While the battle raged in the middle of the track Greater Good, ridden by John McKee, slipped through along the inside with a furlong to go and went on to an impressive 1 3/4-length win in the $223,200 Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) for 2-year-olds on closing day at Churchill Downs Saturday.
It was the second graded stakes win of the year for Greater Good, a bay son of Intidab
. He also captured the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III) at Turfway Park in September for trainer Robert Holthus and was coming off a third-place finish, seven lengths behind Straight Line, in Churchill's Iroquois (gr. III) earlier this month.
"He's a one-kick horse," said McKee. "He always kicks at the quarter pole and more distance helps him. Today Bob Holthus really had this horse training well up to this race and I'm just glad to be a part of it."
It was the second stakes win of the meeting for McKee, who wrapped up his first riding title with 27 wins in the 21-day fall meeting. Pat Day and the apprentice Brian Hernandez Jr. each won 23.
Holthus couldn't help but think about the Kentucky Derby May 7.
"I believe that it will be to his advantage that he's trained at Churchill practically his whole life," said Holthus. "He knows this track very well. He's going to Arkansas and will have about 30 days off. We'll start him out (on the Derby trail) around the first of the year."
The final time for the 1 1/6-mile event was 1:45 on a track rated fast in spite of afternoon showers.
Greater Good, the second choice in the field of nine, was unhurried as favored Storm Surge and Brian Hernandez Jr. held the early lead over Highgrove on his inside and B.B. Best on the outside through an opening quarter-mile in :23 2/5. B. B. Best, with Eddie Castro aboard, led while racing well off the rail and under heavy pressure from his rivals through fractions of :47 and 1:12 4/5 before falling back in the stretch.
Magna Graduate led briefly, but along the inside both Greater Good and Rush Bay came on to take first and second. Wild Desert, with Brice Blanc in the irons, also rallied late to nip B.B. Best for third, a half-length behind Rush Bay.
"I thought I had it turning for home, because when he went, he kicked in hard," said Razo. "But the other horse just went by me on the inside. I was surprised that someone was running faster than me."
Trainer Dallas Stewart could find no immediate explanation for the sixth-place performance by Storm Surge, who had won the Lone Star Juvenile at Lone Star Park in his most recent start.
"He just got outrun," said Stewart.
Greater Good won for the third time in five starts and increased his earnings to $216,275 for owner Lewis G. Lakin. A. Lakin and Sons Inc. bred Greater Good, who is out of the General Assembly mare Gather The Clan.
He paid $10.80, $5.40 and $3.80. Rush Bay, ridden by Eusebio Razo, returned $6.40 and $4.20. Wild Desert's show was $8.40. The exacta was worth $75.80.