(May 31, 2008) – Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Inca King remained unbeaten in three stakes engagements over Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Turf Course with a front-running 2 ¼-length victory over Seaside Retreat in Saturday’s $119,700 Opening Verse Handicap.
Ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan and trained by Steve Asmussen, Inca King ran 1 1/16 miles over “firm” grass in 1:42.39. Cloudy’s Knight, the 8-year-old multi-millionaire who made his first start since capturing the Grade I Canadian International at Woodbine last October, failed to threaten in his comeback and finished seventh.
Inca King broke from post four in the field of 10 older horses and immediately dragged Bridgmohan to the front. He was never pressured through fractions of :24.15 for a quarter mile, :48.59 at the half and 1:12.70 for six furlongs. Bridgmohan asked Inca King for his best run with three-sixteenths of a mile left and the 4-year-old gelding kicked on gamely for his seventh win in 17 starts.
“He likes this turf course, that’s for sure,” Bridgmohan said. “He definitely has a fondness for it. He was just enjoying himself out there. He was nice and composed and it obviously showed because he finished up so good. He’s run some really good races, and he’s shown that when’s he’s on his game, he can really do it.”
Last year at Churchill Downs, Inca King won the Grade II Jefferson Cup by three lengths in similar fashion and the $165,500 Commonwealth Turf by 1 ½ lengths. He may get another try over the Matt Winn Turf Course on July 4 in the $200,000-added Firecracker Handicap (GII), a one-mile affair.
“That’s pretty deep water, but I think he deserves the chance,” Asmussen said.
Inca King’s résumé also includes 2007 triumphs in the Bryan Station at Keeneland and Woodchopper Handicap at Fair Grounds. The $70,503 first prize pushed his career earnings to $552,091.
Inca King, a slight 7-2 favorite, returned $9.20, $5.40 and $4. Seaside Retreat finished willingly late for second and paid $7.80 and $6.20. Corrupt was another half-length back in third and paid $4.20.
Crested-GB, Yate’s Black Cat, Rosberg, Cloudy’s Knight, Therecomesatiger, Prom Shoes and Secret Stranger completed the order of finish. Bold Start and Obi Wan Kenobi were scratched by their trainers.
Opening Verse Handicap Jockey & Trainer Quotes
STEVE ASMUSSEN, trainer of INCA KING (winner)
“He ran well. It’s great to see him back. I freshened him up after the winter and he came back running good.
“He struggled with the going at the Fair Grounds. It was probably a really bad idea on my part. He won the Woodchopper, but maybe it was just the circumstances that day that made me think he could handle the course. But he ran a couple of bad races and he was pretty light off of his last one, so we gave him some time and hopefully we’re back on track.”
Q: What’s your game plan with him now?
“I was kind of thinking he’d be pretty good at a mile here (in the $200,000-added, Grade II Firecracker on July 4). That’s what I’m hoping. That’s pretty deep water, but I think he deserves the chance.”
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, jockey on INCA KING (winner)
“He likes this turf course, that’s for sure. He definitely has a fondness for it. He was just enjoying himself out there. He was nice and composed and it obviously showed because he finished up so good. He’s run some really good races, and he’s shown that when’s he’s on his game, he can really do it.”
JAVIER CASTELLANO, jockey on SEASIDE RETREAT (runner-up)
“He made a huge effort today. I’m really happy with the way he did today. I had a perfect trip, right off the speed. They let the winner go easy and I think that’s the reason he beat me today. But he had a good trip and he go through and he finished very well today.”
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