FLORENCE, KY . . . March 3, 2007 . . . Half the field was in contention heading into the stretch of the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park Saturday, but at the wire the winning ride belonged to Willie Martinez on Catman Running.
Breaking from post 8 in the 11-horse field, Martinez moved Catman Running four wide down the backstretch to find a comfortable spot in fourth. Third entering the final turn, the colt commenced a steady run outside that earned him the lead coming into the stretch and a 1 3/4 length victory.
"He's been kind of a 6-foot-tall 12-year-old, so to speak," said winning trainer Eric Reed. "Each time we run him he gets a little better. For instance, the gate used to be a problem—he's thrown his rider twice—but today he was a gentleman. I told Willie if he wanted to run early not to take his race away, and he rode a great race. The horse was full of run and I didn't want to take that out of him."
Joe Got Even finished second as the 6-5 favorite. With Miguel Mena up, Joe Got Even raced easily along the rail in fifth through much of the 1 1/16 mile race, but traffic in mid-stretch foiled his closing run. Mena aimed for a hole to the inside of Catman Running, steadied his mount when the hole closed, and then split horses to the outside. Cobrador, the horse to the outside of that hole, finished another length back in third.
Completing the order of finish were Approval Rating, Legacy Reserve, Tanyard Hill, Rutledge Cat, Eighteenthofmarch, Digger, Bubber, and Dicey.
After following easy opening fractions of :24.88 and :49.91, Catman Running finished the 1 1/16-mile Battaglia in 1:45.42. He paid $11.20, $4.80, and $3.80 as the 9-2 third choice. By Tactical Cat out of Nurse Dopey, Catman Running is owned by Joe Harris.
Reed said he next wants to run Catman Running in the Lane's End Stakes on March 24 at Turfway. The Battaglia Memorial is the last prep race for the Lane's End, itself a prep race for the Kentucky Derby.
The John Battaglia Memorial Stakes honors the former general manager of Turfway Park who first had the vision for the race now known as the Lane's End Stakes. The winner's trophy was presented by his son Mike Battaglia, Turfway's longtime oddsmaker and track announcer.