Fight On lived up to his name as the 2-year-old son of Into Mischief prevailed in a five-horse photo to win the second running of the $200,000 Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes on Sunday’s opening day card at Churchill Downs’ 21-day Fall Meet.
The Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes was one of four stakes races on the 11-race card billed as “Stars of Tomorrow I.” Staged for the 13th straight year, each race was exclusively for 2-year-olds.
B. Wayne Hughes, the owner of Fight On and Lexington, Ky.-based Spendthrift Farm and the driving force behind the lucrative race exclusively for 2-year-old offspring sired by any active or non-active Spendthrift stallion, including all Spendthrift-owned stallions standing regionally in North America, presented to trophy to himself.
Ricardo Santana Jr., fresh off his first Keeneland riding title, rode the winner for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
“We are very surprised we won this race but we have a great trainer and jockey that helped us get there today,” Hughes said.
Fight On, the familiar phrase for Hughes’ alma mater, the University of Southern California, broke alertly and raced just off the right hip of pacesetter and 4-5 favorite Ezmosh, who led the field of eight juveniles through early fractions of :23.12 and :46.74.
Fight On narrowly took the lead while exiting the turn for home and inched clear in a long stretch drive to barely hold off Captivating Moon by a head. Dream Baby Dream was another neck back in third, O’Malley’s March was another head back in fourth and John Tippmann was another nose back in fifth. Ezmosh was another length back in sixth and was followed by El Rubio and Just Be Frank.
“We got a perfect trip today and when the horses got to him in deep stretch he fought hard to get the win,” Santana Jr. said.
Fight On, who collected his first career win in his fourth start, ran seven furlongs over a fast track in 1:24.87. The $60,140 first prize increased the dark bay or brown colt’s earnings to $80,340.
“He’s improved in every start and got a great trip today,” Asmussen said.
Fight On, out of the Elusive Quality mare Havenlass, was bred in Kentucky by Haymarket Farm LLC, who were awarded $40,000 for the win.
Designed to benefit both racehorse owners and breeders, the $200,000 purse was structured with a unique approach to award $100,000 to the breeders of the top four placed horses, with the remaining $100,000 allocated to the owners.
“The concept for these races incentivizes the breeders and people who buy our horses, and we are very happy to be able to win this,” Hughes said.
To his pari-mutuel backers, Fight On returned $12.20, $4.80 and $4.40. Captivating Moon, ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., paid $5.40 and $4.40. Dream Baby Dream, under Shaun Bridgmohan, returned $8.80.
SPENDTHRIFT JUVENILE STALLION STAKES QUOTES
Ricardo Santana Jr., jockey of FIGHT ON (winner): “I have to thank Steve (Asmussen) and Mr. (B. Wayne) Hughes for letting me ride this horse. We got a perfect trip today and when the horses got to him in deep stretch he fought hard to get the win.”
Steve Asmussen, trainer of FIGHT ON (winner): “We always appreciate Mr. (B. Wayne) Hughes for letting us train colts like this. He’s improved in every start and got a great trip today.”
B. Wayne Hughes, owner of FIGHT ON (winner): “We are very surprised we won this race but we have a great trainer and jockey that helped us get there today. The concept for these races incentivizes the breeders and people who buy our horses, and we are very happy to be able to win this.”
Jose Valdivia Jr., jockey on CAPTIVATING MOON (runner-up): “He ran huge. I’ll tell you one thing: I’ve never been able to ride him on the grass, but I do believe he is a grass horse. He’s such a good horse that he runs on any surface you put him on. I thought he ran well on the slop at Keeneland, and I thought he ran even better here. But he just could not grab a good hold (on the dirt). Running down the lane here I thought every other stride he was stumbling, and even with that he was still trying to run and get the leader. But he was coming and the 1-horse was running with me and kept pushing him, but I thought the wire was coming up too soon.”