By Jerry Bossert
After failing as the favorite in last month’s United Nations Stakes (gr. IT), Kaigun made amends to those who backed the 4-year-old gelding with a three-quarters-length score over Lockout in the $204,862 Play the King Stakes (Can-IIT) (VIDEO) from Woodbine Aug. 10.
Sent off as the 7-2 second-choice in the field of 10, the son of Northern Afleet rallied from about 11 lengths off the pace on the turf to win for the fourth time from 14 career starts for owners Gary Barber, Quintessential Racing Florida, and Horse'n Around Racing Stable.
Racing in ninth early on in the seven-furlong test while longshots Global Power and Sharp Sensation dueled through fast early fractions of :21.98 and :44.59 for the half mile, Kaigun advanced along the rail turning for home under jockey Patrick Husbands. Through the stretch he angled his way off the rail, taking the lead inside the final sixteenth of a mile, then held off the late run from Lockout, who launched from last at the three-eighths pole.
Husbands is now 2-for-2 on Kaigun, having teamed to break the gelding’s maiden last year for trainer Mark Casse.
"Looking at the form, there was definitely a lot speed in the race," Husbands said. "Leaving the gate I wanted to get down to the rail and then at the eighth pole, get out. It worked out perfectly."
The fast early tempo undoubtedly set up Kaigun’s late winning run, as well as 12-1 Lockout's deep drive. Outsider Dimension lasted to be third at 17-1 and he was followed by Something Extra, Excaper, 2-1 favorite Winning Prize, Sharp Sensation, The Brothers War, Global Power, and Awesome Eclipse.
The victory in the Play the King was the first stakes win for Kaigun. The chestnut finished fifth as the slight 3-1 choice in the July 6 United Nations at Monmouth Park after finishing second in the Knob Creek Manhattan Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont Park June 7.
After finishing fifth in his debut at Keeneland on April 7 of last year, Kaigun broke his maiden in his second start over the Polytrack at Woodbine May 18 before finishing seventh in the Queen’s Plate Trial June 9.
He was giving a brief freshening after finishing ninth in the 2013 Queen’s Plate July 7, returning to the winner’s circle in an allowance race over Woodbine’s turf course Aug. 25. Kaigun finished a close third in the Commonwealth Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs Nov. 16 before starting once more in 2013 when second in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park Dec. 21.
Prior to his victory in the Play the King, Kaigun had only won once from six starts in 2014, taking an allowance race at Gulfstream over the grass Feb. 22. He finished second, beaten only three-quarters of a length by two-time reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Makers 46 Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland April 11.
Bred by William Sorokolit Racing Stable out of the Kris S. mare Cruising Kris in Ontario, second choice Kaigun returned $9.80, $4.90, and $4.10 to win, covering the seven furlongs over the firm turf course in a solid 1:20.71. Lockout, with Gary Boulanger aboard, returned $10.70 and $6.60, completing a $76.70 exacta. Dimension and David Moran were 2 3/4 lengths farther back in third, paying $13.10 to show.
Lucky Strike purchased Kaigun for $34,000 from the consignor Richard Moylan, agent, at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale. Kaigun has now banked $547,860.