Thomas Conway's King Zachary made a three-wide move on the far turn in Saturday's Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes, taking the lead and sprinting home to earn his first stakes win by 4 3/4 lengths. The 3-year-old son of Curlin, ridden by Robby Albarado, was sent off at 12-1 odds against the heavy favorite Ax Man (1-2), who finished third. The Dale Romans-trained colt covered 1 1/16 miles over Churchill Downs' fast main track in 1:42.86; Romans-trained Tiz Mischief finished second.
“What a race. King Zachary just keeps getting better every time we see him,” Romans said. “I was confident entering the race that he'd run a big effort. I know Ax Man was the horse to beat but was confident with my horses. Tiz Mischief was a real surprise. He proved himself tonight that he can compete with some of the best 3-year-olds in the country.”
Heavily favored after a dominating win at Pimlico last out, Ax Man was a bit hesitant to load into the starting gate on Saturday evening. Once inside the stall, the colt kicked the rear door with his right hind foot several times, causing him to be a half-length slow at the start.
“He just completely lost it,” said Ax Man's jockey Mike Smith. “I've never seen him act like that. He was so bad. We couldn't even get the ear-things out of his ears. I don't know how he got to the gate in one piece, and then he got in there he went to tearing them up. He was kicking at the gate with both back legs. He stopped for a second when they kicked (the starting gate), then he kicked again and I got completely left.”
To the inside, stablemates King Zachary and Tiz Mischief both broke sharply, striding out toward the lead. Funny Duck rushed up on the heels of Tiz Mischief around the clubhouse turn, terribly rank under jockey Brian Hernandez, but settled down into the backstretch.
Albarado was able to put the brakes on King Zachary a bit down the backstretch, allowing Tiz Mischief and Ax Man to battle for the lead through a first quarter in :24.55. Ax Man stayed very wide on the course, not engaging Tiz Mischief until the half-mile pole. Combatant and Home Base followed Funny Duck around the course.
After a half in :48.08, Albarado had to angle King Zachary around the outside of Ax Man to allow the colt clear running into the far turn. Funny Duck was there on the outside of King Zachary, but could not keep pace with the eventual winner and dropped back.
Three-wide into the lane, King Zachary exploded when Albarado gave him his cue, easily clearing his stablemate and a toiling Ax Man. Never threatened down the lane, King Zachary cruised under the wire about four lengths ahead of Tiz Mischief. It was another five or so lengths back to Ax Man, who just managed to hold third over Funny Duck.
“This horse keeps getting better with each start,” said Albarado. “I can't thank Dale and Mr. Conway enough for letting me ride this horse. I think we are setting ourselves up for a big year with this horse. Dale gave me a lot of confidence this week. When Corey went to the lead with Tiz Mischief I just settled and sat right off the pace. It worked perfectly.”
Bred in Kentucky by Waymore LLC, King Zachary was a $550,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase. He is out of the winning Giant's Causeway mare On My Way, and broke his maiden in his third start. After a sixth-place effort in the Wood Memorial, King Zachary came back to win an allowance race on Derby day at Churchill Downs before scoring his first stakes win in the Matt Winn. Overall, the colt has won three of his six starts for earnings of over $170,000.
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