Shirl’s Speight Nails Masen In Last Jump Of Maker’s Mark Mile – Horse Racing News

Owner-breeder Charles Fipke leads Shirl’s Speight to the winner’s circle following the Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland

Emerging onto the scene in the final sixteenth of a mile under jockey Luis Saez, Charles Fipke’s homebred Shirl’s Speight put his head down at just the right time to beat 9-5 favorite Masen by a nose in Friday’s Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes at Keeneland racecourse in Lexington, Ky.

Trained by Hall of Famer Roger Attfield, Shirl’s Speight – a lightly raced 5-year-old by Speightstown out of Fipke homebred Perfect Shirl (winner of the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in 2011) – covered one mile on good turf in 1:35.93 and paid $20.

Great Britain-bred Masen, making his North American debut for owner-breeder Juddmonte Farms and trainer Chad Brown, took the lead under Flavien Prat in midstretch from pacesetter Smooth Like Strait and got beat in the last jump. Smooth Like Strait, a Cannon Thoroughbreds homebred trained by Michael McCarthy and ridden by Umberto Rispoli, finished a neck back in third after leading throughout. They were followed by Atone, Mira Mission, Count Again, Set Piece and In Love.

Ivar, Somelikeithotbrown and Public Sector were scratched.

This was Attfield’s third victory in the spring meet’s premier turf race for older males, following another Fipke homebred, Perfect Soul (damsire of Shirl’s Speight), in 2004 and Shudanz in 1992 when the race was known as the Fort Harrod.

Smooth Like Strait, making his first start since finishing a close second to Space Blues in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile last November, set comfortable fractions of :24.95 and :49.63 for the opening half mile. Masen sat in second, about a length behind the leader, while Saez took a hold of Shirl’s Speight, keeping him well off the early lead while seventh of the eight runners.

Rounding the far turn, Prat – aboard Masen – turned up the heat on the front-runner as they passed the six-furlong marker in 1:13.38. Saez began riding Shirl’s Speight in earnest going into the far turn, but still looked like he had too much to do when he swung his mount widest of all into the stretch and had just one horse beat at the eighth pole

Up front, Masen wrested command from Smooth Like Strait at the eighth pole (after seven furlongs in 1:24.44), but Shirl’s Speight was flying down the outside to get the win by the narrowest of margins.

This was only the ninth career start for Shirl’s Speight, who debuted with a maiden win at Woodbine in July of his 3-year-old season and followed that up with a victory in the G3 Marine Stakes. He was winless last year in two starts at four, getting a lengthy vacation from January until December, but has been perfect in three starts in 2022, winning an allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs in January, then taking the G3 Tampa Bay Stakes on Feb . 5.

“He sort of lost his way there after winning his first two starts,” Attfield said. “He’s a very quick horse, and he won those races all on the lead, easily; he didn’t really gain any experience out of it. And then he had suspensory (ligament) problems and we put him away for a while – quite a while – and I appreciate Mr. Fipke giving him that amount of time. They need it when they have that kind of injury.”

Attfield said he learned from the Tampa Bay Stakes that Shirl’s Speight may do his best running being held up early and making one big run. “He was shut off and came with one big run, and I realized that’s probably the way this horse really wants to run,” Attfield said.

That strategy worked to perfection in the Maker’s Mark Mile.

“I was watching the replays and Roger called me,” Saez said. “He said the best way is to come from behind, so I decided to take him back right when we broke. It looked like that was the best decision to make. In the end, he was coming. He ran pretty hard and got there in time. … He really took off when he came to the top of the stretch. Those horses on the lead were running pretty hard, but he came right there at the right moment. So it was great.”

Brown was trying to win back-to-back Maker’s Mark Miles, having scored his first success in the race in 2021 with Raging Bull.

“I am disappointed. Such a tough way to lose by an inch,” Brown said. “He ran great off the layoff. Hats off to the winner. It was a very slow pace for him to close from that far back. The winner ran quite a race.”

Photo finish of the Maker’s Mark, with Shirl’s Speight nosing out Masen

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