(Played Hard captures G3 Locust Grove Stakes at Churchill Downs / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

From the Churchill Downs Media Team:

Played Hard grabbed the lead from pacesetter Crazy Beautiful midway around the final turn and kicked home for a comfortable 5 ¾-length win over that rival in Saturday’s 38th running of the $393,000 Locust Grove (Grade III) for fillies and mares to give owner Richard Rigney and trainer Phil Bauer their first career stakes wins at Churchill Downs.

          Ridden by Joel Rosario, Played Hard sat just behind Crazy Beautiful, who led the compact field of five distaffers through comfortable early fractions of :24.16, :48.27 and 1:12.46. Rosario asked Play Hard to challenge for the lead while leaving the turn and Li’l Tootsie followed suit from the outside. Played Hard kicked away from the field in upper stretch as Li’l Tootsie attempted to keep up and Crazy Beautiful was able to sustain her run and re-rallied for the place honors.

“I can’t really put into words how special this win is for our entire team,” Bauer said. “It’s so special to have my family here, (owner) Richard (Rigney) and his wife (Tammy) here as well. This is our home track and it’s my first graded stakes win here. This horse is getting really good at the right time. We’ll see how she comes out of things in the morning and we’ll leave it up to Richard to see where she takes us next.”

          Played Hard’s clocking for 1 1/16 miles over a fast track was 1:43.50.

“I just let her settle out of the gate,” Rosario said. “I was confident in her most of the way around there with how well she was travelling. When I asked her to go she just really responded like I thought she would. This was the first time I’ve been on her but I saw her form and looked at some of her previous races. It looked like she was coming into this race in really good form and showed it.”

Played Hard, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Into Mischief out of the Tiznow mare Well Lived, returned $6.24, $2.80 and $2.24 as the 2-1 second betting choice. Crazy Beautiful, ridden by Julien Leparoux, returned $3.34 and $2.18 with Li’l Tootsie another 1 ½ lengths back in third under Edgar Morales and paying $3.08 to show.

Comebacker Gold Spirit (CHI) was fourth and 9-5 favorite Envoutante was fifth. Princess of Cairowas scratched.

The victory was worth $246,000 to Played Hard and increased her earnings to $612,870 with a record of 4-5-1 from 12 starts. This was her first stakes win.

The Locust Grove is named after the 1790 Georgian mansion in Louisville that played home to ancestors of Churchill Downs founder Col. M. Lewis Clark.

LOCUST GROVE QUOTES

Joel Rosario, (jockey, Played Hard, winner) – “I just let her settle out of the gate. I was confident in her most of the way around there with how well she was travelling. When I asked her to go she just really responded like I thought she would. This was the first time I’ve been on her but I saw her form and looked at some of her previous races. It looked like she was coming into this race in really good form and showed it.”

Phil Bauer, (trainer, Played Hard, winner) – “I can’t really put into words how special this win is for our entire team. It’s so special to have my family here, (owner) Richard (Rigney) and his wife (Tammy) here as well. This is our home track and it’s my first graded stakes win here. This horse is getting really good at the right time. We’ll see how she comes out of things in the morning and we’ll leave it up to Richard to see where she takes us next.”

Julien Leparoux, (jockey, Crazy Beautiful, runner-up) – “She was second best today. We traveled pretty comfortably on the lead but the winner was best today.”

Edgar Morales, (jockey, Li’l Tootsie, third) – “We were a little wide into the first turn but sat in a good spot. It may have been a little bit too far for her.”