Gary and Mary West’s Code West, runner-up in the Risen Star (Grade II) this winter, collected the first stakes win of his career with a valiant head triumph over Uncaptured in Saturday’s $113,100 Matt Winn (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
The Matt Winn, which honors the famed Churchill Downs president and general manager (1902-49) that served as the driving force of the Downs and his beloved Kentucky Derby, was one of five graded stakes races run under the lights Saturday as part of Churchill Downs’ special “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” nighttime racing program.
Code West, ridden by Rosie Napravnik, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.37 to give Southern California-based Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his 100th victory at Churchill Downs and fourth in the Matt Winn. He also won the 3-year-old race with Shot of Gold (1998), Forestry (1999) and Danthebluegrassman (2002).
The Virginia-bred son of Lemon Drop Kid sat just off pacesetter Dewey Square, who set fractions of :24.67, :48.96 and 1:13.57. He garnered control at the head of the stretch only to be engaged by Uncaptured, who poked a head in front. The two raced in tandem through deep stretch with a determined Code West narrowly posting the victory from down on the inside rail.
Code West paid $6.20, $3.40 and $2.80 as the 2-1 favorite. Uncaptured, ridden by Miguel Mena, returned $5.20 and $3.80. Abstraction, with Leandro Goncalves in the saddle, was another 5 ¾ lengths back in third and paid $3.40.
Dewey Square, Bellarmine, Sunbeam, Carve, Looking Cool, Treasury Bill and Street Spice completed the order of finish. Ruler of Love was scratched in favor of the $207,600 Centaur at Indiana Downs in which he finished seventh of eight.
Code West, bred by the late Edward P. Evans, won for the third time in 10 career starts. He earned $66,616 to push his career earnings to $260,216.
MATT WINN QUOTES
Bob Baffert, trainer of Code West, winner (via phone): “I really like this horse and I really thought he could win today. He’s the kind of horse that is just getting better and better. This was a little short for him. I think he wants to further.”
Q. That was your 100th win at Churchill Downs … “Wow. That’s pretty good. I plan on having a string at Churchill Downs next spring.
Q. Do you know what you’ll do with Code West next? “I’m going to bring him home. He’ll be on the summer Derby trail.”
Rosie Napravnik, rider on Code West, winner: “I had a great trip, but, honestly, when (Uncaptured) came to us I thought he had us. It was all the horse. He picked up and did not want to lose. Not a lot of horses pick up and have that kind of determination down the lane. I was very impressed.”
Norman Casse, assistant to Mark Casse, trainer of Uncaptured, runner-up: “I thought his last three works here were really good. This obviously was a very tough race. We ran against some really nice horses and we proved we’re with some of the best in the country. I’m very proud. We got to see the real Uncaptured today. Obviously, he appreciates the dirt surface. We’ll go back to the drawing board and we’ll have fun with him the rest of the year.”
Miguel Mena, rider on Uncaptured, runner-up: “He ran a big race. We had a good trip; we just couldn’t get there. We didn’t have any trouble and saved ground. We got through turning for home. He ran his race.”
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 3, 2014 and its 2013 Spring Meet is scheduled continues through Sunday, June 30. The track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.ChurchillDowns.com.