Jockey Jack Lauzon doesn't visit the Fort Erie Race Track that often, but when he does stop by, he usually goes home with gobs of money.
The 27-year-old, Toronto-based rider they call "Jocko" did it again Monday afternoon as he won the $35,000-added Breeders' Cup Stakes aboard Secret Rhapsody over a mile of grass.
"Nothing's better than experience," Lauzon said after his 3-year-old bay won by a neck over Miracles Happen and seven other sophomore fillies.
Lauzon, a native of nearby Welland, now has won four of the last five Fort Erie stakes races and finished second, by a nostril, in the other.
In a string dating back to September, 1987, his stakes mounts, sent out by five different trainers, have collected a total of $176,036 and he has received 10 percent of that.
His win on Secret Rhapsody was reminiscent of his winning ride on Gallant Mel in last July's International Turf Cup. In both races, he settled his horse on the hedge early, bided his time close to the leader until the final turn, cut the corner expertly and closed with a rush along the hedge.
This time, the pace-setter was Blushing Katy, the 7-10 favorite under Robin Platts. She went to the top right from the start and led for the first three quarters before tiring in the stretch of her first turf race in 13 starts. Platts said she was fighting him most of the way, trying to bear out.
"I stayed close with Blushing Katy. I expected her to have a lot faster pace . . . I thought I'd be a little bit farther back, but the pace was slow and made her stay up there all that much closer," Lauzon said.
The leader cut the first quarter-mile in 23 4/5 seconds, reached the half-mile in 48 1/5 and staggered to the three-quarters in a slow 1:13 4/5 on the yielding course. The final quarter was clocked in 26 1/5 as Secret Rhapsody completed the mile in 1:40, some 4 2/5 seconds slower than the track record.
"I'd never ridden this horse, but I looked at the Form and she looked like she likes to be up close on the turf, so I kind of tried to ride her the same way she has been running over turf," Lauzon said. "It worked out good. I didn't expect the speed to stop that much. But it did and worked out for the best horse."
Secret Rhapsody, the 5-1 second choice of the crowd of 4,400, paid $13.40, $6.90 and $4.10. Miracles Happen, the 8-1 fourth choice, paid $6.20 and $4. Green Noble, a 12-1 shot, paid $5.30 to show. The exactor was worth $83.20.
Next came Blushing Katy, Carolita, L'Emigress, Best By Two, Promise From Above (a betting entry with Miracles Happen) and A Letter From Mary. Skip the Stone was an early scratch.
Mike Doyle, Secret Rhapsody's trainer, said he knew nothing of Lauzon's prowess at Fort Erie, where he also has won two Juvenile Stakes and been second in the Prince of Wales Stakes.
Doyle said he chose Lauzon, also the second-winningest jockey at Toronto's Woodbine, just because "he's a strong rider."
"This filly seems to lay a lot closer on the turf than she does on the dirt," Doyle said. "She's a lot better on the grass. Everything about her is different on the grass. I've been waiting to run her on the grass. She isn't any good on the dirt."
On dirt, Secret Rhapsody is winless in six starts, with earnings of $13,410. On grass, she is 2 for 4 with $42,256 in the bank, including the $22,924 earned Monday.
Last summer, she ran third and first in maiden races, then finished fourth to Miracles Happen in a division of the Natalma Stakes at Woodbine.
Secret Rhapsody, a Kentucky-bred by Secreto, was purchased for $87,000 as a yearling by William and Valerie Graham's Windhaven Farm of Caledon, Ont.