Shug McGaughey always feels right at home in Lexington.  After all, he grew up here, playing golf and going to the track.  It is where he discovered his love of both. And, he found his future profession — as a horse trainer.

But this Fall, the Hall of Fame trainer has come home to the green, green grass of home in style.  And, on Sunday, he once again got to touch it all, as his 4-year-old filly Apple Betty ran around the grass course at Keeneland in style to win the G3 Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes by a whopping 31/2 lengths.

And, at the end, the winner’s circle — as always for Stakes races — was moved to the infield grass course for the celebration.

“When I ran her at Saratoga (in the Aug. 5 Waya-G3), I ran her back too quick, and she got pushed along a little bit. We gave her the break with this race in mind. She had trained really strong,” said McGaughey, one of Lexington’s most famous sons and best horse trainer ever. “My main concern is just getting her to settle. There was some speed in here, so she was able to lay in behind. You just gotta let her do her thing. She was in behind horses today, and the way he (jockey John Velazquez) was able to wait for that hole and be able to finish was a big key.”

The key turned open the lock, that is for sure.

Joseph Allen’s Apple Betty (IRE), denied victory in this race last year by a nose, left no doubt as she exploded to a 3½-length victory over Promotional to win the 26th running of the $125,000 Rood & Riddle Dowager (G3) for fillies and mares before a Heroes Day presented by Papa John’s crowd of 16,650.

Trained by McGaughey and ridden by John Velazquez, Apple Betty covered the 1½ miles on a firm turf course in 2:30.80. It was the second victory in the race for McGaughey, who won the 2010 running with Casablanca Smile (CHI).

“She did it pretty good,” said winning rider John Velasquez, a Hall of Famer in his own right. “She’s been kind of fighting the lead the whole time (in her previous races). We decided to take her back a little bit since there was a little more speed. They didn’t go very fast, but I got her to settle behind other horses. Once I got her through (on the inside to move toward the lead) at the quarter pole, she did it pretty easily.”

Daddy’s Boo set an uncontested pace with Daring Duchess tracking in second while Velazquez was giving Apple Betty a ground-saving trip next to the rail in third. Daddy’s Boo maintained her lead to the top of the stretch where she left enough room along the rail for Apple Betty to slip through and roar past to eliminate any doubt regarding the outcome.

The victory was worth $75,000 and increased Apple Betty’s earnings to $290,619 with a record of 14-5-1-4. It was the first graded stakes victory in the U.S. for Apple Betty, a 4-year-old daughter of Galileo (IRE) out of the Mozart (IRE) mare Absolutelyfabulous.

Apple Betty returned $8, $4.60 and $3.20. Promotional, ridden by Corey Lanerie, returned $7.20 and $4.40 with favored Lottie finishing another 1¼ lengths back in third under Jose Ortiz and paying $3 to show.

“We had some traffic down the lane and I was doing a lot of steering in and out,” said Corey Lanerie, the jockey on the runner-up. “My filly ran great and I think the winner had to overcome a little adversity, too. All in all, we were second best today. What a tremendous race she ran. With a smooth trip, who knows? In these mile and a half races, you always expect them to go slow (on the lead) but you never really know what is going to happen. I rode from the start and found myself looking for cover (behind horses) and once we got there, we just had to play the cards we were dealt and try to find a seam (to get through) turning for home.”

Jose Ortiz, Jr., the rider of third-place finisher Lottie, was impressed with his horse’s desire and the winner’s effort, too.

“Beautiful (trip),” said Ortiz, after the race. “She broke good and put me into a good position. They went a little slow early but they picked up the pace in the backstretch a little bit. The winner had a perfect trip and when Johnny (Velazquez) asked her to go, she kicked on really, really well. My filly was outrun but she stayed and she ran her race. My filly’s not push-button, she’s a grinder; you’ve got to really ride her and she’ll eventually get going. But when I saw that Johnny got through, it was over. He had a lot of horse.”

It was another 5¾ lengths back to Grateful in fourth with Coco Channel, Place des Vosges, Daring Duchess, Polar Vortex, Daddy’s Boo and Bootsy’s Girl following in order.

Racing for the final week of Keeneland’s Fall Meet resumes Wednesday with an eight-race program that begins at 1:05 p.m. ET.

Rood & Riddle Dowager (G3) chart