Peter J. Callahan’s Scotus outlasted Infrattini and Joe Vann after a stretch-long battle to win the 14th running of the Grade III, $138,500 Matt Winn Stakes Presented by Emirates Equestrian Federation by one length on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
The Matt Winn was one of five stakes races on the 12-race Stephen Foster Day program, which was presented by Abu Dhabi.
Scotus, ridden by Alan Garcia, covered 1 1/16 miles on a main track rated “good” in 1:44.12, and extended an impressive streak for her trainer Ken McPeek, who has won the last four Churchill Downs graded stakes races that he’s entered: the June 4 Dogwood (GIII) with Salty Strike; June 4 Aristides (GIII) with Noble’s Promise; June 11 Early Times Mint Julep Handicap (GIII) with My Baby Baby; and the Matt Winn.
Scotus, a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred Successful Appeal colt, sat behind pacesetters Wilburn, the 9-5 favorite in the field of seven 3-year-olds, and Joe Vann, who set fractions of :24.47, :48.27 and 1:12.45. Joe Vann had the lead at the one-mile marker at the head of the stretch, but Scotus responded from the outside when roused by Garcia, wore down that rival and held off a late run from Infrattini.
Scotus paid $18.40, $7.20 and $4 at odds of 8-1. Infrattini, ridden by Corey Lanerie, returned $4.80 and $3.20. Joe Vann, under Javier Castellano, was another three-quarters of a length back in third and paid $18.40.
The $84,154 winner’s share of the purse increased Scotus’ earnings to $121,054. This was his stakes debut and he improved his record to 5-2-1-2.
MATT WINN QUOTES
Ken McPeek, trainer of Scotus (winner): “I came very close to scratching him (Scotus). I debated all morning long whether this was the right spot for him or not. We were thinking that we were going to scratch if Joe Vann stayed in and we would run in the starter allowance tomorrow. Finally I called (owner) Pete Callahan and said, ‘These are the races we like winning and these are the kind of races we need to run in. Let’s just go with it.’”
What’s next on the radar? “I’m not sure where we will go from here. We will look at a lot of different options for him.”
On four Churchill Downs stakes races in a row: “The staff is doing a great job and we have a lot of nice horses for great clients.”
Alan Garcia, jockey of Scotus (winner): “I had a great trip and I knew I just had to be patient because of the long stretch. He ran a really great race and once he got running I knew I was going to get there.”
Paul McGree, trainer of Infrattini (runner-up): “I was pretty happy with him. He came running. He was pretty far back, but he did come running. Maybe he had a little traffic to go through in the last part.”
Corey Lanerie, jockey of Infrattini (runner-up): “He really came running – maybe I shook him up a little too late. I wish I’d have got him going earlier, but I didn’t want to move too early. He was pretty far back and I didn’t want to move him early and he came, but he was kind of just creeping and creeping. He ran to the wire. In hindsight, I wish I’d have engaged him a little earlier.”
Mike Smith, jockey of Wilburn (fourth as the 1.90-1 favorite): “I’m disappointed. The only thing I can tell you is it didn’t seem like the track was speed favoring today at all. Normally when you get a wet track, you’d think it would be, wouldn’t you? He got on his lead and he got it easy. I don’t want sit here and make too many excuses for him. But all I can say is I know the track didn’t play for him and I was hitting the ground now and then that he wasn’t comfortable with.”