Notes & Quotes from the G2 Golden Rod Stakes: Upset Winner Liora

(Liora wins the G2 Golden Rod / Photo Courtesy of Churchill Downs)

From the Churchill Downs’ Media Team:

Coffeepot Stables’ 2-year-old filly Liora – the longest shot in the field of eight 2-year-old fillies at odds of 27-1 – led every step of the way and narrowly repelled a late bid by odds-on 3-5 favorite and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (Grade I) runner-up Restless Rider to win Saturday’s 75th running of the $200,000 Golden Rod (Grade II) at Churchill Downs by a scant nose.

Liora, who ran 1 1/16 miles over a “muddy” track in 1:46.25, collected the $120,280 first prize and 10 points as part of the 30-race “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” series, which offers points on a scale of 10-4-2-1 to the Top 4 finishers as a “Prep Season” race.

Channing Hill rode the winner for trainer and father-in-law Wayne Catalano. Two years ago, the owners (Bob Cummings and Annette Bacola), trainer and jockey teamed to win the Golden Rod with Farrell, and Catalano also won the race in 2014 with West Coast Belle.

Liora broke fastest of all from post No. 6, quickly moved to the rail and rattled off comfortable quarter-mile fractions of :24.81, :49.68 and 1:14.70 when New York invader Break Curfew was bothered at the start and decided to track the leader. Restless Rider, racing in the clear on the outside, commenced a move into contention on the far turn and drew even with the leader at the top of the stretch. But Liora was stubborn and refused to relinquish the lead as the two battled gamely in a long stretch drive.

“She’s an awesome filly,” Hill said. “The only real concern from a pace standpoint was Chad Brown’s filly (Break Curfew). She had showed a little bit of speed prior. Wayne always tells me to let them break and see what happens. I kept giving her little taps late in the stretch and she kept finding more. She galloped out really well, too.”

Prior to the Golden Rod, Liora broke her maiden in her third start on the Oct. 28 opening day “Stars of Tomorrow I” card at Churchill Downs with a nine-length romp as the 5-2 second choice

“On paper it was a really tough race,” Catalano said. “This filly showed a lot of talent training for this race. She’s been full circle. We ran her at Saratoga and that didn’t really work out. Then, we tried her on the grass and she ran okay but when she broke her maiden she showed her talent. We decided to take the Farrell route and now she’s on the Kentucky Oaks trail.”

High Regard was another 2 ½ lengths back in third and was followed by Champagne Anyone, Gold Credit, Princess Causeway, Break Curfew and Reflect.

Liora improved her record to 4-2-0-1—$176,580 and paid $56.80, $12.60 and $6.80. Restless Rider, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., paid $2.40 and $2.20. High Regard, under Corey Lanerie, returned $7.40 to show.

“Brian thought that (Break Curfew) would show a little bit more pace up front and pressure (Liora),” said Greg Geier, assistant to Kenny McPeek who trains Restless Rider. “She went really slow up there and controlled her own destiny. We just couldn’t get to her down the stretch after going that slow.”

Liora, a daughter of Candy Ride (ARG) out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Giant Mover, was bred in Kentucky by Dell Ridge Farm LLC.

GOLDEN ROD QUOTES

Channing Hill, jockey of LIORA (winner): “She’s an awesome filly. The only real concern from a pace standpoint was Chad Brown’s filly (Break Curfew). She had showed a little bit of speed prior. Wayne always tells me to let them break and see what happens. I kept giving her little taps late in the stretch and she kept finding more. She galloped out really well, too.”

Wayne Catalano, trainer of LIORA (winner): “On paper it was a really tough race. This filly showed a lot of talent training for this race. She’s been full circle. We ran her at Saratoga and that didn’t really work out. Then, we tried her on the grass and she ran okay but when she broke her maiden she showed her talent. We decided to take the Farrell route and now she’s on the Kentucky Oaks trail.”

Greg Geier, assistant trainer of RESTLESS RIDER (runner-up as 3-5 favorite): “Brian thought that (Break Curfew) would show a little bit more pace up front and pressure (Liora). She went really slow up there and controlled her own destiny. We just couldn’t get to her down the stretch after going that slow.”

Corey Lanerie, jockey of HIGH REGARD (third): “I thought I had a big shot turning for home. She ran really well this afternoon.”

He ran a heck of a race today, he really dug in, fought all the way to the wire,” jockey Tyler Gaffalione said of Bigger Picture. “The other horse just got the jump and got the split. But you can’t knock the horse. He put in a big performance today.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rider of the runner-up Bigger Picture

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