By Tim Wilkin for Kentucky Downs
FRANKLIN, Ky. (Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023) — When the horses came out on the track for the $500,000 FanDuel Tapit Stakes at Kentucky Downs on Thursday, trainer Whit Beckman had to do a double take.
He knew his 5-year-old gelding Harlan Estate would not be one of the favorites in the field of 11. But he didn’t think the son of Kantharos would be the longest shot on the board, either.
That’s exactly what he saw as Harlan Estate was 37-1.
“That surprised me.” Beckman said. “We knew it was going to be a gamble, but I didn’t think the odds would be that big. He has had some good races the past three or four months.”
His horse then went out and showed the betting public had made a big mistake as he took control of the mile and 70 yard race at the eighth pole and then rolled home to a 1 ¾ length win.
Ridden by Declan Cannon, Harlan Estate won for the first time this year in his seventh start. The Tapit is for horses that had not won a stakes previously in 2023.
For Beckman, a former assistant to Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher and perennial New York champion Chad Brown, as well as a stint in Saudi Arabia, this was his first stakes win since he went out on his own on Sept 11, 2021.
“This is a huge day,” Beckman, who is from Louisville, said. “We brought a horse that was ready to run.”
Harlan Estate last raced in an allowance at Colonial Downs on Aug. 3 and finished fifth, beaten by 7 ¾ lengths. Three starts before this race, he finished third in the Grade 3 Arlington Stakes at Churchill. The horse that won that, Set Piece, would go on to win the Grade 1 Arlington Million at Colonial on Aug. 12.
After a sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 Wise Dan at Ellis Park on July 1, Hidden Estate was off until the Colonial allowance.
“We felt that was not a true test of his ability,” Beckman said. “We felt with Kentucky Downs being a different kind of setup, it was worth taking a shot down here.”
Harlan Estate was in mid-pack early on and began moving on the outside to upper stretch.
He was full of run when he came into the stretch, not looking anything like a horse wearing 37-1 odds.
“Once I tipped him out and got some daylight, he ran hard all the way to the line,” Cannon said. “I was never really in doubt from there.”
Harlan Estate has won five of 24 career starts. On grass, he has three wins in 12 tries. Beckman said he was not sure what would be next for the gelding.
English Bee, ridden by Tyler Gaffalione and trained by Graham Motion, finished second at 10-1 and were a head in front of Yes This Time, who was 8-1 for trainer Peter Miller and jockey Gerardo Corrales.
Gaffalione and jockey Jareth Loveberry, who was fifth with Speaking Scout for Motion, filed jockey objections. They were disallowed by the stewards.
“I didn’t see anything that was outside of normal race running,” Beckman said. “I have to watch it again. I really have no idea what happened.”
Cannon also said he was surprised at the claims.
“This track, you kind of turn and you turn again,” he said. “I stayed on my line. Horses can kind of look around a little bit. It’s just a different configuration for them. For a half million dollars, jocks aren’t going to just give it to you.”
The final time was 1:38.47. Harlan Estate paid $76.52, $33.20 and $16.60.
Strong Quality finished fourth. Portfolio Company, the 5-2 favorite, was sixth followed by Kitodan, Play Action Pass, Flavius, Tiberius Mercurius and Whisper Not.
Harlan Estate is owned by Mary Roberts and Adam Ainspan of Clifton, Va. This was their first trip to Kentucky Downs.
“It’s beautiful,” Ainspan said.”We both grew up just outside of Saratoga Springs, so we know what a beautiful racetrack looks like. This is certainly up there with the best of them.”