Went the Day Well did a good imitation of Animal Kingdom when he easily won the $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) at Turfway Park March 24, giving owner Team Valor International consecutive victories in the race (VIDEO).
Of course, Animal Kingdom, who like Went the Day Well was trained by Graham Motion, went on to capture the 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Went the Day Well, a good-looking son of Proud Citizen co-owned by Mark Ford, will be given every opportunity to do the same thing.
"I was very impressed with him," Motion said. "Apart from a little greeness (in the stretch) he couldn't have been better. When Animal Kingdom won this race last year, he was very explosive, but this horse was a little explosive, too. I hate to compare the two because they are such different horses."
Went the Day Well, whose name comes from a British World War II film, qualified for the Derby field in his stakes debut. Sent off at odds of 5-1, he won by 3 1/2 lengths over Holiday Promise while running the 1 1/8-mile Spiral distance in 1:51.33 on Polytrack.
"I feel confident telling you guys this horse will run in the Kentucky Derby," Motion said.
Heavy Breathing, the 2-1 favorite in the field of a dozen 3-year-olds, finished third.
Went the Day Well had a dream trip under John Velazquez, racing within a few lengths of a fast pace set by Heavy Breathing (:23.10, :46.98, 1:11.86) while saving ground just off the rail. Went the Day went three paths wide rounding the turn to challenge for the lead near the quarter pole. He dueled with Heavy Breathing, ridden by Javier Castellano, and Holiday Promise while racing somewhat greenly in the lane. But Went the Day Well exerted his domininance past mid-stretch to win impressively.
It was a great day for Velazquez, who also won the Bourbonette Oaks (gr. III) with odds-on choice In Lingerie a race earlier for trainer Todd Pletcher.
"He still doesn't know very much," Velazquez said of Went the Day Well. "As soon as he pulled out at the quarter pole and he found himself on the lead, he didn't know what to do. I just encouraged him to keep going forward. I think this horse will go all day."
Pletcher had both the second and third-place finishers in the Spiral. Holiday Promise, a 25-1 chance with Junior Alvardo aboard, edged Heavy Breathing for second by one length. Handsome Mike , who trailed the field for a half-mile after a poor start, rallied to get fourth.
Bred in New York by James Patick Delaney, Went the Day Well sold for $15,000 as a Keeneland November weanling in 2009. The bay colt is out of Tiz Male's Day, by Tiznow . Barry Irwin, Team Valor's president, purchased Went the Day Well privately after seeing him in England.
Irwin said Went the Day Well could well need another start before the Derby.
"He's a good horse but he's not all mentally there yet. We ran him back in three weeks. Based on what (jockey John Velazquez) said, we might run him one more time.
"He wants to run a mile and a quarter. That's for sure."
Motion said the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. III) April 21 is "probably the only option" for Went the Day Well if he is to run again before the Derby.
Went the Day Well finished second in back-to-back maiden efforts at Haydock and Leicester last year when trained by Ed McMahon. In his first United States start Feb. 4 going 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream Park, he broke slowly and was stuck behind a pedestrian pace before rallying wide to finish fourth.
He got a better pace in his next try March 3 at 1 1/16 miles to win going away by 1 1/4 lengths as the even-money choice at Gulfstream.
Went the Day Well earned $288,300 for the victory, assuring him a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
Sent off as the third choice, the winner paid $12.40, $6, $4.40. WinStar Farm's Holiday Promise returned $21.80 and $10.80 while rounding off a $245.40 exacta. Starlight Racing's Heavy Breathing, who lost for the first time in three starts, paid $3.60. The $2 trifecta was worth $857.80.
Handsome Mike, who lost his footing on the far outside at the start, finished two lengths farther back in fourth. He was followed by Stealcase, All Squared Away, Ill Conceived, Russian Greek, Tizanexpense, Red Jack, Mr. Prankster, and Coach Royal.