Making the most of a ground-saving trip along the rail, Runnymede-bred Bizzy Caroline uncorked a stretch rally that caught pacesetter Heavenly Landing in time to capture the $111,000 Mint Julep Handicap (G3) by a neck at Churchill Downs on June 2.
The win marked the second in a graded event for Bizzy Caroline, with both on the turf at Churchill, a course she clearly enjoys. The four-year-old daughter of Afleet Alex also finished second in last year’s Mrs. Revere Stakes (G2) on the Churchill grass.
“When we turned for home and (Heavenly Landing) opened up, I thought, ‘Oh no, it’s too much.’ But she kept gaining and we got there on time,” said winning jockey Manoel Cruz, who has ridden Bizzy Caroline in all her successful stakes efforts.
“It was nip and tuck, and I thought Manny (Cruz) rode a great race,” said trainer Ken McPeek, who called Bizzy Caroline “pretty special.”
Runnymede Chairman Catesby W. Clay, who co-bred Bizzy Caroline with the farm from our Saint Ballado mare Sacre Coeur and who races the filly in his silks, was on hand to celebrate the victory with his wife, Biz, and other members of the family.
Although McPeek was in New York supervising the preparation of his Belmont Stakes (G1) contenders Atigun and Unstoppable U, he told Churchill officials that he was elated by the victory, which marked his 300th at the historic Louisville track.
“I’m very proud of this—it’s awesome,” McPeek said by telephone. “A lot of people helped me get here—the horses, owners and my great staff.
“I'm really happy for the Clay family,” he added.
Sent off the strong favorite in a field reduced to seven after two scratches, Bizzy Caroline finished the 1 1/16 miles on a course rated firm in 1:43.29. Two multiple stakes winners who have both been bred this season and confirmed in foal competed but were unplaced; Ravi’s Song finished fourth and Snow Top Mountain was sixth.
Bizzy Caroline improved her record to four wins in 12 starts, with four placings. The $67,444 winner’s prize increased her career earnings to $294,844.
Runnymede is looking forward to campaigning Bizzy Caroline’s two-year-old half brother, Boundless Heart, a son of Elusive Quality, who also will be trained by McPeek. Bizzy Caroline’s dam produced a robust filly by Divine Park this year and has been bred back to champion Blame.