All manner of amazing things were taking place during the stretch run of the $150,000 Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes at Keeneland on Friday.
The only problem was, unless you were a jockey on the back of one of the 10 fillies and mares in the Grade 3 race, it was nearly impossible to see what was happening.
A Kentucky autumn downpour arrived just in time for Friday’s ninth of 10 races, and things got wet and wild.
Ambassador Luna, a 62-1 long shot, led the field coming off the turn for home and maintained control midway through the homestretch. At that point, Change of Control, the 6-1 third choice on the morning line, picked up her pace, sprinting past the two contenders stalking the long shot and ultimately reeling in, then passing Ambassador Luna herself a sixteenth of a mile from the finish.
Change of Control, trained by Michelle Lovell and ridden by Colby Hernandez, wound up with a 1 ½-length victory and paid $14.60 to win. Ambassador Luna held on for second, returning $42.40 to place. The favorite, Campanelle got up for third with a late surge.
“I knew we weren’t going to be able to see much (in the driving rain), and we were laughing about what the horses thought about being out in this kind of rain — whether it was fun or not, because it wasn’t for us,” Lovell said. “But that was a lot of fun. I couldn’t see anything. It’s a good thing you had the numbers up on the board.”
Change of Control covered the 5 ½ furlongs on the turf in 1:05.89, a rain-soaked slog more than five seconds off the track record for that distance.
Hernandez said the rainstorm made for challenging driving conditions.
“It was a little tough,” the winning jockey said. “When we broke out of the gate I looked over and she was a little in front, but you couldn’t see that good out there. But she broke very sharp, I was able to get in a good position and then sit and wait, and when I called on her she finished up strong.”
Change of Control, a 5-year-old owned by Perry Harrison who finished fourth in last year’s Franklin County Stakes, chalked up her eighth victory from 30 career starts — three of those wins coming in 2021.
“She’s been so classy and so talented, and she just gives so much every single time we put her in the gate, so I love her very much. She’s been awesome,” Lovell said.
The trainer said the Breeders’ Cup next month in California is not in the cards for Change of Control despite Friday’s win.
“We’ve thought that track (Del Mar) probably wouldn’t play well for her, so we’re happy to be here and we’ll find another spot.”
Campanelle, the beaten favorite, will also have to fight another day after a tough break Friday.
“She got smashed leaving the gate and got shuffled back and came running (at the end),” trainer Wesley Ward said.
Did the tough start cost her the race?
“That is what the jock (Joel Rosario) said.”