WinStar Farm's General Election overcame a wide trip to prove best in Saturday's $75,000 John Battaglia Memorial, notching his first stakes tally with a half-length decision in the 1 1/16-mile test at Turfway Park. The Kellyn Gorder-trained colt earned a berth in the track's centerpiece event, the Grade 2 Spiral Stakes on March 23, where he will have the opportunity to garner points toward a possible Kentucky Derby bid.
A debut maiden winner at Churchill Downs in late November, General Election was overlooked at 13-1 among 11 rivals following a sixth in a Fair Grounds allowance/optional claiming event on February 1. That performance looked an aberration on Saturday as the son of Harlan's Holiday displayed plenty of grit to prevail.
With jockey Albin Jimenez, General Election dropped well off the early pace, 10 lengths back after an opening quarter-mile in :23 3/5 as Mellow Fellow showed the way on the front end. The pacesetter completed a half-mile in :47 4/5, but he surrendered the advantage on the far turn to Giant Finish, who stuck a head in front through six furlongs in 1:12 4/5.
General Election traveled wide early and remained well off the rail down the backstretch. The bay began passing rivals on the far turn and carried his momentum into the stretch despite being fanned at least eight wide, accelerating to the front with a furlong remaining. He wasn't home free yet as Giant Finish battled back into contention late, but General Election stubbornly refused to yield to his re-rallying rival. He stopped the teletimer in 1:46 on the Polytrack.
"He really hadn't run well on the dirt at Fair Grounds," Gorder said. "He won his first race on dirt, so we thought he just didn't get hold of the racetrack at Fair Grounds. I told Albin to lay midpack and make a nice run. We knew there was plenty of speed in the race, so it set up good for us. I thought this race came up tough."
The winner paid $28, $12.40 and $8. Giant Finish, a New York-bred who was making his first start against open rivals for trainer Tony Dutrow, held second at 10-1 by about a length over the rallying For Greater Glory at 8-1. It was another 2 3/4 lengths back to the 54-1 Takin the Sloroad in fourth. Stormin Monarcho, Let's Run, 2-1 favorite Bye Bye Bernie, Silver Tongued, Mellow Fellow, Avare and Admiral Kitten rounded out the order of finish. Star Contender was scratched.
Bred in Kentucky by Meg & Mike Buckley, General Election initially sold for $70,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September sale before being purchased by his current owners for $150,000 at the OBS March two-year-old sale. He is out of Kingmambo mare Menekineko, who is also the dam of Ready's Echo, the runner-up in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and third-placer in the 2008 Belmont Stakes.
With Saturday's $43,710 payday, General Election has now earned $81,910 from a 4-2-1-0 record.