, the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes is the third local prep for the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes, following the Turfway Prevue in January and the 96ROCK Stakes in February. The race honors John Battaglia, who as general manager of Turfway (then Latonia) was the visionary behind the Spiral Stakes, which debuted in 1972.