Favored Noble Tune, saving all the ground for Javier Castellano, fired through an opening along the hedge to register an easy victory in the $234,200 American Turf Stakes (gr. IIT) May 3 at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).
Noble Tune, a son of Unbridled's Song trained by Chad Brown for Martin S. Schwartz and breeder Dell Ridge Farm, defeated Admiral Kitten by 1 3/4 lengths on the 1 1/16-mile test of 3-year-olds. The winning dark bay or brown colt is out of the Storm Cat mare Serena's Cat, a granddaughter of champion and Hall of Fame member Serena's Song.
Second choice War Dancer finished third. The final time was 1:41.63 over firm turf.
The American Turf directly preceded the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) on the Churchill Downs Friday program.
Noble Tune won for the fourth time in five starts and registered his second graded stakes win as the 3-2 favorite in the field of 11. His lone defeat came in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) when second to George Vancouver by 1 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita Park.
He was entered in the American Turf as a second option when Brown decided against running Noble Tune in the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) at Keeneland because he was unhappy with the way the colt was handling the Polytrack.
"We ran him at Tampa in order to get him ready for the Blue Grass," Brown noted. "But when we got him to Keeneland, he couldn't handle the track. The owners were bummed, but I talked them into waiting for this race. I'm glad we did. I don't want to run him anywhere but on the turf. No dirt. As long as he's with me, he'll stay on grass."
Castellano settled Noble Tune nicely in fourth along the inside as Anyriderill Do, breaking from the rail, took the early advantage while floating out to the center of the course. Anyriderill Do worked his way back to nearer the hedge and led Positively and Joelito through fractions of :24.35, :48.59, and 1:12.56 with Noble Tune continuing to stalk comfortably in fourth.
Noble Tune appeared to be stuck in a pocket as Anyriderill Do showed the way into upper stretch. But Anyriderill Do drifted out in the lane under Miguel Mena, opening a big gap along the inside approaching the eighth pole, which Castellano and Noble Tune quickly exploited. Noble Tune drew off quickly in the final furlong, holding sway easily as Admiral Kitten, taking the overland route for Mike Smith, emerged late to claim the runner-up spot.
"It was a beautiful trip," said Castellano, who previously won the American Turf in 2005 with Rey de Café. "I was expecting to lay off the pace a little bit, but he was sharp today and he lay a little closer. On the backside, I saved all the ground. I waited for the best opportunity and turning for home, the rail opened up and he took it."
It was half a length back to War Dancer and Alan Garcia in third. Joelito stuck around for fourth, followed by Anyriderill Do, Channel Isle, Tenforthemoney, Positively, Bashaar, Fire Guard, and Prado Cat.
Noble Tune boosted his career bankroll to $473,422 with the winner's share of $136,492.
The winner carried co-high weight of 120 pounds and paid $5, $3.40, $2.80. Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Admiral Kitten, who also carried 120 for trainer Mike Maker, returned $6.20 and $3.80 while completing a $30.20 exacta. War Dancer was $3.20 to show.