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As horses filed out of the paddock before the running of the $100,000 Coronation Cup Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, Rusty Arnold and G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and their wives started walking to the box past the finish line they would occupy for roughly the next 10 minutes. Arnold’s assistant Claudio Cortes had just given Jose Lezcano a leg up on 2-1 favorite Morticia.

Morticia was coming into Monday’s 5 1/2-furlong grass stakes in sharp form. She was unbeaten in turf sprints – her only loss on turf came at 1 mile when second to La Coronel – and was looking for her fourth stakes win.

In an emotional triumph, Morticia took care of business again Monday winning the Coronation Cup.

“She is tough. Fast and tough,” Arnold said as he walked down the steps to the winner’s circle.

Lezcano let Morticia use her speed from post No. 8, stalking just outside of pacesetter No More Babies through the first 3 furlongs. Morticia took the lead while still under a hold coming around the turn, at which point Arnold jumped out of his seat for a better view. Morticia separated herself from her competition at the top of the stretch and stayed strong through the lane to hold off late runs by second-place finisher Epping Forest and third Hidden Mystery. Morticia crossed the line three-quarters of a length in front, which Arnold could see clearly as he celebrated with a fist-pump.

“She seems to have a lot of class and she likes what she’s doing,” Arnold said. “I was really worried about running her back this quick but she just did so well when I got up here.”

Sixteen days earlier, Morticia won the Stormy Blues Stakes at Laurel Park. She was an impressive winner that day, too, but there was no celebrating.

“We shipped her to Laurel, he was on a van with her,” Rusty Arnold said of his longtime employee and groom Armando Cortes, who accompanied Morticia from Kentucky to Maryland. “She got there about 4:00 in the morning Friday. We shipped through the night, it was really hot. They got off, he took care of her that morning. He came back and fed her. Horacio DePaz – we were in his barn – and his assistant said everything was fine.

“They called his brother, who is my assistant, at midnight and said that he had passed away,” Arnold said while overcome with emotion on his walk back through the clubhouse. “He was at dinner with his friends and then he got to feeling ill, they got him in the ambulance and got him to the hospital. We still don’t have the autopsy results back. He was only 39 years old.”

With Cortes noticeably on their minds, the team behind Morticia watched the replay from the winner’s circle after the Coronation Cup.

“See how much horse he had around the turn, he still hadn’t asked her,” Sarah Arnold said. “He only gave her one little smack and that was it.”

Lezcano rode Morticia for the fifth straight start Monday.

“It feels good to get on fast horses, it’s what every jockey wants,” Lezcano said. “You just let her do whatever she’s going to do and she’ll be fine. In the lane, she took off and went on to win the race. She did everything right that’s you want a horse do when you’re riding.”

Morticia is a product of a relationship that started in 1990 as she was bred by Humphrey and Arnold. Sired by Twirling Candy, she is out of the Humphrey homebred Mr. Greeley mare Halloween Party, who in turn is out of the mare Costume Party, who Humphrey bought as a weanling for $900,000.

“My Mom and I owned Halloween Party together,” Humphrey said. “When she passed away, I asked Rusty if he wanted to buy a couple fillies. So, he bought half of Halloween Party.”

Ben Gowans