Fight On lived up to his name as the 2-year-old son of Into Mischief prevailed in a five-horse photo to win the second running of the $200,000 Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes on Sunday's opening day card at Churchill Downs' 21-day Fall Meet.
The Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes was one of four stakes races on the 11-race card billed as “Stars of Tomorrow I.” Staged for the 13th straight year, each race was exclusively for 2-year-olds.
Wayne Hughes, the owner of Fight On and Lexington, Ky.-based Spendthrift Farm and the driving force behind the lucrative race exclusively for 2-year-old offspring sired by any active or non-active Spendthrift stallion, including all Spendthrift-owned stallions standing regionally in North America, presented to trophy to himself.
Ricardo Santana Jr., fresh off his first Keeneland riding title, rode the winner for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
“We are very surprised we won this race but we have a great trainer and jockey that helped us get there today,” Hughes said.
Fight On, the familiar phrase for Hughes' alma mater, the University of Southern California, broke alertly and raced just off the right hip of pacesetter and 4-5 favorite Ezmosh, who led the field of eight juveniles through early fractions of :23.12 and :46.74.
Fight On narrowly took the lead while exiting the turn for home and inched clear in a long stretch drive to barely hold off Captivating Moon by a head. Dream Baby Dream was another neck back in third, O'Malley's March was another head back in fourth and John Tippmann was another nose back in fifth. Ezmosh was another length back in sixth and was followed by El Rubio and Just Be Frank.
“We got a perfect trip today and when the horses got to him in deep stretch he fought hard to get the win,” Santana Jr. said.
Fight On, who collected his first career win in his fourth start, ran seven furlongs over a fast track in 1:24.87. The $60,140 first prize increased the dark bay or brown colt's earnings to $80,340.
“He's improved in every start and got a great trip today,” Asmussen said.
Fight On, out of the Elusive Quality mare Havenlass, was bred in Kentucky by Haymarket Farm LLC, who were awarded $40,000 for the win.
Designed to benefit both racehorse owners and breeders, the $200,000 purse was structured with a unique approach to award $100,000 to the breeders of the top four placed horses, with the remaining $100,000 allocated to the owners.
“The concept for these races incentivizes the breeders and people who buy our horses, and we are very happy to be able to win this,” Hughes said.
To his pari-mutuel backers, Fight On returned $12.20, $4.80 and $4.40. Captivating Moon, ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., paid $5.40 and $4.40. Dream Baby Dream, under Shaun Bridgmohan, returned $8.80.
Joseph W. Sutton's Sultry made a strong move on the turn along the inside rail under jockey Corey Lanerie and collared odds-on favorite Mia Mischief inside the final sixteenth of a mile to win Sunday's first running of the $200,000 Spendthrift Farm Juvenile Filly Stallion Stakes at Churchill Downs by 1 ¼ lengths.
The lucrative race was exclusively for 2-year-old fillies that were sired by any active or non-active Spendthrift stallion, including all Spendthrift-owned stallions standing regionally in North America, presented to trophy to himself.
Sultry, a daughter of Malibu Moon trained by Eddie Kenneally, collected her first stakes win and third victory in five career starts. Previously, she won a first-level allowance over seven furlongs at Keeneland 17 days ago.
On Sunday, she clocked seven furlongs in 1:24.51 over a fast track, which was .36 faster than Fight On's triumph in the Juvenile division.
Mia Mischief, the 2-5 favorite, led most of the way in :22.24, :45.65 and 1:11.29 with Sultry unhurried early and well back of the leader.
“Her running style is to come from behind so even though speed has been holding today we didn't want to change too much except get her into the race earlier,” Lanerie said. “We had a perfect trip up the rail and with the early fractions the field came back to us a bit which helped. Eddie and his team have done a phenomenal job training her and she was ready to run today.”
Kentucky-bred Sultry, out of the Giant's Causeway mare Viva Carina (ARG), banked $60,140 for her owner and another $40,000 to breeder Three Chimneys Farm LLC. Sultry now has a career record of 5-3-0-0—$126,606.
Sultry, the 4-1 second betting choice, paid $10.60, $3.20 and $2.20. Mia Mischief, ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., returned $2.20 and $2.10. Aerial Assets was another six lengths back in third under Julien Leparoux and paid $4.20.
Breaking Beauty, Foxy Mischief, Southampton Way, Cinema Doll and Bibbidibobbidi Boo completed the order of finish. Wendy Peffercorn was scratched.
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