Jockey Pat Day guided undefeated Cashel Castle to a 4 1/4-length romp in the $111,300 Lafayette Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland Sunday, giving the veteran rider his 800th career win at Keeneland.
"He's a joy to ride," Day said. "We just kind of followed everybody along and we were able to angle out at the right time. When you ride a horse with that much ability, they often just make their own trip."
While Cashel Castle's victory provided day with 800th Keeneland winner, it also marked a milestone for trainer Chris Block, who earned his first Keeneland winner in the Lafayette.
"He certainly didn't disappoint," said Chicago-based Block. "I've never been around a racehorse like this in my life. He's pretty special.
"He handles everything that's thrown at him. He rates, he goes when you want him to go ... he really doesn't turn a hair about anything."
Sandbar Farm's homebred Cashel Castle stalked the early pace along the inside, moved into contention on the second turn, and then came out to challenge longshot Laffit in upper stretch. Cashel Castle pulled clear from there as Governor Hickle moved up to finish second, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Sky Terrace. Laffit, Cicero Grimes, and Storm Commander completed the order of finish. Axis and Super Striker were scratched.
On the fast track, Cashel Castle completed the seven furlongs in 1:24.47 and earned $69,006. The son of 3-year-old son of Silver Ghost has won each of his five career start, with the Lafayette marking his first graded stakes win. Last year he won the six-furlong Hoosier Juvenile Stakes. Cashel Castle is out of the Unreal Zeal mare Desviacion (by Unreal Zeal). Rafael Luna, his second dam, produced Ashland Stakes (gr. I) winner Lunar Spook (also by Silver Ghost).
"We've never been on the Derby trail with him," Block said. "We've tried to bring this horse along the right way. This is the best horse I've ever had, and I don't want to make any mistakes."
The 3-5 favorite paid $3.20, $2.20, and $2.10 and topped a $9.40 exacta. Governor Hickle returned $3.60 and $2.60. Sky Terrace paid $2.60.
Owner Barry Buchholz, who runs tiny Sandbar Farm in Cuthbert Ga., said the colt's next start probably will be in the one-mile Derby Trial at Churchill Downs on April 28. (Chart, Equibase