By Dick Downey
Connections quotes by Jennie Rees
Photo by Reed Palmer Photography
Insta Erma, under a patient ride by Drayden Van Dyke, won Saturday's Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf Stakes from off the pace.
The winner is trained by Richard Baltas, who teamed with Van Dyke to win the Old Friends Stakes at the track on Thursday with Next Shares. Both the trainer and jockey are based in California, as is Insta Erma. It was the first time Baltas has won stakes races in back-to-back starts.
The Ladies Turf was the 19th career start for the 5-year-old mare, who won for the fifth time in her career. She came into Kentucky Downs off a four-month layoff following a last-pace finish in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day.
Sent off at 6-1 odds in the eight-horse field, Insta Erma rewarded supporters with payoffs on $2 tickets of $15.40 to win, $8.00 to place and $5.40 to show.
The Ladies Turf was worth $474,780, of which the winner's share of $300,700 goes to owners Medallion Racing, Premier Racing Club, Jerry McClanahan and Christophe Johnson. With today's victory, Insta Erma has banked $569,897 in her career.
Inst Erma has been knocking on the door for a long time. She had lost three previous starts this year and took only one of six starts last year, but among all those starts she finished second three times and third twice.
I'm Betty G, the 5-2 favorite, took an uncontested early lead and ran through hand-timed moderate fractions of 25.60 for the first quarter-mile and 48.60 for the half. She led out of the turn and stayed there until faltering in upper stretch, passed first by Valadorna and then by a wide-running Insta Erma. Those two battled to the wire where they were separated by a neck. The final time was 1:36.26.
Pas de Soucis (IRE), who was last after the first half-mile of the race, rallied to finish third, beaten 2 1/4 lengths. She was followed across the finish line by Storm the Hill, I'm Betty G, In the Lee, Dubara (GB) and Bonnie Arch. Hallie Belle and Oh So Terrible were scratched.
Zayat Stables bred Insta Erma in Kentucky. She's by Pioneerof the Nile and is out of the Woodman mare Enchanted Woods.
Winning trainer Richard Baltas: “The horses came in early, they went to the training center (at Keeneland) for a couple of days because this place wasn’t open. We shipped in, got a couple of gallops over the track. Aime Dollase did a great job, she was here the whole time. Everything looked really good when we got here. The horses were happy. I never won two in a row like this, in stakes. It’s pretty good.
“The owners are pretty happy right now. We’re just very grateful. She was actually coming off a layoff, so we gave her some time after the Santa Anita meet. She was a little sore, just body sore and needed a little break. I got her back at the beginning of Del Mar, so I got like four or five works on the grass at Del Mar. We were looking for a race, and the guys said let’s send her here. They found the spot. We were thinking the Sprint or here. We thought this would probably be better, the mile. It was an owner-trainer decision and just worked out.”
Jockey Drayden Van Dyke: “I’m riding good horses, that’s key. My agent is doing a fabulous job getting me on nice horses, and I’m capitalizing on it. I was being patient with her. it’s a long stretch. I felt I had a lot of horse underneath me and I was waiting for the right time, thought that was the key to asking.”
David Carroll, assistant to trainer Mark Casse, on runner-up Valadorna (making her turf debut): “She had trained beautifully. Mark took her up to Saratoga to breeze her on the turf and she breezed beautifully. So it gave us a lot of confidence. Obviously until you do it, you don’t know for sure. Florent gave her a great ride and it was just a shame to get beat. Congratulations to the winner. We’re very, very proud of her.”
Florent Geroux: “She ran great, just got run down the last half-furlong. She won a winning race, and just got beat.”