Kentucky Downs Press Release (Jennie Rees & Dick Downey)

(Photo: Proforma, #2 with Joe Bravo aboard, nips favored White Flag to win the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint. Grace Clark/Reed Palmer Photography)

In the fourth of five stakes races worth $2.7 million on Saturday’s card, Proforma pulled the upset in the $500,000, Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint Stakes Presented by Coca-Cola.

Bet down to 7-1 off a 20-1 morning line, Proforma got by 5-2 favorite White Flag late in the stretch to get the win by a head. Never far back, Proforma was 1 3/4 lengths back of a quick 46.16-second half-mile pace set by the dueling Done Deal and Little Chesney. Hugging the rail into the stretch, Proforma was set down for the drive in Kentucky Downs’ long stretch by Joe Bravo. At the furlong marker, he was only a length back before prevailing in the photo finish.

“It unfolded really good to the eighth pole,” Bravo said. “You think, ‘Great, we’re going to break loose from everybody and explode.’ And you look over and see them running, and we really didn’t know who won the photo. All I can say that both horses laid it on the line.”

Proforma rallied to be a good third in a Monmouth Park stakes in his last start, but Bravo said, “You watch his last race, he was the only horse in the race that was really closing. It was a speed-biased track, and he overcome a lot intuit race. I was expecting a good one today.”

Finishing a half-length back in third was Vici, who won here last Saturday, followed by Undrafted, Blind Ambition, Done Deal, Conquest Panthera and Little Chesney.

Jockey Joel Rosario said of White Flag: “He ran well. I thought turning for home I got ’em. And that horse just kept fighting. It was pretty close. I couldn’t really tell because of the angles here, but he ran well.”

Proforma, trained by Mike Stidham, was timed of 1:15.72. It was the third time on the card that a track record was set for 6 1/2 furlongs. Ruby Notion ran the distance in 1:15.80 one race earlier in the Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint, and in the third race, an allowance, Linburgh’s Kitten broke a four-year-old record held by Richies Party Girl by getting the distance in 1:16.11

“He does everything right, loves his job and cool around the barn,” Stidham said. “Real professional.”

Proforma, racing mainly around the Mid-Atlantic was stabled with Stidham’s Maryland-based Fair Hill operation, won his graded-stakes debut. Ahead are possible spots in Keeneland’s Grade 3 Shakertown and/or the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs.

“Off of that, it’s certainly something we’ll be looking at,” Stidham said. “This was a bit of a breakthrough for him. So we haven’t been thinking along those lines, but off of this race, we certainly have to consider it. The 6 1/2 (furlongs) was the key and a good ride by Joe. The horse we kind of freshened him for this race, it was six weeks in between. He was training good at Fair Hill and everything came together.”

With the win, Proforma’s record is 4-0-4 from 10 starts with earnings of $442,990. About two-thirds of her earnings came from the $300,700 she took home today for owner DARRS, Inc., which also won the second race on the card with Taxman. The Turf Sprint is the first graded win for Proforma. DARRS is headed by David Ross, a northern Virginia-based real estate agent.

The win rewarded $2 backers of Proforma with payoffs of $17.60 to win, $8.40 to place and $5.40 to show.

A gelded son of Munnings, Proforma is out of the Salt Lake mare Caseys Irish Pride. He was bred in Kentucky by Reggie Beeson and Tim Beeson.