Quest was the declared the winner of Friday's $582,000 Clark Handicap (gr. I) on a sloppy track after Churchill Downs stewards disqualified favored Evening Attire from his nose victory for drifting out in the stretch run and repeatedly bumping with the 17-1 upstart.
Ridden by Javier Castellano for trainer Nick Zito and owner/breeders Arthur B. Hancock III and Gerald F. Healey, the 4-year-old Seeking the Gold colt notched his first graded stakes win in the Clark after being awarded the nod over the 2002 Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) victor. The final time was 1:52 2/5 on sloppy going.
It was the first disqualification for the win in the Clark, a race that dates to the inaugural Churchill Downs race meet in 1875.
Castellano brought Quest down the center of the track but was forced out by Evening Attire and Cornelio Velasquez in the closing stages as Quest bore down on the leader and appeared to be ready to move ahead. Aeneas was a non-threatening third.
Immediately after the finish, Castellano lodged a claim of foul against Velasquez.
"I'm really happy with the stewards," said Castellano, who won his first stakes race at Churchill Downs. "They made the right decision in the race. I think he (Evening Attire) had to be taken down. He came out at the top of the stretch about two or three lengths wide and that's when it happened and he bothered me. He came out on my horse at the top of the stretch and that cost me the race right on the wire."
Velasquez disagreed with the stewards' call.
"I think my horse was coming out a little bit, but he (Quest) bumped the behind of my horse before that," he said. "But the stewards took him down."
Evening Attire had wrested the lead from a fading Cappuchino at the top of the stretch and held a narrow advantage over several challengers down the lane. Quest, well back in the pack down the backstretch, moved six wide on the turn for home and continued his rally while racing wide through the lane. Evening Attire drifted out steadily while the two bumped several times in the late stages. The stewards agreed with Castellano that Velasquez had caused the interference.
"I knew he (Evening Attire) came out a little bit," said Zito. "That's the way Cornelio (Velasquez) rides. The kid (Javier Castellano on Quest) had the momentum and we were going by him and I think Cornelio knew that and that's what he did. So I'm pretty impressed and I'm pretty happy."
Aeneas used a big rally while also wide to move into contention in the stretch but could not match strides with first two, finishing 3 1/4 lengths behind.
Cappuchino, dueling with During early, clicked off fractions of :23 4/5, :48 1/5 and 1:13 before giving way at the head of the stretch.
Tenpins, the 119-pound highweight who was the 7-2 second choice in the field of 14, broke in the air, hustled into contention while wide and faded to 12th.
"I was stalking them, laying third, and I thought he was all right and setting good," jockey Corey Lanerie said. "Then I got in the turn and he just never leveled off. I hope it was the racetrack."
Quest, seventh in the Fayette (gr. III) Oct. 25 after a second-place finish behind Mineshaft in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Sept. 27, won for the second time in 11 starts this year. Overall, Quest is 5-4-4 in 18 starts. Friday's win, worth $360,840, doubled Quest's career earnings to $720,760.
From the Spectacular Bid mare Starlore, Quest won for the first time in six starts on an off-track.
Carying 114 pounds, Quest paid $36.80, $15 and $10. Evening Attire, 118 pounds, returned $4.80 and $3.80. The show for Aeneas was $8.40. The $2 exacta was worth $159.
Aeneas was 1 1/4 lengths ahead of fourth-place Seattle Fitz, who was followed by Devil Time, Request for Parole, M B Sea, Sonic West, Quest Star Cappuchino, Crafty Shaw and Tenpins. During was eased and Private Lap pulled up.