Majestic Harbor scores upset win

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- At an age when most horses are either slowing down or looking for a nice, green field to run around in, Majestic Harbor just keeps on getting better and better. The 8-year-old Majestic Harbor added to his already impressive resume on Oaks Day at Churchill Downs, holding off arch-rival Eagle to register a convincing 2 1/2- length victory as a 13-1 outsider in the $400,000 Alysheba.

With regular rider Corey Lanerie aboard, Majestic Harbor rated several lengths off the early pace set by Cat Burglar. Majestic Harbor advanced readily, three wide, when roused to engage for command into the stretch, shook off Majestic Affair nearing the sixteenth marker, drew well clear, and was never seriously threatened thereafter.

Eagle, who won the Grade 1 Stephen Foster over this track nearly a year ago, bided his time near the rear of the field, came wide into the stretch, rallied belatedly, and was up in the final strides to finish second, a neck in front of Majestic Affair, while no match for the winner.

Noble Bird, the tepid 2-1 favorite in a scratched-reduced field of eight older horses, broke slow, raced very rankly when taken under a hold and kept wide around the opening turn, and was never a serious factor, finishing last.

Majestic Harbor, a son of Rockport Harbor, eclipsed the $1 million mark in career earnings after finishing fourth via disqualification in his previous start six weeks ago in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap. He became a Grade 1 winner as a 6-year-old after upsetting Santa Anita's Gold Cup, at odds of 14-1, during the spring of 2014. The Alysheba was the first Grade 2 win of his career.

Trained by Paul McGee for Gallant Stables, Majestic Harbor completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.10 and paid $28.80.

"He ran a big race, got a perfect trip, he had a good look all the way around," said McGee. "Corey worked out the trip he talked about working out, which doesn't always happen. He rode a great race."

When asked about how Majestic Harbor has been able to maintain his form for such a long period of time, McGee said, "He's been a very sound horse all along. He's better than ever now."

Trainer Neil Howard said he was proud of his horse, Eagle, in defeat.

"I thought the pace might be quicker but I also thought he [Eagle] ran good," said Howard. "Majestic Harbor has given us trouble before. He's a very nice horse. I don't think anybody was going to beat him today the way he ran."