Donegal Racing's Arklow was originally slated to aim at the Kentucky Derby on the dirt, but after he was unsuccessful there, trainer Brad Cox switched him over to the turf. The 3-year-old son of Arch scored a 3 1/2-length maiden victory on the lawn at Keeneland, and confirmed that grass presence with a win on the Kentucky Derby undercard in the G2 American Turf Stakes. Piloted by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, the colt rallied four-wide around the far turn to take the lead in mid-stretch, pulling away to win by a length on the wire in a final time of 1:44.64 for 1 1/16 miles on the “good” turf.
“We wanted to try and make him a Derby horse but it didn't pan out that way with the points,” explained Cox. “I saw a mile and an eighth maiden race at Keeneland on the grass opening weekend. He ran a big race that day and obviously this was a step up today. He had a great work here last weekend on the turf. It's only the second time he ran on the turf so I was really proud of him how well he ran today. I thought there would be some speed. He sat mid-pack and got a little wide in the first turn, which could've been a good thing with how the turf has been playing. Mike put him in perfect position and he kept running.”
Kitten's Cat was quick out of the starting gates in the center of the field of 10 sophomores, but Luis Saez quickly took hold and allowed Oscar Performance to take the lead heading into the first turn. Conquest Farenheit went with him on the outside, and Holiday Stone took up third position along the inside hedge to push Kitten's Cat back to fourth. Oscar Performance hustled through a first quarter in 23.85 seconds, pushing out to a one-length lead.
In the early-going, Arklow was traveling in the latter half of the field, but down the backstretch Smith made a middle move to take him into sixth position while four-wide. After a half-mile in 48.46 seconds, Conquest Farenheit began cutting into Oscar Performance's lead, and Smith had gone to work on Arklow. Kitten's Cat was briefly stuck behind rivals, but tried to split the two frontrunners turning for home.
At the head of the lane, Conquest Farenheit carried very wide but still took over the lead, pushing away from the field by three parts of a length. The clear running around the outside of the course had Arklow maintaining his momentum, and he came flying down the center of the stretch to take the lead at the eighth pole. Arklow had to contend with a late charge from Good Samaritan from the rear of the field, but pulled away late to score by a length on the wire. Good Samaritan nosed out Big Score on the wire, with Conquest Farenheit relegated to fourth.
“It was just like they told me,” Smith laughed. “Honestly, they said ‘Mike, you'll be somewhat forward early. They had told me they wished it was a mile and quarter. Brad (Cox) said don't be afraid to get brave with him. If I got him clear, he said go ahead and let him start going a little early. He said he'd keep going and he was a 100 percent right. I'm glad they told me that. Normally on the grass you want to wait and make one run. If I had done that, I probably would have lost the race. I'm just happy to be riding for these owners. They're good friends of mine.”
Bred in Kentucky by John and Frank Penn, Arklow was a $160,000 Keeneland September Yearling sale purchase by Donegal's Jerry Crawford. His best dirt performance was a second-place finish in a maiden race at the Fair Grounds, but Arklow has more than proven his preference for the turf, no matter its condition. Overall, the colt boasts a record of two wins, one second and one third from seven starts for earnings of just under $250,000.
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