Silver Prospector out-kicked odds-on 3-5 favorite Tiz the Law in deep stretch and held off hard-charging 87-1 longshot Finnick the Fierce to win Saturday’s 93rd running of the $300,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II) at Churchill Downs by a three-quarters of a length. New York-invader Tiz the Law, winner of the Grade I Champagne in early October, finished a head back in third after being bottled up down on the inside for most of the race.
Silver Prospector, owned by Ed and Susie Orr, completed a graded stakes double for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., who earlier won the $300,000 Golden Rod (GII) for fillies with Finite as part of Churchill Downs’ 12-race “Stars of Tomorrow” program for 2-year-olds.
“It’s very special to have horses compete at the highest level on days like today,” said Asmussen, who also won previous runnings of the Kentucky Jockey Club with Private Vow (2005) and Tapiture (2013). “This horse has learned how to relax and was able to do that very well today.”
Silver Prospector clocked 1 1/16 miles over a rain-soaked “sloppy” track in 1:45.94, earned $180,420 and collected 10 points as part of the 35-race “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve” series, which offered points on a scale of 10-4-2-1 to the Top 4 finishers as a “Prep Season” race.
“It’s so special winning races for Steve,” Santana said. “I love both of these horses so much and to win both of these races was very special today.”
New Eagle broke fastest of all and led the field of eight 2-year-olds into the first turn and down the backstretch through quarter-mile fractions of :24.39 and :49.92 with South Bend positioned in second and Tiz the Law covered up in third down on the inside. Silver Prospector, meanwhile, was well positioned in fifth and in the clear a couple lengths back of the leader.
After six furlongs in 1:14.83 and midway around the far turn, South Bend made the first run on leader New Eagle with Silver Prospector poised to pounce from the outside. Tiz the Law appeared set to strike but remained bottle up down on the rail behind New Eagle and South Bend.
Silver Prospector raced three-wide down the lane and took the lead with an eighth of a mile to the finish. Simultaneously, a seam finally opened for Tiz the Law and he drew even with the eventual winner, but Silver Prospector had more left after the long drive and edged clear.
“He was able to relax behind horses today and was really comfortable the entire trip.” Santana said. “He showed a lot of strength being able to kick that hard in the stretch.”
Finnick the Fierce, who had one horse beaten early on, closed from the five path down the stretch to edge Tiz the Law at the wire for the place.
“He handled the mud okay but I never was able to get him out of that spot on the rail,” Tiz the Law’s jockey Manny Franco said. “He felt good the entire way but he got a little too far behind horses and we never got through.”
It appeared that Tiz the Law switched to his “wrong” lead leg at the sixteenth pole.
“Well, it’s disappointing it’s not our day today,” said Tiz the Law’s managing partner Jack Knowlton of Sackatoga Stable. “We sent him down here to get a run over the track and we got into some trouble in the race. Hopefully we can move forward out of this and we’ll figure out a plan for what can be next.”
Silver Prospector paid $17.80, $8.80 and $4 as the 7-1 third betting choice. Finnick the Fierce, the second-longest shot in the field under Sonny Leon, paid $41.40 and $10.60. Tiz the Law returned $2.10 to show.
It was another 1 ¼ lengths back to Enforceable in fourth, who was followed by New Eagle, South Bend, Fighting Seabee and Two Last Words. Shotski was scratched.
Overall, Silver Prospector has a record of 2-0-2 in six starts and earnings of $255,551 ranks fifth overall on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard that will determine the preference list for the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby (GI) on May 2.
Silver Prospector, a son of Declaration of War out of the Tapit mare Tap Softly, was bred in Kentucky by Hargus Sexton, Sandra Sexton and Silver Fern Farm LLC. He was purchased for $190,000 at OBS Sales’ 2019 Spring Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training in April.
The Kentucky Jockey Club is named in honor of the holding company that operated Churchill Downs at the time of the race’s inaugural running in 1920. In recent years, the Kentucky Jockey Club produced Kentucky Derby winners in WinStar Farm’s Super Saver, who won both races for trainer Todd Pletcher in 2009 and ’10, and Mike Pegram’s Real Quiet, the runner-up in the 1997 Kentucky Jockey Club who returned to win the Derby for trainer Bob Baffert the following spring.
Racing at Churchill Downs continues Sunday at 1 p.m. EST with a 12-race card for closing day of the Fall Meet. There will be a mandatory payout in the 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot (Races 7-12), which features a carryover of $61,122.
KENTUCKY JOCKEY CLUB QUOTES
Ricardo Santana Jr., jockey of SILVER PROSPECTOR (winner): “It’s so special winning races for Steve. I love both of these horses so much and to win both of these races was very special today. He was able to relax behind horses today and was really comfortable the entire trip. He showed a lot of strength being able to kick that hard in the stretch.”
Steve Asmussen., trainer of SILVER PROSPECTOR (winner): “It’s very special to have horses compete at the highest level on days like today. This horse has learned how to relax and was able to do that very well today.”
Sonny Leon, jockey of FINNICK THE FIERCE (runner-up): “He ran such a good race. He ran amazing.”
Manny Franco, jockey of TIZ THE LAW (third): “He handled the mud okay but I never was able to get him out of that spot on the rail. He felt good the entire way but he got a little too far behind horses and we never got through.”
Jack Knowlton, owner of TIZ THE LAW (third): “Well, it’s disappointing it’s not our day today. We sent him down here to get a run over the track and we got into some trouble in the race. Hopefully we can move forward out of this and we’ll figure out a plan for what can be next.”