A Look Back: Virginia-Bred Christmas Kid Thrives In Cold At Keeneland

The following appeared in Bloodhorse.com and takes a look back 10 years ago at a Virginia-bred named Christmas Kid.

Look Back: Christmas Kid Thrives in Cold at Keeneland
Christmas Kid won the 2007 Ashland Stakes.
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Christmas Kid is shown after winning the Ashland Stakes in 2007.

On a weekend when temperatures more resembled Christmas in New York rather than Easter in Central Kentucky, and wool coats replaced fancy spring frocks, a Virginia-bred filly named Christmas Kid found an extra gear down the stretch to win the $500,000 Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland April 7.

Christmas Kid finished the 1 1/16 miles over Polytrack in 1:42.90, with Octave a short head back in second. Dawn After Dawn was three-quarters of a length back in third.

In conjunction with Tom Hall’s Throwback Thursday feature in BloodHorse Daily, BloodHorse.com each Thursday will present corresponding race stories from the pages of the magazine. This week’s Look Back offers a recap of the April 7, 2007 Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland, won by Christmas Kid. The story, headlined “Winter Wonderland,” was written by Leslie Deckard. It ran in the April 14, 2007 issue of The Blood-Horse.

“She kicked in down the stretch unbelievably,” said winning jockey Rene Douglas. “I know Todd Pletcher’s filly (3-5 favorite Octave), and she’s a nice filly. She was coming but my horse had plenty left. I was happy with the way she ran today.”

The way Christmas Kid fought back when challenged down the lane could lend itself to a possible start in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 4 at Churchill Downs even though owner/breeder Edward P. Evans did not commit to a next start. “That (the Oaks) is a question mark,” he said. “That is something I will talk about with (trainer) Jimmy Jerkens. I have to look at the replay and see what happened.”

Assistant trainer Steve Moyer saddled Christmas Kid in the absence of Jerkens, who was at Aqueduct Racetrack to saddle Corinthian in the Excelsior Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G3), where he finished fifth after leaping in the air at the start. Moyer was more excited about a chance to run for the Oaks’ lilies after hitting the winner’s circle trifecta with a filly who has won stakes on the dirt, turf, and Polytrack.
“This filly doesn’t have a whole lot left to prove,” Moyer said. “She’s amazing. She’s a grade 1 winner on Polytrack, a stakes winner on turf, and a graded stakes winner on dirt. What more could you ask for, honestly?”

A daughter of Lemon Drop Kid out of the grade 3-winning Green Desert mare Christmas Gift, Christmas Kid won the grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes on the main track at Gulfstream Park in February, and before the Ashland finished second to Ashland fourth-place finisher High Again in the Bonnie Miss Stakes (G2) in March. Christmas Kid began the year by winning the Tropical Park Oaks on the Calder turf in January.

Christmas Kid earned $310,000 for Evans while becoming his first Ashland winner and increased her career earnings to $526,587 with four lifetime wins in seven tries. The winner paid $21 as the fifth choice in the eight-horse field.

If Christmas Kid races next at Churchill Downs on the first Friday in May, she could become the first Oaks winner for her owner, who is known for racing top-class fillies, counting homebred grade 1 winner Summer Colony and Raging Fever among the elite runners to wear Evans’ yellow silks with black diamonds. Both Summer Colony and Raging Fever have been retired to his Spring Hill Farm, where they are members of Evans’ broodmare band.

Asked to compare Christmas Kid with his other top runners, Evans referred to the pedigrees, saying his Ashland winner has “a very fancy pedigree. Her mother was a very good runner on the turf. She comes from a long line of female stakes winners and producers. The others all have nice pedigrees too.”

Christmas Kid’s fourth dam, Calumet Farm-bred Plum Cake, was the granddam of grade 1 winner Alydar; Sugar and Spice, who won the 1980 Ashland Stakes; and champion Our Mims, who finished third in the 1977 Ashland before taking second in that year’s Kentucky Oaks.

In freezing temperatures that hovered around 30 degrees most of the afternoon and limited the on-track crowd to 12,937, Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) winner Mistical Plan and Elitist dueled for the early lead before Mistical Plan edged clear down the backstretch in the Ashland. Leaving the far turn, as the field began to bunch up, Douglas guided his mount through an opening and she responded, outrunning a powerful Octave down the stretch.

After High Again, the order of finish was Mistical Plan, Grace Happens, Silver Knockers, and Elitist. Hucking Hot was a late scratch after she threw jockey Rafael Bejarano in the post parade, dodged the starting gate by edging against the inside rail, and ran off down the stretch before being caught by the outriders. The California invader was 5-1 at the time. Bejarano, who was not injured in the spill, said the filly was excited in the post parade.

Christmas Kid, on the other hand, acted well in her training and on race day. “She (Christmas Kid) was dragging Douglas, and she sort of trained like that all week; good and confident,” Moyer said. “I said, ‘Boy, she’s going to run a big race.”

“I rode her with so much patience,” Douglas said. “I was a little concerned about being on the rail since it had been slow all day, but she fired really good. Everything went perfectly.”

The Pletcher-trained Octave got bumped from both sides at the start and fell way back early in the race but responded to a rally by jockey Garrett Gomez. She just missed catching Christmas Kid in the final jumps.Pletcher watched the Ashland via simulcast from Aqueduct, where he saddled Magna Graduate to win the Escelsior Breeders’ Cup and Any Given Saturday to finish third in the Wood Memorial (G1).

“She ran very well today,” Pletcher said of Octave, adding that she would remain at Keeneland until the Oaks. “I was frustrated that she went so wide into the turn but hopefully she will spring forward going into the Oaks.”