Da Big Hoss takes Elkhorn Stakes

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- It hasn't been the greatest of meets in the fabulous recent history of jockey Florent Geroux, but the French jockey got some momentum for the upcoming Kentucky Derby weekend when giving Da Big Hoss a perfect ride Saturday in winning the Grade 2, $250,000 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland.

Geroux, whose career ascent has been well documented over the last couple of years, notched his second stakes victory of the 16-day spring meet when deftly guiding Da Big Hoss to a hard-fought triumph in the 31st running of the 1-1/2-mile Elkhorn. Da Big Hoss saved ground on all three turns and was able to out-kick Kaigun by a half-length.

"He put me exactly where I wanted, saving ground," said Geroux. "It made the difference today. My horse kicked home very nicely."

Coming off a dominant meet at Fair Grounds, Geroux had won with just five of his first 58 mounts at this 16-day spring meet before the Elkhorn. He has the ride on one of the top Derby contenders for the May 7 Derby, Gun Runner, and is in line to ride Taxable or Royal Obsession in the Kentucky Oaks.

Da Big Hoss returned $7.40 as a slight favorite in a field of eight older horses after finishing in 2:31.29 over a firm turf. Kaigun, the 5-2 second choice, had another half-length on Royal Albert Hall. A Red Tie Day faded to fourth after setting the pace to midstretch.

An inquiry into the stretch run that involved Gary Stevens checking A Red Tie Day found no basis for any change in the original order.

Claimed for $50,000 last June by the Louisville-based Skychai Racing of Harvey Diamond and Jimmy Shircliff and partners, Da Big Hoss now has won a remarkable four stakes in eight starts since then. The preceding wins came in the John's Call at Saratoga, the Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs, and the Grade 3 John B. Connally at Sam Houston. The $150,000 winner's share from the Elkhorn lifts his career bankroll to $858,936.

"He's been a real nice claim, obviously," said Maker, a three-time Keeneland training titlist who won two earlier races on the 10-race Saturday card and is in contention for another title at a meet that ends Friday.

Attendance on another perfect spring afternoon in the Bluegrass was 32,731.

The $2 exacta (1-7) paid $24, the $1 trifecta (1-7-5) returned $93, and the 10-cent superfecta (1-7-5-3) was worth $57.63.

After the top four, the order was Up With the Birds, Twilight Eclipse, St. Albans Boy, and Idolo Porteno.

Just one stakes remains at the meet: the Grade 3 Bewitch, to be run on closing day.