Anthony Lenci's Catalina Red broke well in Saturday's Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes, was forced three-wide in the stretch and still held off the late-closing Calculator and Kobe's back to maintain a one length advantage at the wire. The 4-year-old son of Munnings got the seven furlongs in 1:20.79 over the fast main track, earning his first graded stakes victory for trainer Jorge Navarro.
“This is my race, my race,” said Navarro, who also trained last year's winner Private Zone. “I have to be honest with you, I've only been training this horse for a month. The owner (Anthony Lenci) asked me to take him. He said, 'I want to give this horse a chance. Will you train him?' I want to say that (former trainer) Chad Stewart did a fabulous job with this horse. The owner had a lot of confidence in this horse. We only had a month to get him ready for this race, but he trained great for it. We'll see how he comes out of the race before we decide where he'll go next.”
Ridden by Javier Castellano, Catalina Red was fortunate to break from the outer-most post. A five-way rush for the early lead ensued as soon as the gates popped open, with Limousine Liberal and Holy Boss head-and-head, favored Speightster a half-length back alongside Calculator, and Catalina Red avoiding the worst of the crowded conditions along the outside. Limousine Liberal won the first quarter-mile, stretching out to a half-length lead to cover the fraction in :22.24. Meanwhile, dangerous late-running horses Kobe's Back and Salutos Amigos were biding their time nearly seven lengths off the lead. Castellano settled Catalina Red in third while three wide down the backstretch, waiting as the leader was pressed through a half in :44.64.
Rounding the final turn, Catalina Red made his move three wide around Limousine Liberal and Holy Boss as Calculator was forced to wait for racing room. Kobe's Back had begun to rally but swung very wide on the far turn. With a sixteenth of a mile left to run, Catalina Red had a clear lead, but Calculator was making a bold bid on the outside and Kobe's Back had finally found a seam in between horses. At the wire, Catalina Red had just enough left to win by one length over Calculator, while Kobe's Back finished third. Salutos Amigos got up to be fourth.
“A very good set-up. It worked out perfect for me,” said Castellano. “Those two horses showed speed early in the race, and it was a good set-up for me. A good post outside. I like it the way he did it turning for home. When I asked him, he took off really well.”
Bred in Florida by France and Irwin Weiner, Catalina Red was a $71,000 purchase at the Ocala Breeders' 2-year-old in training sale. The colt has now won five of his 10 lifetime starts, boasting career earnings of over $470,000.
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