Nearly last in the early going, Surgical Strike made a powerful move leaving the backstretch, went wide for running room in the stretch and blew by the field to take the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes by 2-1/2 lengths Saturday at Turfway Park. Whatawonderflworld, favored at 5-2, made a late move of his own to get second, 3-3/4 lengths ahead of Sawyers Mickey in third.
Blue Wings was out first in the field of 12 and set fractions of :23.78, 48:08, and 1:12:49 before yielding first to Whatawonderflworld and then to Surgical Strike, who finished the 1-1/16 mile test for 3 year olds in 1:45.12.
“There was a lot of speed in the race but it didn’t go as fast early on as I thought,” said winning trainer Ben Colebrook. “He was a little bit farther back than maybe we drew it up. But the horse has got a big turn of foot when you cut him loose, so I was never really too worried. He’s still not used to getting dirt in his face because he’s run primarily on the grass until these last few starts, so that was a very good lesson for him. If everything goes right, we’ll be back in three weeks (for the Grade III Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes).”
One of those “last few starts” was Turfway’s WEBN Stakes, a 6-1/2 furlong race in which Surgical Strike finished third. Jockey Orlando Mojica was aboard for that race and returned a winner in the Battaglia. “Last time I rode him he got the Polytrack in his face,” Mojica said, “and I was worried today if he stayed too far back, but I had a lot of horse. I was wide in the first turn, then on the second turn I had to go wide again because I had a lot of horse.”
Strike Up the Band came from last to get fourth, followed by Blue Wings, Oh Oz, Brerry, Torrontes, Swagger Jagger, Bandar, Riding in the Wind, and Triple Creek. Also-eligibles Lemondrop Bold and Scattered Cash were scratched.
The 3-1 second choice, Surgical Strike returned $8.20 to win, $4.40 to place and $3.50 to show.
Bred in Kentucky by his owners, Edward A. Seltzer and Beverly Anderson, Surgical Strike is by Red Giant out of Preemptive Attack, by Smart Strike. The chestnut colt now has two wins, one second and one third in eight career starts. The winner’s share of the listed $100,000 Battaglia Memorial, his first stakes win, boosted his earnings to $159,813.
This 34th running of the Battaglia Memorial was the final race Mike Battaglia as Turfway’s regular announcer, though he plans to return each year to call what he refers to as “my dad’s race.” Multiple generations of his family came for the trophy presentation.
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