Aldeberan, known for his many second-place finishes, did not finish second Saturday in the Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II). Under Jerry Bailey, he won the seven-furlong stakes as the 6-5 favorite, withstanding an objection from Tony Farina, who rode second-place finisher Pass Rush.
Pat Day was originally named on Pass Rush, but Farina was put up at the request of owner Michael Tabor. Farina will ride Tabor's Brancusi in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
"I thought Jerry (Bailey) came over and I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't object," said Pass Rush's trainer, Pat Byrne. "Michael (owner Tabor) wanted to give Tony a ride over the track and I thought he rode very well."
The Churchill Downs Handicap is the first stakes on Derby Day.
In 19 previous starts, Aldeberan had run second a dozen times. He also had won four races and finished second twice.
"I took a look at the field and realized this is the easiest bunch he's seen in two years," trainer Bobby Frankel said. "There wasn't any real top horse that could steal it away from him."
Frankel said a one-turn, one-mile race is next on Aldeberan's agenda.
"I'll go to the Met Mile (Metropolitan Handicap, gr. I) at Belmont with him. No, I don't see him as a Breeders' Cup Sprint horse."
A 5-year-old Mr. Prospector horse, Aldebaran is owned by Flaxman Holdings, which bred him in Kentucky.
Lord Abounding made an easy lead out of the gate and held it into the stretch. Bailey came on the outside while Farina took Pass Rush through a hole. Bailey did come in some, but the stewards disallowed the objection.
Aldeberan covered the seven furlongs in 1:21.80 and paid $4.60, $3.20 and $2.60. Pass Rush returned $7.20 and $5 while Peeping Tom was worth $13.60. The exacta paid $39.20.
The fractions were not that swift: :22.48, :45.17, and 1:09.69.
Cappuchino ran third, and Peeping Tom finished fourth. Lord Abounding, Binthebest, Twilight Road, R. Baggio, Proud Citizen, Mountain General, Swift Replica, and D'wildcat completed the order of finish. D'wildcat won last year's renewal of the race via disqualification.
The field was reduced by one with the scratch of Wiseman's Ferry.
The race was the first since June for Proud Citizen, last year's Derby runner-up.
"I thought I had him a little tighter than that," said trainer D. Wayne Lukas. "We'll look for something for him going two turns. Going against those kind of fractions is counterproductive for him."