Papilio Soars to Victory in the Appalachian Stakes
The victory brought a big smile to the face of trainer Mark Casse, who has been most impressed with the Irish-bred 3-year-old daughter of Starspangledbanner when it matters most—during her races.
Casse saw potential when he watched a video of Papilio, who made her first five starts in Ireland. After the Papilio was purchased privately by her current owners after her juvenile season of 2022, Casse admitted he was not necessarily blown away in the mornings.
“Your first impressions are she’s just a horse,” Casse said of the filly who arrived at his Ocala training center in December after her juvenile campaign in Ireland. “I’d watched her run a few times (on video), but you never know how it’s going to transition to the U.S.”
After seeing her first two North American races, the Hall of Fame trainer could not be happier. “Boy, she could be something,” Casse said after Papilio surged past four rivals in the stretch to grab a narrow victory. “She has a lot to prove but she’s pretty good.”
The private purchase by current owners D. J. Stable, Medallion Racing, Barry Fowler, and Parkland Thoroughbreds is looking pretty wise as Papilio earned graded stakes placing in her United States debut when second by a head to Danse Macabre in the Herecomesthebride Stakes (G3T) March 4 on the Gulfstream Park turf.
On Saturday at Keeneland, it would be Papilio prevailing at the wire. Early on Papilio and jockey Javier Castellano settled in sixth in the mile race as Heavenly Sunday led the field through a half-mile in: 48.27, tracked by Well Into and 2-1 favorite Pleasant Passage, who was returning since finishing second in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1T) in November at Keeneland. Papilio shifted into the five path for the stretch then sustained a long rally despite lugging in and bumping Pleasant Passage, who would finish fifth.
Papilio completed the race on firm turf in 1:36.32 with Cairo Consort, who was just behind Papilio in the Herecomesthebride when third, this time settling for second. Heavenly Sunday held third for her second straight graded stakes placing.