Stonerside Stable homebred Texas Fever held on gamely for a facile neck victory in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Turfway Park Sept. 29.
A 2-year-old son of Victory Gallop out of Fortyniner Fever (by Forty Niner), Texas Fever was sent off a slight second choice behind favored Chitoz, with Julien Leparoux aboard.
Third early, Texas Fever assumed a stalking position as longshot Delaware Manor set a moderate early pace. Texas Fever assumed the lead in upper stretch and battled with a determined Chitoz before prevailing at the wire. The final time for 1 1/16 miles was 1:44.95.
Chitoz, who nearly led from start to finish in breaking his maiden by 10 1/4 lengths previous to the Kentucky Cup, broke seventh and made up ground rounding the second turn. He dropped back in mid-stretch but rallied to just miss at the wire.
Texas Fever paid $7.80, $4.20, and $3.40. Chitoz was worth $4.00 and $3.60. Blackberry Road finished third, paying $3.80.
The victory was the second in a row for Texas Fever, who had made all three of his previous starts at Arlington Park. Fourth in his career debut, the colt was again fourth as the favorite in his second start before breaking his maiden by 5 3/4 lengths as the 3-2 favorite.
Despite the victory, trainer Mike Stidham was noncommittal about a berth in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) for the colt.
“He can be a tough, bullheaded horse,” Stidham said. “He’s never been really bad, but he can be tough. He’s a true colt. We don’t have any set plans. Breeders’ Cup hasn’t been in our minds, but after a nice win like that, you have to think about it. He has a nice record and he has the pedigree. We have a lot to look forward to with him.”
“He was a little green in the stretch, but took off again when I asked him,” Leparoux said.
Mike McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, said he was pleased with the runner-up effort of Chitoz. “I was very pleased with his effort. Chris put him in a perfect spot. The other horse just came back on him.”
In another stake for 2-year-olds on the Turfway Park card, Heather Stark’s Sky Mom stalked the pace before holding off longshot Mims Eppi for a three-quarter length victory in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies under jockey Terry Thompson.
A 2-year-old daughter of Maria’s Mon—Swiftly Classic (by Sky Classic) trained by Steve Asmussen, Sky Mom stalked the early fractions of :23.24 and :46.69set by Palanka City before splitting horses taking the lead in mid-stretch. Mims Eppi rallied from far back in the 11-horse field to finish second as the winner completed the mile on Polytrack in 1:38.11. Favored Latest Scoop, coming off an impressive maiden win at the distance over the Turfway track, finished sixth.
Sky Mom paid $10.40., $5.60, and $4.00. Mims Eppi was worth $11.40 and $6.60. Kadira, a stakes winner at River Downs in her previous start, finished third, returning $5.60.
“This is very exciting,” said owner Stark. “I kept think was she going to be able to keep going on the lead. (When) she started to pull away, I was running the last part with her. I don’t know about her last race (seventh in the grade II Adirondacks Stakes at Saratoga), but we don’t bring them unless they're ready.”
“I was comfortable laying off horses early and I knew Steve would have her ready at the quarter pole onward,” Thompson said. “I let her go and knew the wire would come up in time.”
With visits to five tracks in her six-race career, Sky Mom finished second in her career debut and then broke her maiden next out, both at Keeneland. After winning an allowance at Churchill Downs, the filly was shipped north to Woodbine, where she finished second in the My Dear Stakes. Sent to Saratoga, she finished seventh in the Adirondack previous to her Kentucky Cup win.