After having a difficult time on the Triple Crown trail earlier this spring, Rush Bay has found a home on the grass. In his second start on the Churchill Downs lawn, the son of Cozzene
won the $220,400 Jefferson Cup (gr. IIIT) for 3-year-olds Saturday.
Ridden by Robby Albarado, the Tom Amoss-trained bay colt opened up a clear advantage in the stretch and held off Big Prairie by a neck in the 1 1/8-mile test. Gun Salute, the slight 8-5 choice over Rush Bay in the field of seven, was another neck behind in third.
"I really think he's one of the top 3-year-olds on grass in the country," said Amoss.
The final time was 1:48 3/5 on a firm course.
The Phoebe Ann Miller Trust Kentucky homebred broke through for his first graded stakes win. In his first try on the Churchill sod May 6, Rush Bay was nipped by a nose in the 1 1/16-mile Crown Royal American Turf (gr. IIIT) by Rey de Cafe. Earlier this year, Rush Bay ran seventh, beaten by 14 1/2 lengths by Afleet Alex in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II). Prior to that effort, he ran eighth behind Scipion in the Risen Star (gr. II) at Fairgrounds.
Amoss took blinkers off Rush Bay for the Jefferson Cup. Reserved early, Rush Bay circled the leaders four or five paths wide when launching his bid with less than three furlongs left. Rush Bay took command in upper stretch and held off Big Prairie and Gun Salute.
Big Prairie, making his third career start, was blocked briefly while racing between horses under Rafael Bejarano, recovering to rally from the outside in the stretch. Gun Salute was well placed under Cornelio Velasquez, ranging into contention between Rush Bay and Big Prairie but came up short.
Chatham Strait, Mesawmi, Franklin's Tower, and Ground Control followed. Mad Adam scratched.
Rush Bay, who is from the Deputy Minister mare Seoul, has now won three of nine lifetime starts. The winner's share, $136,648, more than doubled his career earnings to $267,143.
He paid $5.40, $3.40, and $2.20. Big Prairie returned $5.20 and $2.80. Gun Salute was $2.20 to show.