‘Quirky’ Theodora B. Wires Kentucky Downs’ TVG Stakes For Dickinson

Augustin Stable’s homebred Ghostzapper mare Theodora B. held off a late charge by favored Mrs. Sippy to win the $500,000 TVG Stakes at Kentucky Downs in Franklin, Ky., for fillies and mares by three-quarters of length while never seriously threatened by the closing favorite Mrs. Sippy over a course rated good.

“She’s a really incredible filly, a little on the quirky side,” said Fenella O’Flynn, who serves as an assistant trainer, van driver and whatever needs done for Maryland-based trainer Michael Dickinson. “But she’s a really, really nice filly. She trained lovely here the last couple of days. We had to stay the extra couple of days of course, but it was better for her. We traveled here and we’ll travel again tomorrow to Tapeta Farm.”

Guided by Irad Ortiz, Jr. while well off the rail, 3-1 second betting choice Theodora B. set the pace with slow fractions of 26.23 seconds for the first quarter-mile, 51.32 seconds for the half, and 1:15.85 for six furlongs. Mrs. Sippy, sent off as the 9-10 favorite under Joel Rosario, bided her time in fourth, fifth and then sixth of six starters while around four lengths back heading down the hill at the top of the backstretch.

Turning for home, Theodora B. had registered a mile in 1:39.78 and was still in front with Mrs. Sippy fifth by 2 1/2 lengths. Theodora B. dug in with gas still in the tank to hit the finish line first.

“She broke really good,” said Ortiz, the reigning Eclipse Award jockey who pulled within two wins of Tyler Gaffalione’s meet-leading eight for the riding title with only Wednesday’s card remaining. “She broke in front. I didn’t want to fight with her too much. She relaxed going up the hill, going down the hill, waiting for me. When I called, she was there.”

Reached by phone, Dickinson said he was looking at three stakes for Theodora B. but opted for Kentucky Downs because of the 1 5/16-mile distance. In her last start, the 5-year-old mare led all the way to take Woodbine’s Grade 2 Dance Smartly. She could return to Woodbine for the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor, for which this stakes has produced three winners.

Theodora B. now has six wins from 18 starts with five seconds and three thirds. With $306,900 in purse money she collected, her career earnings stand at $647,911.

Delta’s Kingdom, the longest-odds starter in the field at 15-1, was second until upper stretch and checked in third, another two lengths back. She was followed by English Affair, Siberian Iris and Over Thinking, who was unable to overcome a slow start. The winning time for 1 5/16 mile was 2:09.72 on a course rated good.

Theodora B. paid $8.20 to win, $3.20 to place and $2.80 to show. Mrs. Sippy returned $2.40 and $2.20, while Delta’s Kingdom’s $2 show tickets were worth $3.40.

Dickinson, who invented the Tapeta all-weather racing surface that is being installed at Turfway Park, was not at the track. The horseman whose reputation surged when called the Mad Genius by turf writer Bill Finley — and who became immortalized when Dickinson objected to being called a genius — is famous in racing circles for having a female associate walk the course in stiletto heels to check out the turf.

O’Flynn said she walked the course twice.

“The first time after the rain. It wasn’t so bad. I’m glad it stopped Sunday morning,” she said. “It had nearly two days to dry out. I walked it again yesterday it was better and today was perfect. The turns are just a little bit soft but we got over that.”

And no, she didn’t wear stilettos. “He (Dickinson) actually asked me if I had them with me,” she said. “I said I didn’t. He said he was going to overnight them to me. But I said I didn’t get them. But it was perfect, and she ran brilliant.”

Dickinson pointed out that Theodora B. was carrying four pounds more, 126-122, than her rivals.

“She was nervous as a young horse,” he said. “She lost a couple of races in the paddock in her younger days. So it’s taken her a bit of time to grow up.”

Asked if he was a great fit for a quirky horse, Dickinson paused and said, “Do I understand her? Well, does anybody really understand women and horses? Maybe there are some, but I’m not one of them.”

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