Owned by Zayat Stables, J Be K entered the Bay Shore off a disappointing eighth-place finish in the 1 1/6-mile Louisiana Derby (gr. II) March 8, which effectively ended his hopes for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). But it seems that the Kentucky-bred colt has found his niche as a sprinter, in the process notching his first career graded stakes victory.
Under handling from Garrett Gomez, J Be K completed the seven furlongs on Aqueduct’s fast main track in 1:23.67 while going off as the 3-2 favorite. Germania Farms’ homebred Gattopardo, who entered off a convincing score in the March 1 Miracle Wood at Laurel Park, made a late bid between horses to get up for second. Jockey Ridge was third, a half-length ahead of Go Go Shoot.
Transferred into the Louisiana barn of Steve Asmussen this winter after originally being trained by Bob Baffert in California, J Be K proved that he could press the early pace in the Bay Shore, something that he did not have to do in his each of his first two wire-to-wire victories. This time, he sat just off of pacesetter Go Go Shoot through nearly all of the opening half-mile.
Bobby Hurley’s Go Go Shoot, ridden by Alan Garcia, drilled an opening quarter in :22.38 and was caught by J Be K just before the half-mile pole (:45.21). J Be K, who broke from the outside post and was on Go Go Shoot’s outside, took command shortly thereafter and methodically extended his lead.
J Be K had a seven-length advantage as they hit the top of the lane and continued to pull away. He was never threatened in the stretch, although Gattopardo closed ground late.
“I let him kick on early,” said Gomez, who rode J Be K for the first time since his maiden score last August at Saratoga. “I felt that we and the other horse (Go Go Shoot) went quick early on, but my horse was traveling well. Before the quarter-pole, I decided to have him kick on and put away the other horse and get to the wire.”
Asmussen’s assistant Toby Sheets said: “He ran great and he ran just the way the boss thought he would. We tried the Louisiana Derby, but it looks like he is a sprinter or maybe a one-turn miler. I’m sure the boss will see how he comes out of the race and make his plan after that.”
Out of the Valid Wager mare Major Wager, J Be K earned $90,000 for the win and increased his earnings to $157,200. He was bred by Glory Days Breeding. Zayat purchased the colt for $350,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida Select 2-Year-Olds in training sale.
J Be K paid $5.10, $3.50 and $2.70. The exacta (8-3) was worth $21.40, while the trifecta (8-3-7) returned $66.50.