Sky Gem By Nose In K.J.C. Thriller
The Courier Journal
In a desperate finish that brought back memories of the famous Twenty Grand-Equipoise duel in 1930, Sky Gem won the 36th running of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes by a nose over Copy Chief yesterday at Churchill Downs.
Just as Charley Kurtsinger on Twenty Grand and Sonny Workman on Equipoise had battled the length of the stretch in the same race, so did two young riders from Panama. Braulio Baeza, who came here yesterday just for the one ride on Fred W. Hooper's Sky Gem, and Jacinto Vasquez, aboard Copy Chief, began their duel a quarter-mile from home.
Sky Gem showed in front as the leaders rounded the stretch turn and straightened away for the wire, but Vasquez had Copy Chief at his throat. The two were not to be more than a head apart the rest of the way.
Slowly, grudgingly, Sky Gem began to yield. At the eighth pole, Copy Chief had edged his nose in front; at the sixteenth pole, Vasquez had driven the Fourth Estate Stable colt to a head advantage.
To the roaring crowd of 12,700 it appeared Copy Chief had the race won. But Baeza kept driving Sky Gem with hand, heel and whip. In the last few yards, Baeza put away his whip, settled down to hand riding, and in the very last stride dropped Sky Gem's nose down in front. The difference could have been Baeza's edge in experience--at 22 he is four years older than his fellow-Panamanian.
Telethon finished third, four lengths back and almost overlooked by the crowd watching the battle up front. No Reprieve was fourth in the field of 10 two-year-olds.
Running the mile in one minute, 37 2/5 seconds, creditable time over the slow, tiring track. Sky Gem paid $8.60, $4.20, and $3.20, as second choice. The favored Copy chief returned $3.40 and 2.60 with Telethon $4.60 to show.
Sky Gem brought owner Hooper $34,342 as the winner's share of the $54,585 purse. the Fourth Estate Stable collected $10,567 for Copy Chief 's valiant second, and Telethon earned $5,283 for Amazon Farm by finishing third.
After the Eastern invader Gray Pet had shown briefly in front at the start, Moral Suasion moved up to take over the lead. Baeza kept Sky Gem just off the pace in third, with Copy Chief close behind. Once these two began their moves leaving the five-sixteenths pole, the others were never in the hunt.
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