Darley Stable’s Florentino (JPN) took the lead out of the gate and then held off stretch challenges from favored El Crespo and No Inflation to win Saturday’s 34th running of the $163,500 Jefferson Cup (Grade II) for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs.
Florentino, who was shipped to Churchill Downs after scratching out of the June 5 Hill Prince (GIII) when it was rained off the turf at Belmont Park, was sent to the lead by Alan Garcia. Florentino set leisurely fractions of :25, :50.26 and 1:15.31 with El Crespo and No Inflation in closest pursuit.
Florentino shrugged off an initial challenge from El Crespo at the head of the stretch, kicked clear at mid-stretch and then hung on to edge El Crespo by three-quarters of a length with No Inflation another neck back.
Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Florentino covered the 1 1/8 miles on the firm Matt Winn Turf Course in 1:51.59 in turning back six rivals.
A son of Swept Overboard out of the Sunday Silence mare Must Be Loved, Florentino returned $9.20, $4.60 and $3.20. El Crespo, ridden by Julien Leparoux, returned $3.20 and $2.40 with No Inflation, ridden by Robby Albarado, paying $2.80 to show. Completing the order of finish were Advice, Jake Wil Gallop, Bruce N Autumn and Har D Boy.
The victory was worth $99,343 and increased Florentino’s earnings to $167,311 with his third victory in eight starts.
POST-RACE QUOTES – THE JEFFERSON CUP
NEAL McLAUGHLIN, assistant trainer of FLORENTINO-JPN (winner)
“That was great. The race (the June 5 Hill Prince at Belmont Park) rained off the turf up there and we had to look for another spot. Here was this race. The mile-and-an-eighth we were worried about and maybe soft turf we were worried about but he goes and throws in a race like that. That was super. What a ride. It was beautiful.”
ALAN GARCIA, jockey of FLORENTINO-JPN (winner)
“He broke a little slow and my horse took an easy lead. We went into the first turn and no other horse wanted to come so we were just all alone. We made the turn for home two furlongs out and I just had more horse than any other rider.”
GEORGE “RUSTY” ARNOLD II, trainer of EL CRESPO (runner-up as the favorite)
“I was pretty happy with where I was. I know it was a little slower than I was looking for, but we had a clean run at him and I thought we were going to get to him, but he didn’t. But he kept running on, and the races get a little bit longer as the year goes, so I’m pretty happy with his run.”
Q: Any ideas where you might go next?
“He’s going back to Arlington for the American Derby.”
JULIEN LEPAROUX, jockey of EL CRESPO (runner-up as the favorite)
“He just outkicked us a little bit. My horse just kept grinding and grinding – he kept on going. He ran good.”