FRANKLIN, Ky. (Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022) — Kelsey Danner pushed the door open earlier in the meet at Kentucky Downs.
On Tuesday, the 36-year-old trainer kicked it in.
Danner, a native of Louisville, got to the Kentucky Downs winner’s circle twice in allowance races on Sept. 8. That was pretty sweet, but things got even better on Tuesday when Danse Macabre gave Danner her first Kentucky Downs stakes win.
It came in the third running of the $500,000 Ainsworth Untapable Stakes for 2-year-old fillies going 6 1/2 furlongs. Ridden by Adam Beschizza, Danse Macabre held on to nip even-money favorite Alluring Angel (GB) by a nose. Danse Macabre went off as the 9-5 second choice.
“This was exciting,” a surprisingly composed Danner said after the pictures were taken in the winner’s circle in the paddock. “I am always pretty stoic … not quite Mike Maker level!”
Danner remembers coming to Kentucky Downs when she was a kid when her father, Mark, was training. Yes, Danner said, she did think about one day winning a big race at this meet.
“I hoped I would be in the winner’s circle,” she said with a smile, “although the purses weren’t like they are now back then.”
Danse Macabre, who is owned by John Ballantyne’s NBS Stable and Stephen Smith’s Elements Racing, improved to two wins in four career starts. She was second in the other two.
The Untapable Stakes was the first time that Danse Macabre had gone beyond 5 1/2 furlongs.
“I thought she would run her race,” Danner said. “The 6 1/2 here is like seven-eighths; the last eighth was a bit of an unknown, but she has just been doing really well.”
It was in the final furlong that Danse Macabre, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Army Mule, put her trainer’s worries at ease. It was there that Beschizza and Danse Macabre got in front of pacesetter Numero Seis and her jockey, Brian Hernandez Jr. They had set the early pace, running the first quarter in 22.45 seconds and the half in 46.88. Once Danse Macabre put her away, it was the expected challenge from Alluring Angel and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
They were coming — and fast. Alluring Angel dug in and put a challenge into Danse Macabre from the outside, but the favorite could not get by.
“Kelsey has done a good job with her,” said Beschizza, who rode Danse Macabre in her debut and was reunited with her on Tuesday. “I’m sure Kelsey was hoping for a big run.”
“I thought she would run her race,” Danner said.
Alluring Angel, trained by Jorge Abreu, came into this after rallying to break her maiden at Saratoga on Aug 4. The daughter of Fastnet Rock did not break sharply on Tuesday but came running at the end and nearly got there.
“I didn’t break that well and I think that cost me some position,” Ortiz said. “I just got beat. It was hard to come from off the pace today.”
Danse Macabre finished second in her last race, the $150,000 Bolton Landing at Saratoga Race Course on Aug 21. She got beat by 2 1/2 lengths by the Wesley Ward-trained Love Reigns.
“Wesley’s filly is going to be strong in the Breeders’ Cup this year, she is a top filly,” Danner said. “To finish second to her was big.”
Danner had also thought about skipping Kentucky Downs and waiting for the G3, $150,000 Matron at six furlongs at Aqueduct on Oct. 8.
“This race worked out better, timing-wise,” she said. “She was doing well, so why not take our chances?”
Danse Macabre ran the distance in a time of 1:16.62 and paid $5.60 to win. After the top pair, Numero Seis finished third and was followed home by Tiki Bar, Recinto Rompere and All the Envy. Two horses – Bling and Half a Chance – were scratched.
— Tim Wilkin