Rupp Racing Wentworth Brochu’s Almasty led every step of the way under jockey Jon Court and rolled to a 4 ¼-length upset victory over Saham to win the 12th running of the $100,000 Commonwealth Turf (Grade III) for 3-year-olds on Friday afternoon at Churchill Downs.
The Commonwealth Turf was one of three stakes races on a 12-race “Black Friday” program at Churchill Downs. One race earlier, Super Saks won the 11th running of the $83,134 Dream Supreme. Later, Effinex won the 141st running of the the $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI).
Trained by Louisville native Brad Cox, Almasty covered the 1 1/16 miles over a Matt Winn Turf Course rated “good” in 1:45.41 after leading the field of 11 through fractions of :23.48, :48.10, 1:13.48 and 1:38.75. The victory was worth $58,280 and increased Almasty’s bankroll to $158,831 with a record of 10-4-1-1.
Cox and the ownership managed by John Wentworth claimed Almasty for $30,000 in March.
Almasty, returned $24.40, $12 and $7.60. Saham, ridden by Joe Rocco Jr., paid $4.60 and $3.60 and finished 3 ½ lengths in front of Quality Bird, who paid $5.60 to show under Chris Landeros.
It was another length back to Granny’s Kitten, who was followed in order by Nun the Less, Wayward Kitten, mild 4-1 favorite Nucifera, Obsidian Splendor, One Go All Go, Bucchero and Magic of Believing. Czar and Bullards Alley were scratched.
Almasty, a son of Scat Daddy out of the Pleasant Colony mare Minicolony, was bred in Kentucky by Paget Bloodstock & Horse France.
In the Dream Supreme, Robert C. Baker and William L. Mack’s Super Saks, trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas and ridden by Robby Albarado, went gate-to-wire and beat favored House of Sole by three-quarters of a length while clocking six furlongs over a “fast” track in 1:09.33. The 3-year-old daughter of Sky Mesa paid $28.80 to win and banked $49,500. Overall, she has won four of 14 starts, including two in a row, and $176,080. It was Lukas’ 74th Churchill Downs stakes win (ranks second to Bill Mott’s 89) and his first locally since Will Take Charge won the 2013 Clark Handicap (GI).
Racing resumes Saturday with a 12-race program that begins at 12:40 p.m. (all times Eastern). The 89th running of the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Presented by TwinSpires.com (GII) at Churchill Downs – a “Prep Season” race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby – and the 72nd running of the $200,000 Golden Rod Presented by TwinSpires.com (Grade II) for fillies are the headliners on the penultimate day of Churchill Downs’ 21-date Fall Meet. Billed as “Stars of Tomorrow II,” each of the 12 races is exclusively for 2-year-olds that may have aspirations of trail-blazing their way to next spring’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Longines Kentucky Oaks.
COMMONWEALTH TURF QUOTES
BRAD COX, trainer of ALMASTY (winner): “We looked at the two-other-than on Sunday and I looked at the race last night and decided to stick with this race against the 3-year olds and obviously worked out. Going to the lead wasn’t really the plan. It looked like on paper that there was a lot of speed and we kind of though wed by laying third or fourth saving ground around the first turn, but he ended up on the lead. This horse is real sharp, he had a good work nine days ago, he had a five-eighths in :59-and-4 which is real sharp. He’s been doing great and just really showed it today.”
JON COURT jockey of ALMASTY (winner): “I was a little concerned that someone would want to press the pace with me. If not maybe I would sit second or third. It’s soft out there but he’s handled it well enough to hold them all off be several lengths. Me and Brad (Cox) have a great communication relationship and he pretty much tells me what I need to know and I have the ability to understand in depth of what he’s talking about. My confidence soars and always has with Brad so that’s a big plus too. I went into this race with a lot of confidence with where Brad had his horse and everything came into play. I liked the inside post. I was going to utilize the speed to his favor, that’s not necessarily the plans I would go with but that’s how it worked out today.
BRENDAN WALSH, trainer of SAHAM (runner-up): “I can’t be disappointed with him. From that draw and that ground, he ran super. I cannot be disappointed with him. He’s been a great horse all year and we’re looking forward to a big year next year with him.”
JOE ROCCO JR., jockey on SAHAM (runner-up): “The horse ran great. We got the pace we wanted, but I think the course kind of helped the horses with good speed to keep going on. It has been a little harder to make up ground in the last week. My horse closed from the back and he ran great. I’m really proud of him. I think he’s going to be an ever better horse.”
IAN WILKES, trainer of QUALITY BIRD (third): “He ran good. He was a little closer to the pace today, and he got into a little bit of traffic and he had to ease up. But the horse ran great. He’s still learning. He’s still getting better and this was a really good race.”
CHRIS LANDEROS, jockey on QUALITY BIRD (third): “He ran a good race. I was really proud of him just for finishing well. He handled the first turn great, but when I called on him at the half he kind of struggled with the track. It’s a little bit soft. But I was proud of him because I didn’t think he’d get to where he finished, but he ran-on hard and he ran a good race.”
MARTIN GARCIA, jockey on GRANNY’S KITTEN (fourth): “I went good. I was in a perfect spot, but nobody put pressure on that horse who was on the lead. I just followed him and my horse stayed the same, but he ran good.”
JOHN VELAZQUEZ, jockey on NUCIFERA (seventh as the 4-1 favorite): “He had a good trip. I just don’t think he could handle the soft, of loose ground – whatever it is. I don’t know what you call it. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen this grass like this.”
DREAM SUPREME QUOTES
D. WAYNE LUKAS, trainer of SUPER SAKS (winner): “We wanted to see her get along on the dirt. She had been working so well on the dirt so I didn’t see how she wouldn’t run well on it today. We’re going to Oaklawn now and there’s a stakes there [$100,000 American Beauty on Jan. 23] toward the beginning of the meet so we’ll take a shot at that.”
ROBBY ALBARADO jockey of SUPER SAKS (winner): “She’s very tactically fast. I just tried not to get in her way and let her be as fast as she is. I opened up pretty well. I tried to stretch the race out a bit turning for home and try to make it longer for the rest of them chasing her. I know they went fast and chased for a while and they were kind of just straggling home.”
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