La Coronel demolishes Appalachian field

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La Coronel emerged from the pack to post an easy win in Thursday’s $125,000 Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland, putting owner John Oxley in rare company in the process.

La Coronel’s 3 1/4-length victory over a field that included Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner New Money Honey and six other stakes winners made Oxley just the 20th owner to win eight graded stakes at Keeneland. As part of Keeneland’s Milestone Trophy program, each graded-stakes winning owner receives a sterling silver trophy cup that is engraved and then dipped in 24-karat gold. After the eighth graded stakes win, the Keeneland rewards owners with a tray, also sterling silver and gold-dipped, that holds the eight trophy cups.

“We’ve been out here running at Keeneland since the 70s,” Oxley said. “I never thought about ever getting to this point … winning a tray? I’d been reminded that could happen last year. It’s exceptional. It’s a thrill and it’s an honor. Keeneland is just outstanding; it’s the best.”

The next trophy in the sequence is the Keeneland Pitcher, presented after an additional eight graded stakes wins. Eight more graded wins and the owners receive the Keeneland Bowl, and it takes yet another eight to receive the highest honor, the Keeneland Vase. All trophies are designed and handcrafted by Tiffany and Co.

“If anybody deserves it, he deserves it,” said trainer Mark Casse. “There was a lot of pressure (laughs). I was a little nervous about that. I’m glad he got it.”

For Casse and jockey Florent Geroux, it marked a repeat victory in the Appalachian after they to win with Catch A Glimpse. La Coronel won in 1:37.12 over the firm turf with 35-1 longshot Morticia second and Proctor’s Ledge third. New Money Honey finished sixth as the 2-1 favorite in the field of 11.

“She’s an amazing horse,” Casse said. “I’ve got to thank the Oxleys for so many great things. I have to thank our farm team. This filly had double knee surgery after the (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, where she finished sixth), and for her to come back and do what she just did. It took a lot of people and a lot of hard work. We’re really proud of her.”

La Coronel defeated three of the five fillies that finished ahead of her in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, including New Money Honey and Coasted.

“I was confident coming into this race,” Geroux said. “I was high on her last year, I thought she should have won the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. She didn’t get an ideal post in that race and we went wide the whole time and just didn’t get to save any ground. But she obviously did better today, and she seems to like Keeneland.”