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Philip J. Messina's PEPPI KNOWS (Stephen Got Even) flattered the form of Remsen S. (G2) winner Buddy's Saint (Saint Liam) with a one-length victory in Saturday's $100,000 Whirlaway S. at Aqueduct, but the real story of the 8 1/2-furlong test was 1-5 favorite Eightyfiveinafifty (Forest Camp) blowing the first turn.
The scratch of Turf Melody (Maria's Mon) left Eightyfiveinafifty without a rival to his inside when the gates opened. Jockey Jorge Chavez appeared to be either hustling his mount to the front or trying to control him as he angled over toward the rail, but Eightyfiveinafifty was rank throughout the whole process and blew the turn, bolting toward the outside fence. The Gary Contessa-trained bay eventually hit the outer barrier and unseated Chavez.
Chavez was conscious and taken by ambulance to North Shore University Hospital for further evaluation. Eightyfiveinafifty suffered a cut on his hind leg, but was otherwise in good condition.
"The horse is OK," Contessa said "He has a two-inch cut on his right hind leg, and he'll need a couple of stitches, but he was walking sound. I'm completely mystified as to what happened. I don't know if it was the horse, the jockey, or an equipment malfunction. The bit was broken and the rein was shredded -- the equipment was in shambles -- but I don't know if that happened during the race or after he bolted. He's handled the turns fine in the mornings. I have no idea what happened."
While this was taking place, Papa's Nice Cat (One Nice Cat) was leading the field through the first half-mile, setting splits of :23 3/5 and :48 3/5. Peppi Knows and Richard Migliore was pressing the pace just to the outside of that rival and took over while passing the three-quarter mark in 1:14 3/5. Drawing off in the stretch, the gelding found his margin cut down by a rallying Afleet Again (Afleet Alex) but still held to win in a final time of 1:47 on the fast inner dirt.
"Everything went well, obviously what happened with (Eightyfiveinafifty), I don't know," said Timothy Kreiser, trainer of Peppi Knows. "It helped things, I guess, maybe it didn't. It would have been nice to see that horse run just to see what we had there. We can't do anything about that, he ran his race and we're really happy.
"The rider did everything perfect -- he didn't rush him, he just settled him down. With that horse out -- that's what all the talk was about -- so if he's out of it, you think you have a heck of a chance. We took advantage of it."
"It worked out real good for us," Migliore said. "We got to save ground when the other horse didn't make the turn. He's just a real nice handy little horse. He's not a whole lot to look at, but he has a big heart. Anytime he felt the presence of the other horse, he ran on a little more.
"I just hope Jorge's alright."
Sent off the 7-1 third choice in the five-horse field, Peppi Knows returned $17.40, $5.60 and $7.70 while keying the $161.50 exacta. Afleet Again, the 21-1 longest shot on the board, closed well to take second by a half-length over Three Day Rush (Harlan's Holiday), paying $8.40 and $9.80. Three Day Rush was carried out by Eightyfiveinafifty on the first turn, but managed to get for third as the 9-2 second pick, giving back $5.50. The 3-4-5 trifecta totaled $437, and it was another 21 3/4 lengths back to a tiring Papa's Nice Cat.
Bred in Kentucky by G. Watts Humphrey Jr., Peppi Knows was a bargain in the sales ring, bringing $23,000 as a Keeneland November weanling before selling for $6,500 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He captured his initial two starts at Penn National, and suffered his first loss while making his stakes bow a third-place finish in the Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile S. at Presque Isle Downs. The bay gelding posted a head score in the Finger Lakes Juvenile S. in late October, and completed his juvenile season with a 4 3/4-length second to Buddy's Saint in the Remsen. Making his three-year-old debut in this spot, Peppi Knows improved his career line to 6-4-1-1 and has now banked $178,400 in earnings.
Out of the winning Seeking the Gold mare Miracle Worker, Peppi Knows has a pair of unnamed younger half-siblings, a juvenile colt by Orientate and a Jump Start weanling filly. His second dam is Grade 2 queen Heart of Joy (Lypheor [GB]), who beat the boys in the 1992 San Simeon H. (G3) and ran second in the 1990 editions of the English (Eng-G1) and Irish (Ire-G1) One Thousand Guineas. Other notables in the family include Grade 2 victor Unbridled Energy (Unbridled's Song) as well as Grade 3 scorers Inexplicable (Miswaki) and Midnight Cry (Smart Strike).
Peppi Knows' fourth dam is black-type winner Arachne (Intentionally), who would go on in the breeding shed to produce Acaroid (Big Spruce), hero of the 1983 United Nations H. (G1) and Manhattan H. (G2).