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Encino Steps Up to Win John Battaglia on Way to Derby

The Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) could be next, but Cox hasn't ruled out a start on dirt.

Encino wins the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park

Encino wins the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park

Coady Photo

It was a coming out party for Godolphin's Encino as he streaked to the wire on top in his stakes debut while earning 20 Kentucky Derby (G1) qualifying points in the 1 1/16-mile $142,500 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park March 2.

Breaking from the next-to-outside gate in a field of 11, jockey Axel Concepcion was able to drop in behind the front-runners and get a perfect stalking trip, allowing him to accomplish Brad Cox's goal of keeping Encino focused.

"He's fairly nonchalant and distractible," said Cox's assistant Tessa Walden. "Getting that stalking trip was something that we thought would help him stay focused."

Stay focused he did as he sat directly behind the favored Epic Ride through Bolt At Midnight's fractions of :23.84, :48.31, and 1:12.98.

As Epic Ride made his move going into the far turn, Encino followed. The two rallied toward the front with Epic Ride taking over as they turned for home. Encino, ever hot on his tail, drew alongside at the sixteenth pole and powered past to win by a length in 1:44.22.

The Battaglia awarded Kentucky Derby points on a 20-10-6-4-2 scale to the top five finishers. Epic Ride finished second, with Blue Eyed George, Mugatu, and Ode to Balius finishing third through fifth, respectively.

Raced exclusively at Turfway, Encino has a record of 2-1-0 from three starts for earnings of $141,971. The March 23 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway is on the table, but Walden said Cox has not ruled out giving him a shot on dirt before the Derby.

Video: John Battaglia Memorial S. (BT)