Lexington, KY – Despite staying parked when pressing for the lead around the final turn, Chris Ryder trainee Niki Hill powered to the lead and strode to a 1:51.2 win in the first of two divisions for the $254,000 American Ideal International Stallion Stakes 2-Year-Old Filly Pace at The Red Mile on Friday (Oct. 8) to remain unbeaten from six starts.
The Always B Miki-Road Bet filly landed in fourth while Sloopy set the pace to a :28.2 first quarter and soon yielded control up the backside to Cape Cod Hanover, who anxiously vacated the cones and swept to the top before a :56.4 half. Driver Dexter Dunn floated Niki Hill first over moving to the final turn with Lyons Serenity in tow and rolled to nearly clear the lead.
Cape Cod Hanover accelerated to the inside and kept her wide to three-quarters in 1:25.1 but Niki Hill surged back to the lead off the turn with a wall of horses charging from behind. Queen Of Success stormed from third over to snag second, beaten two lengths, with A Girl That Twirls closing for third and Lyons Serenity finishing fourth.
“We had a minor hiccup before we qualified her – she got a stone bruise in her foot,” trainer Chris Ryder said after the race. “We weren’t really concerned about it because a stone got literally caught in her foot and bruised her up. I’m a lot happier to have six starts instead of nine or 10 by now because we have a couple races at the end of the year we want to concentrate on.”
Niki Hill paid $2.10 to win as she extended her unbeaten record while upping her bankroll to $322,064 for owner Tom Hill.
A heated tempo poised 43-1 shot Frantasy Hanover to fire down the center of the course and nail her stablemate at the beam in the other division of the American Ideal, stopping the clock in 1:51.2.
Southwind Java sped off the wings for the front with Galleria Hanover settling into second to a :27 first quarter. Galleria Hanover soon vacated the pocket to the backside and circled to the top as Dont Fence Me In got underway out of fourth and marched to clear the lead past a :54.4 half. Yes And Yes, the 4-5 favorite, followed her move and raced uncovered into the final turn, pressing pacesetter Dont Fence Me In to three-quarters in 1:22.1.
Off the turn, Dont Fence Me In started to tire as Yes And Yes forged to the lead. But Frantasy Hanover, racing last through the mile, came widest of all and charged with open racetrack ahead for the lead to get a head in front just in time over Yes And Yes. Dont Fence Me In held third and Galleria Hanover took fourth.
“This filly here, obviously we really didn’t know [what she had],” winning driver Joe Bongiorno said after the race of the Ron Burke pupil. “She was a long shot in this race. [Ronnie] did say she would be good, but she’s got to step up to go with these horses today and that’s just what she did.”
Paying $89.60, Frantasy Hanover, a filly by Always B Miki-Francessa, scored her second victory from six starts, earning $74,218 for owner Christopher Nicol.
Racing resumes at The Red Mile on Saturday (Oct. 9) with stakes action including the $314,000 International Moni International Stallion Stakes for 2-year-old trotting fillies and the $289,900 Tall Dark Stranger International Stallion Stakes for 2-year-old pacing colts and geldings.
Saturday’s card will feature a tribute to the late champion trainer Ron Gurfein, who passed away in May of this year. The memorial for Gurfein will be held after the second race, with horsemen leaving the paddock to come to the front stretch for a moment of silence and a memorial video.
First-race post time at The Red Mile is 1 p.m. (EDT).