California Angel (California Chrome) wins the Jessamine Stakes (G2) at Keeneland on 10.13.21. Rafael Bejarano up, George Leonard III trainer, Chris Walsh owner.
Winning Wednesday’s $200,000 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (G2) at Keeneland as a 17-1 longshot earned California Angel a fees-paid entry and travel expenses to the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) to be run on Nov. 5 at Del Mar, and she became trainer George Leonard III’s first graded stakes winner.
“She came back from the race in excellent shape; I couldn’t ask for better,” Leonard said about the daughter of California Chrome. “I haven’t made travel arrangements yet. I haven’t woken up from the dream.”
Leonard had little time to celebrate the milestone victory because he had to drive California Angel back to his Indiana Grand base about 2½ hours northwest of Lexington. He also had no time to entertain any offers from those interested in purchasing the filly, a Keeneland sale graduate as a weanling who sold to current owner Chris Walsh as a 2-year-old in training.
“I put her in her stall and stayed for an hour or two to make sure she was comfortable and then went home,” Leonard said. “I didn’t answer many calls after the race – only those from my immediate family. I wasn’t too talkative to a lot of people. I was just enjoying my time.”
Leonard, who is from Louisiana, sent out his first starter in 1991. He said Walsh is an Indiana resident who he has known “for quite a few years.”
“They are good people who I always talked to and watched their horses run (for other trainers),” he said. “They have other trainers, and I am fortunate to have them.”
California Angel won her career debut on grass at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 8 as a 28-1 longshot. Three weeks later, she was third in a Churchill Downs allowance race on dirt in her only other start.
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