Departing takes home Firecracker Handicap

Jun 28, 2015 - 2:47 AM Louisville, KY ( - Departing, making his second straight grass start, found room along the inside to capture Saturday's $200,000 Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Trained by Al Stall Jr. and ridden by Miguel Mena, Departing stalked the leaders in the mile turf stakes. The 5-year-old gelding, owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, gained ground into contention on the final turn and surged along the hedge.

Sent off at 4-1, Departing drove to the wire and posted a half-length win over 11-1 longshot Knights Nation with 8-5 favorite Sky Flight third in the eight- horse field.

Rounding out the order of finish were Slip By, Skyring, R. Great Adventure, Medal Count and Frac Daddy. Hammers Terror was an early scratch.

The time for the Firecracker was 1:38.16 on a good turf course.

Departing registered his first win since an optional claiming event at Churchill on April 30 of last year. The Firecracker victory was worth $120,000 to bring the 5-year-old's lifetime bankroll to $1,720,279 with eight wins from 17 starts.

Stall, who also started Medal Count, initially wasn't going to have any runners in the stakes.

"I drove through the stable gate for work (Wednesday) morning and wasn't planning on putting any horse in the Firecracker and the next thing you know I've got two in there," the trainer said.

Departing was third in the Opening Verse Stakes on grass in his first start of the year four weeks ago.

"(The Opening Verse) wasn't a bad race, it wasn't a great race. It was okay; he handled the course properly which is more important than anything else," Stall noted.

Departing returned $10.40, $6.20 and $3.80. Knights Nation paid $8.00 and $3.60, and Sky Flight paid $2.40 to show.

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