Water White edges out Kansas Kis in exciting renewal of $250K Busher Invitational
by Ryan Martin
OZONE PARK, N.Y. - E.V. Racing Stable's Water White displayed a devastating late kick and ran down longshot Kansas Kis in the final strides, pulling off a 17-1 upset in Saturday's 41st running of the $250,000 Busher Invitational at Aqueduct Racetrack - a 50-20-10-5-point qualifier on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.
Trained by Rudy Rodriguez, who saddled Condo Commando to victory in the 2015 Busher, Water White arrived at the one-turn mile off a distant second-place finish to Harvey's Lil Goil in the Busanda on February 2 at the Big A, where she earned four points towards the Grade 1, $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks on May 1.
Breaking from post 6 under jockey Jorge Vargas, Jr., Water White settled last in a tightly-bunched field of seven early on as 4-5 favorite Lake Avenue, off a step slow while making her first start since winning the Grade 2 Demoiselle, moved up in tandem with 31-1 longshot Persisto, recording an opening quarter-mile in 23.30 seconds.
Moving three-wide, Water White began inching her way closer to the front while Lake Avenue found herself alone on the lead in a half-mile run in 46.81 seconds.
Around the far turn, Water White was asked by Vargas while in fourth position as Lake Avenue was confronted by 13-1 shot Kansas Kis, who assumed the lead under no asking as the heavy favorite began to drop out of contention.
At the quarter pole, Kansas Kis was 3 ½ lengths in front, but Water White loomed a major threat to her outside making up ground in the final eighth of a mile and caught her foe at the right time winning by a nose in a final time of 1:40.21. It was another 5 ¼ lengths back to 23-1 longshot Panthera Onca, who rounded out a trifecta of prices in third.
Lake Avenue, Mo City, Maedean and Persisto rounded out the order of finish. Inveterate was scratched.
"The filly was super good going into this race," said Vargas, who notched his fourth stakes victory of the meet. "It was about time because she's been running so good. She kicked pretty well."
Rodriguez said the Conveyance filly would be in tough, but decided to give her a chance based off how forwardly she was training and his confidence was rewarded.
"We were happy with the way she was coming into the race," Rodriguez said. "It's a very tough group, but she was training very good. We decided to take a chance and she's been beaten by some nice, solid horses. We just took our time and let her continue to develop and today was our day."
Water White, now third on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 54 points, rewarded her backers in a $2 win payout of $37.20 and banked $144,375 in victory. She brought up her lifetime earnings to $234,275 with a record of 6-2-2-0.
Rodriguez said Water White would likely target the Grade 2, $300,000 Gazelle on April 4, which is the final local prep on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks and awards 100-40-20-10 points to the top-four finishers.
"She was coming every step of the way. She wants to run all day," Rodriguez said. "We're going to try to point to the Gazelle from here. We'll see how she comes out of this race and we'll take it from there."
A rematch between Water White and Kansas Kis in the Gazelle is a strong possibility as Ray Handal, trainer of the runner-up, said he would "probably consider" the 1 1/8-mile event for his filly.
"I thought we were home free," Handal said. "She might have got a little idle being in front for so long, but she's a nice horse and she showed us that today. She bounced out of that last race so good and I knew she'd be better going a bit longer. She showed she's a legit contender [for the Kentucky Oaks]."
Jockey Junior Alvarado, aboard heavy favorite Lake Avenue, said a slow start hampered his filly's chances.
"I wish we could run the race again. She missed the break a little bit," Alvarado said. "I wanted to take a hold and sit outside. Instead, I had to let her roll a little bit and I ended up in a duel. We just went a little too quick going a mile at this track. We paid the price at the end.
"She is a better filly than that," Alvarado continued. "Coming off of a layoff, it was a little too much for me to ask her to go that fast in the beginning."
Bred in Kentucky by Richard Forbush, Water White is out of the Unbridled's Song broodmare Uzume.