Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider’s homebred Lea raced close to the lead throughout and drew clear in the stretch to win Saturday’s ninth running of the Grade III, $117,100 Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs by three-quarters of a length over a fast-closing King David.
Ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. and trained by Al Stall Jr., Lea ran 1 1/16 miles over a “firm” Matt Winn Turf Course in 1:42.27 to give Claiborne Farm, Dilschneider and Stall their second stakes win of the Fall Meet. On opening day, they teamed to win the Grade II, $168,150 Pocahontas with homebred Sign.
For legendary Claiborne Farm of Paris, Ky., it was their 31st stakes win at Churchill Downs, which dates back to 1956. They are now one stakes win from equaling world famous Calumet Farm’s record of 32 stakes wins beneath the Twin Spires.
Breaking from post six in a full field of 14 three-year-olds, Lea rated in third from the outside behind pacesetters Finale and Casual Trick, who clipped off fractions of :23.45, :47.29 and 1:11.93. Midway through the final turn, Lea challenged for the lead and kicked clear down the lane. King David, who was unhurried early and encountered traffic entering the stretch, rallied late but fell short.
“He left there like he normally does and he fought Brian just a hair, which he does,” said the red-hot Stall, who improved his Fall Meet record to nine wins from 16 starters. “Once he came back to Brian, it was his race to win or lose. He opened up and then started waiting, but that’s what turf horses do, especially ones that lay close.”
Lea paid $7.40, $4.20 and $3.60 as the 5-2 favorite. King David, the 5-1 second betting choice ridden by Julien Leparoux, returned $5 and $3.60. Lockout, at odds of 6-1 with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard, was another length back in third and paid $4.80. Skyring, Any Given Royal, Artest, Finnegans Wake, Excaper, Quick Wit, Finale, Film Shot, Two Months Rent, Burn the Mortgage and Casual Trick completed the order of finish. General Logan and Ol Army were scratched.
The Commonwealth Turf was the first stakes win of Lea’s brief career. In his previous start, the 3-year-old son of First Samurai out of the Galileo-IRE mare Greenery finished third in the Grade III Hawthorne Derby over soft going.
Saturday’s first prize was worth $66,068, which boosted Lea’s earnings to $200,728. Overall, he has won three of five starts with one second and one third.
“He’ll go to South Carolina and then prep for something in the summer, like the Firecracker (Handicap at Churchill Downs) and then go to Saratoga,” Stall said.
The Commonwealth Turf – which honors Kentucky, one of four states constituted as a commonwealth (the others are Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts) – was one of two graded stakes events on Churchill Downs’ special “Downs After Dark” program – the only nighttime racing event during it’s 21-day Fall Meet.
ALL-TIME CHURCHILL DOWNS STAKES WINS BY OWNERS
No. Jockey Stakes Wins
1. Calumet Farm 32
2. Claiborne Farm (Seth Hancock) 31
3. John Franks 23
3. Heiligbrodt Racing Stable (Bill & Corinne Heiligbrodt) 23
t-5. Overbrook Farm (William T. Young) 19
t-5. C.V. Whitney 19
t-7. William S. Farish 18
t-7. Robert & Beverly Lewis 18
9. W. Cal Partee 15
10. Bwamazon Farm 14
* includes partnerships
CLAIBORNE FARM STAKES WINS AT CHURCHILL DOWNS (1956-2012)
2, Dogwood: 1983 (Bon Gout), ’92 (Hitch)
2, Falls City Handicap: 1956 (Doubledogdare), ’83 (Narrate)
2, Iroquois: 1985 (Tile), ’99 (Mighty)
2, Louisville Handicap: 2000 (Buff), ’08 (Lattice)
2, Pleasant Hill: 1983 (Bon Gout), ’84 (Flippers)
2, Pocahontas: 1983 (Flippers), 2012 (Sign)
2, Stephen Foster Handicap: 1992 (Discover), 2010 (Blame)
2, Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (formerly Early Times Turf Classic): 1993 (Lure), 2004 (Stroll)
1, Kentucky Derby: 1984 (Swale)
1, Breeders’ Cup Classic: 2010 (Blame)
1, Alysheba: 2004 (Congrats)
1, Bashford Manor: 1985 (Tile)
1, Cardinal Handicap: 2001 (Watch)
1. Chilukki (formerly Churchill Downs Budweiser Breeders’ Cup): 1987 (Bound)
1, Clark Handicap: 2009 (Blame)
1, Commonwealth Turf: 2012 (Lea)
1, Debutante: 1984 (Knot)
1, Eight Belles (formerly La Troienne): 1956 (Doubledogdare)
1, Firecracker Handicap: 2000 (Conserve)
1, Golden Rod: 1983 (Flippers)
1, Jefferson Cup: 1998 (Buff)
1, Locust Grove: 1990 (Dibs)
1, Seneca: 1983 (Routine)
COMMONWEALTH TURF QUOTES
Al Stall Jr., trainer of Lea, winner: “He left there like he normally does and he fought (jockey) Brian (Hernandez Jr.) just a hair, which he does. Once he came back to Brian, it was his race to win or lose. He opened up and then started waiting, but that’s what turf horses do, especially ones that lay close.”
Q. Was that his last race this year? “Yes. He’ll go to South Carolina and then prep for something in the summer, like the Firecracker (Handicap at Churchill Downs), and then go to Saratoga.”
Q. This has been a great meet for you … “We’re excited and we have no complaints.
Brian Hernandez Jr., rider on Lea, winner: “We had a clean trip. We knew he was fast and so we wanted to give him the best trip we could and stay out of his way. I was a good passenger and, when I called on him, he spurted home pretty good. I definitely don’t think we’ve seen the best of him. He’s got room for improvement and looks like he’ll just keep getting better and better.
Q. How great has this month been for you? “I don’t know how much better it can get. Maybe if we win the Clark (Handicap at Churchill Downs on Friday aboard Neck ’n Neck).
Julien Leparoux, rider on King David, runner-up: “I had an OK trip, but it could have been better. It was a 14-horse field and I had a good trip, but then I couldn’t get out early enough. He came running, though. He’s a nice horse.”
Shaun Bridgmohan, rider on Lockout, third: “He ran good and he really tried. He tried the whole way.”
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