Shotgun Gulch takes Vinery Madison
C.R. Trout's instructions to jockey Garrett Gomez moments before he hopped on Shotgun Gulch were simple. Real simple.
''Just do your magic,'' Trout said with a laugh.
Gomez timed his late surge aboard the 4-year-old filly brilliantly, sending her wide at the turn and giving her just enough room to edge favorite Amen Hallelujah by a head in Thursday's $300,000 Vinery Madison at Keeneland.
It was a victory over a quarter-century in the making for Trout, who owns, breeds and trains his modest 20-horse stable in Oklahoma. He's enjoyed some success, but nothing compared to grabbing his first Grade 1 victory.
''I don't know if there's words to express it,'' Trout said. ''With my family, it's been just a total team effort to get this done.''
Shotgun Gulch came in with six career wins but had never raced on a synthetic surface. Trout had a feeling she was due for a breakthrough, particularly after he stopped messing around trying to find the perfect distance for her to run at.
She had struggled in short sprints and mile-plus races. The Vinery Madison at seven furlongs appeared to be the perfect compromise.
''She's just strictly a closing sprinter,'' Trout said. ''Now we know.''
Shotgun Gulch certainly looked like a strong finisher, leading only for a stride or two and was promptly passed by Amen Hallelujah a split second after hitting the finish line. She paid $25.40, $9.20 and $6.20 while covering the distance in 1:24.14 and punching her ticket to the Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on May 7.
''She's shipping tomorrow,'' Trout said.
Gomez praised the undersized Shotgun Gulch for finding a way to win, even if she did get distracted during her duel with Amen Hallelujah.
''Right toward the wire, my filly switched leads and was halfway looking around, but she ran really good,'' Gomez said. ''I had a good feeling in the post parade.''
The blissful scene in the winner's circle proved a stark contrast to the chaos surrounding runner-up Amen Hallelujah.
The 4-year-old filly is normally trained by Kentucky Derby winner Rick Dutrow Jr. But Kentucky racing officials denied Dutrow a license on Wednesday for what they considered Dutrow's inattention to the rulebook.
Kentucky rules prevent owners from switching trainers after the horse has been entered in the race. But Amen Hallelujah's co-owners were awarded an injunction on Thursday that allowed them to make New Jersey-based Justin Sallusto the trainer of record just moments before post time.
Jockey John Velazquez ran a nearly flawless race, guiding Amen Hallelujah to the lead in the stretch but she wobbled just a bit before the finish, allowing Shotgun Gulch to steal it.
Asked afterward who gave him prerace instructions, Velazquez shook his head and said, ''no one.'' Sallusto faxed in his license application from elsewhere and Velazquez was left to do his own work.
It nearly paid off. The 2-1 favorite paid $3.80 and $3.40 while finishing second for the third straight time.
''I was hoping that when (Shotgun Gulch) came to her she would go on again (and) she would pay attention again,'' Velazquez said. ''It just happened that when she was coming back, the wire came first.''
Dr. Zic and jockey Corey Lanerie set the early pace and gamely held on for third, paying $8.60.