Encino Comes Through in Battaglia Memorial

Encino’s one-length victory over favorite Epic Ride in the $150,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes on Saturday night gave trainer Brad Cox a nice finish to a long day of Kentucky Derby (G1) prep races.

The two-time Eclipse Award winner went 0-for-4 in the $300,000 Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct earlier, with favorite Just a Touch second, Lightline seventh, Bergen eighth, and Air Cav last of 11.

He didn’t have a horse entered in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park, the other Derby points qualifier on the day.

Encino threw his hat into the Kentucky Derby ring with his Battaglia win

In two Kentucky Oaks (G1) preps, he was second in the Busher Stakes at the Big A with Gin Gin and third in Friday’s Cincinnati Trophy Stakes at Turfway Park with Barbratina.

For Cox, though, all is well. Encino, ridden by Axel Concepcion, earned 20 Derby qualifying points, moving him into Derby consideration. The son of Nyquist gives Cox yet another Derby contender to go along with Timberlake (66 points), Catching Freedom (25), and Just a Touch, who picked up 25 Derby points.

Encino ($13.38 for a $2 win bet) outkicked Epic Ride in the final strides for his second win in three starts

Winning time for the 1 1/16 miles over the all-weather track was 1:44.22.

Epic Ride’s Impressive Victory

“After I broke pretty well from the gate, I was able to get over and begin to follow Epic Ride,” Concepcion said. “He relaxed very well down the backside and around the far turn I was able to ask him for his best run. I had a lot of horse still left down the lane and he continued to run hard all the way to the wire.”

Tessa Walden, the local assistant to Cox, said: “It was a big step up going to a race like this and we didn’t know how he’d handle it versus an allowance race. He handled everything very well and we’re very happy with how professional he was in just his third start.”

Epic Ride earned 10 Derby points, Blue Eyed George was third for 6 points, Mugatu was fourth for 4 points, and Ode to Ballus was fifth for 2 points. Mugatu and Ode to Ballus are not yet nominated to the Triple Crown races.


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