After heavy favorite Paddy O'Prado (1-2) made a striking three-wide move turning into the stretch and ran down a pair of front-runners to take the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park, trainer Dale Romans had to admit he'd become a convert.
"Today convinced me," Romans said, shaking his head. "Kitten's Joy was the best horse I ever had. I think this horse just equaled him."
That's some high praise, considering Kitten's Joy won 9 of 14 career starts and over $2 million in purses. He also won the 2004 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington en route to becoming that year's Eclipse Award winner as Champion Male Turf Horse and was one of three finalists for 2004 Horse of the Year.
But it wasn't just Romans who was thinking big after Paddy O' Prado's first Grade I victory.
"I think he's by far the best 3-year-old, and I don't mean just on turf," said jockey Kent Desormeaux, whose left-handed urging down the stretch earned him his third Secretariat victory and second in a row. "I think he should have won the Kentucky Derby, but I got shut off at the quarter pole."
No such problem Saturday, as Desormeaux kept the 3-year-old just behind front-runners Cherokee Lord and Workin for Hops, then motored on past the pair down the stretch for Paddy O' Prado's third straight victory.
"Turning for home, the guys in front of me really cut for the wire," Desormeaux said, "but he was faster than them."
Wigmore Hall (3-1) rallied for a hard-charging, second-place finish.
"No excuses - the best horse won," said Wigmore Hall's jockey Jamie Spencer.
Workin for Hops (4-1) finished third.