(Crown Imperial / All Photos by Coady Photography)

Vote No: 

(Vote No / All Photos by Coady Photography)

From the KY Downs Media Team:

Closing-day at Kentucky Downs

  • Tiny but mighty Crown Imperial takes Pepsi Untapable
  • Supplementing Vote No pays off in Pepsi Juvenile
  • Gaffalione, Walsh, Ramsey win meet titles

Stories by Kentucky Downs publicity team

‘Tiny but mighty’ Crown Imperial takes Pepsi Untapable

(Ricardo Santana guided Crown Imperial to victory in the Pepsi Untapable. Coady Photography)

After running closer to the pace in the first four races of her career, Crown Imperial charged from well back Wednesday to win the $500,000 Pepsi Untapable Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, the final stakes of the 2023 season at Kentucky Downs.

The change of running style worked well for the 4 G Racing’s homebred daughter of Classic Empire trained by John Ortiz as the fast early fractions took a toll on the pacemakers. She prevailed by 1 ¼ lengths.

“This is the biggest win for us,” said Sharilyn Gasaway, who with her husband Brent and their two children are 4 G Racing based in Arkansas. “My husband and I had a horse that ran here and broke its maiden in a $350,000 stakes race (All Right, who won the 2016 Kentucky Downs Juvenile at 44-1 odds) in his second start. We weren’t even here because we thought there’s no way. It’s so exciting to be here, and we’re just so proud for her.”

The Gasaways have been sending horses to Ortiz since he opened his business.

“I couldn’t be happier for a group of owners,” he said. “Brent and Sharilyn Gasaway, I’ve known them for many years, almost 13 now. They’ve become like family. They’re one of my biggest supporters. When I went on my own with four horses, they owned three of them. They’ve been with me through the highs and the lows. So to see this happen for them, it’s something long overdue and I’m happy for them.”

When Candi Girl and Song of Norway led the field through a first quarter mile in a smoking 20.79, Crown Imperial was ninth, 7 ¼ lengths off the pace. The half was run in 44.32 and Crown Imperial and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. were eighth, 5 ¼ lengths back.

At the top of the stretch, Santana and Crown Imperial had surged and were right in the midst of the action on the move in second, a head behind Buttercream Babe and a half-length in front of Copper Em. Crown Imperial took the lead, splitting horses near the three-sixteenths pole and went on to beat Copper Em in 1:16.33. Buttercream Babe finished a head back in third and a neck in front of the favorite Hidden Class.

Darren Fleming, longtime assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, gave the Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Copper Em a solid review.

“She ran very well. Gutsy,” he said. “I think the winner just got a little lucky and got through on the fence, too. But she ran hard.”

Crown Imperial brought a record of 1-2-1 from four starts into the race. Despite a nose loss to Amidst Waves in the Bolton Landing at Saratoga in her most recent race, Crown Imperial was 13-1 in the wagering. She paid $29.46 to win.

“We got a good trip. She ran really nice,” Santana said. “She ran huge at Saratoga. Even Tyler (Gaffalione, who rode her in the Bolton Landing) came to me and said you can ride her with confidence. He’s one of my close friends and he liked her a lot (Gaffalione rode Honey Dijon). She broke really sharp. I knew they were going fast enough, and I sat and waited. At the three-eighths I asked her a little bit to run, and she responded real well. We saw that hole, and we went for it. And she kept going.”

There is a deep connection between Crown Imperial and Sharilyn Gasaway.

“She has a heart that you wouldn’t imagine,” Gasaway said. “Every time she gives us a 125 percent. And this is my homebred. I bred her myself. Her mom (Mi Fiori) was a wonderful horse, and I loved her personally but then she got claimed away from us. It took me a year to find her. I claimed her back just to ride her at home. Then people started calling me because her half-brother won a graded race and they wanted to breed her. I thought, ‘if they’re going to breed her, I’ll breed her.’ So I bred her and this is her first baby. Randy Gullatt, who’s a partner of ours in other horses, helped me pick out the stallion. When she was born, she was a little small. So we really didn’t have any expectations. But she has the heart like you wouldn’t believe.”

Ortiz is a big fan of the gritty Crown Imperial.

“She is what we call tiny but mighty,” he said. “She’s a small filly with the biggest heart. She got started in Ocala with Brightwork (his G1 Spinaway winner). They were partners, stablemates down there. I think they were doing a little planning in the paddock, I guess. They knew they wanted to be the best, so here we are.”

Ortiz ran the filly twice on the dirt before sending her into the Colleen on grass at Monmouth Park on July 29. She was third to Amidst Waves in the Colleen and faced her again at Saratoga.

“Honestly, I didn’t think any surface would matter with her because she just tries hard every time,” Ortiz said. “When I took a deeper look into her pedigree, I saw her mom actually ran six furlongs on the turf in New York. She’s small and I thought keeping her five furlongs was going to be the trick. But it looks like long on the turf might be another option we have.”

What’s next for Crown Imperial has yet to be decided.

“Obviously it’s early, but Keeneland has a ‘Win and You’re In’ (for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf),” he said. “I guess you consider taking her straight there. We’ll just see what happens in the next three weeks.”

Ortiz said it is possible that the filly could have four wins in five starts.

“The only reason she’s gotten beat, those two times at the wire, is because she’s small and she got headed by a nose,” he said. “Today she got the right trip by Ricardo Santana. He kept her out of that loose sand as much as he could. I thought he was going to tip her out. But he looked and took her in, cut the corner on that eighth-mile elbow, and I think that made the difference.”

This was Ortiz’s first Kentucky Downs stakes win. He was an assistant to Kellyn Gorder when All Right won the 2016 Ky Downs Juvenile.

Supplementing Vote No ($27.22) pays off in Pepsi Juvenile Sprint

(Vote No won the Pepsi Juvenile Sprint under Gerardo Corrales. Coady Photography)

Vote No was an emphatic yes in his turf debut Wednesday, finishing fastest of all from off the pace on the Kentucky Downs track that has been kind to speed to win the $500,000 Pepsi Juvenile Sprint.

Joseph P. Morey Jr.’s 2-year-old gelding by first-crop sire Divisidero caught and passed pacesetters Hedwig and Bledsoe inside the sixteenth pole to win a race he had been supplemented into. He finished three-quarters of a length in front of Hedwig, reaching the wire in the 6 ½ -furlong stake in 1:16.44. Please Advise was third.

Sent off at odds of 12-1, Vote No paid $27.22 to win.

Vote No has a strong turf pedigree and proved to be well-suited for Kentucky Downs. Divisidero, a graded stakes winner on grass in each of his five seasons racing, is a son of prominent grass sire Kitten’s Joy. His dam, Sistas Ready is a daughter of the late More Than Ready, who sired good dirt and turf runners. Vote No began his racing career with a 1 ½-length victory on the synthetic track at Presque Isle Downs on Aug 23.

Joseph Morey Jr of Atherton, Calif, and trainer William Morey, friends with the same last name, had not nominated him for the Pepsi Juvenile Sprint but opted to pay the supplemental fee of $12,500 to enter the stake. It was a mighty good investment: Vote No earned $298,800 for the victory.

“The way I looked at it was, we were 12-1 or so $500,000. So if we do that a few times, we’ll get lucky once in a while. Joe is just like an uncle to me, but surprisingly enough we’re not related. But he’s as close as an uncle to me, for sure,” William Morey said.

Everything about Vote No’s young, but so-far successful career is less-than-standard procedure.

“Actually my wife (Elizabeth Morey) picked this horse out off the videos at OBS,” William Morey said. “Alistair Roden helped us bid on him down there at the sale on behalf of Joe, kind of a last-minute thing. We brought him up to Turfway to train him. He started training really forwardly. I’m a synthetic guy. I train on the synthetic at Turfway, so I debuted him on the synthetic at Presque Isle on purpose. I didn’t even nominate to this race originally because it was back in about 2 1/2 weeks. But as good as he was doing, we went on and supplemented him and took our chances.”

When Hedwig and Beldsoe engaged soon after leaving the gate, it looked like it would be a two-horse race. They were in front through fractions of 21.79 for the first quarter and 45.17 for the half-mile. Entering the stretch, Vote No and jockey Gerardo Corrales were third, 2 ½ lengths back but on the move about four paths of the rail. At the eighth pole, Hedwig, the even-money favorite, and Bledsoe seemed safely in front, but Vote No closed the gap in the next sixteenth and surged to the lead.William Morey said the Vote No’s future was yet to be determined.

“We hadn’t even looked at this race,” he said, “let alone past this race.” .”

Gaffalione, Walsh, Ramsey take meet crowns

(From left: Paul Madden, assistant to leading trainer Brendan Walsh; leading jockey Tyler Gaffalione; Ramsey Farm farm manager Mark Partridge; leading owner Ken Ramsey; and Jeff Ramsey. Coady Photography)

FRANKLIN, Ky. — Tyler Gaffalione capped off his third Kentucky Downs riding title in style, winning three races on Wednesday’s closing-day card to finish with 12 victories for the FanDuel Meet, five more than 2021 riding champion and second-finisher Joel Rosario.

Brendan Walsh earned his second training title, and first outright, at the track with eight wins, three more than Kentucky Downs’ all-time win leader Mike Maker, who had a meet-high 10 seconds and nine thirds.

Ken Ramsey, the winningest owner in Kentucky Downs history as well as Kentucky, won his ninth title at the track and his first since 2018 with three wins victories to edge the two wins of Three Diamonds Farm and Augustin Stables.

The details:

Gaffalione got off to a fast start, winning the meet’s very first race with Buttercream Babe and then taking the last of 76 races aboard Fancy Caber Neigh. He also won last year’s riding title with nine wins and in 2020 with 11. Gaffalione started the day ahead 9-7 over Rosario, but but had clinched the crown by mid-card.

Florent Geroux finished third with six wins but won the money title, $2,800,016 to $2,706,419 for Gaffalione. Both riders rode all seven days of the meet, while Rosario missed one day to ride at Saratoga.

Gaffalione was a workhorse, riding 71 of the meet’s 76 races, compared with 51 for Rosario and 48 for Geroux.

Last year Gaffalione was shut out from stakes wins, with several extremely close seconds. This year he won two stakes: Sunday’s $500,000 Global Tote Juvenile Fillies with Austere and the $1 million, Grade 3 Big Ass Fans Music City with Secret Money. Both horses are trained by Walsh.

“It’s amazing,” Gaffalione said. “It was very competitive this year. It’s world-class racing, and we enjoy being out there. We were very fortunate. We got a little bit of revenge this year (in stakes). Brendan Walsh and his team did a great job. I think we won five or six races for him. He sent his horses over ready to run this meet, and they fired big for us.”

Though he wound up not needing it to gain the title, Walsh teamed with Gaffalione to win Wednesday’s second race with the maiden First World War.

Walsh tied for the 2021 title with Maker and Steve Asmussen with four wins apiece. He won with eight of 28 starters this meet (29 percent) and also led in purse earnings at $1,701,584. Jonathan Thomas, whose four wins included a pair of $1 million stakes, finished second in earnings at $1,487,443.

“It was a great meet,” said assistant trainer Paul Madden, who was at Kentucky Downs while Walsh was working the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. “Kudos to all the team. It was all the team and the effort they put in. It was a big deal for him (Walsh) to win this. To win eight races this meet — the prize money being so big — it’s just a great place to win. He definitely points toward this meet.”

It was Ramsey’s first since his last of six straight titles in 2018. He also won in 2010 and 2009. Ramsey’s other titles were in the name of Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who died last year.

“It’s like eating Cracker Jack,” Ramsey said. “The more you eat, the more you want. The more you win, the more you want to win. I’m inspired by winning. It motivates me to keep buying good horses and claiming good horses.

“I’ve got to pad my statistics, got to raise the bar a little higher. I can’t look over my shoulder or they’ll be gaining on me.”