Junior College’s score came six weeks after the 5-year-old Ide gelding won the Bet On Sunshine Stakes by five lengths at Churchill Downs. The bay completed 2007 with five wins in 10 starts.
Three Twenty Three broke first and was among four contenders, including Junior College, who vied for the lead early. Reigning Court tripped the quarter-mile timer at :22.05, but Junior College had the measure of the others by the half-mile mark and set all the remaining pace, finishing the six-furlong Polytrack test in 1:09.83.
“Junior College is a professional racehorse,” said winning trainer Anthony Reinstedler. “He doesn’t have to be on the lead. He takes everything in stride. He’s run on Polytrack twice before [in the fall of 2006] and didn’t seem to handle it, but tonight he relished it. If he runs his race, he’s in the winner’s circle.”
Ridden by Jesus Castanon, Junior College earned $29,760 in the Holiday Cheer to lift his career earnings to $325,446. He now has 10 wins, 3 seconds, and 2 thirds in 21 lifetime starts. He is owned by Mjaka Stables, which bred him in Kentucky, and Elizabeth Lavin.
Grade II winner Sweetnorthernsaint, runner-up in the 2006 Preakness (gr. I) for trainer Michael Trombetta, had to contend with the far outside starting post in the field of nine. After a slow start, he never threatened while experiencing an extremely wide trip.
“He felt good under me,” said jockey Victor Lebron. “When I tried to get him over he didn’t like the track coming back at him, so I put him where he was comfortable. He’ll be a different horse next time.”
Junior College was sent off as the 2-1 second choice and paid $6, $3.80, and $2.80. Three Twenty Three was second, a head better than the Argentina-bred sprinter Storm Marcopolo.