Winchell Thoroughbreds’ multiple graded stakes-winner Tapiture rebounded from a 15th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands to win Saturday night’s 17th running of the $109,400 Matt Winn (Grade III) at Churchill Downs by two lengths over Ulanbator.
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 as part of the Louisville, Ky. racetrack’s special “Downs After Dark Presented by Stella Artois and Finlandia Vodka” nighttime racing program.
Tapiture, ridden by Rosie Napravnik and trained by Steve Asmussen, clocked 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.99.
The Admiral led the field of seven 3-year-olds through early fractions of :23.66 and :47.23 with Rise Up in close pursuit and Almost Famous and Tapiture settled just behind the leaders.
Approaching the final turn, Almost Famous made an inside move to grab the lead from The Admiral, who was fading, and crossed the six-furlong marker in 1:11.75. Tapiture rallied three-wide on the turn and caught Almost Famous at the head of the stretch and drew clear down the stretch under steady right-handed urging from Napravnik. Ulanbator, who raced near the back of the pack early on, rallied to catch Almost Famous late for the place.
Tapiture returned $4, $2.80 and $2.40 as the even-money favorite. Ulanbator, ridden by Julien Leparoux, paid $5.80 and $4.20. Almost Famous was another 1 ¼ lengths back in third under Calvin Borel and paid $3.
Rankhasprivleges, Rise Up, Conquest Titan and The Admiral completed the order of finish.
The victory was worth $66,472 and improved Tapiture’s earnings to $557,310 with a record of 9-3-2-2.
This was the third graded stakes win for Tapiture, a Tapit colt out of the Olympio mare Free Spin bred in Kentucky by his owner Ron Winchell. Previously, Tapiture won the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at age 2 and the Southwest (GIII) at Oaklawn Park in this 3-year-old debut. He followed that effort with a second in the Rebel (GII) and a fourth in the Arkansas Derby (GI).
Napravnik won the Matt Winn for a second consecutive year. She won last year’s renewal aboard the Bob Baffert-trained Code West.
For Asmussen, it was his third Matt Winn triumph. He won it in 2001 with Compendium and in 2008 with Winchell’s Pyro.
MATT WINN QUOTES
ROSIE NAPRAVNIK, jockey of TAPITURE (winner) – “Great trip. We sat in a really comfortable position. There was plenty of speed in there for us to sit behind and he’s a very nice horse. I actually breezed him at Fair Grounds before he turned three and I’ve wanted to ride him ever since so it was great to finally get on him.”
STEVE ASMUSSEN, trainer of TAPITURE (second) – “I thought that the horse acted really good today. After the last couple of trips that he’s had, I think that was perfect for him to hopefully get his confidence back. There are still some lucrative 3-year-old races left out there so hopefully he can get in the mix. From a timing standpoint, he obviously responded to the six-week break off of the Kentucky Derby. So the West Virginia Derby in seven weeks might be ideal.”
IAN WILKES, trainer of ULANBATOR (runner-up) – “He ran very good. He’s improving. He stepped-up in class and I was very pleased to see him run as good and strong as he did. Congratulations to Steve (Asmussen) – he had the best horse today. But I’m getting closer.”
JULIAN LEPAROUX, jockey on ULANBATOR (runner-up) – “He ran good. That was a big race for him. He keeps coming and coming and getting better every race.”
CALVIN BOREL, jockey on ALMOST FAMOUS (third) – “I had a good trip. He took me there (to the lead) easy and I really wish he had finished second. I knew the winner was the horse to beat, but I wish he had run second. But I thought he run a good race.”