Heiligbrodt Racing Stable's Inca King led from flag fall to finish for a three-length win in his graded stakes debut for trainer Steve Asmussen, turning back odds-on favorite Duveen in the stretch to win the $221,000 Jefferson Cup (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) for 3-year-olds on the turf in convincing fashion at Churchill Downs Saturday.
Asmussen won his fourth race on the Churchill card with the 8-1 shot in the 1 1/18-mile Jefferson Cup, which was the first of six graded stakes on a Churchill card highlighted by the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I). Inca King has not lost since he moved to the grass and scored his first career victory on March 7 at Gulfstream Park.
“This horse has been running excellent, and what a great day to show up,” said Asmussen. “I've been very proud of the effort that all of my horses have put in so far today, but hopefully we're not done. We've got a couple left.”
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan was able to slow things down on Inca King after establishing a one-length lead in the opening quarter-mile, then kicked away when challenged by Duveen, the 9-10 choice who had a terrible trip. Duveen, looking for his fourth consecutive win, pulled hard early when placed behind the leader by Mark Guidry and was in tight for much of the journey.
Attempting to split horses at the top of the stretch to challenge Inca King, Duveen lacked room, then tried to rally along the hedge, but to no avail. Duveen edged Jazz Quest and Edgar Prado by a neck for second. After tepid fractions of :24 4/5, :49 4/5, 1:14 3/5 and 1:37 2/5, Inca King came home in a respectable 1:48 4/5 while ridden out for his third successive win.
“We came out okay behind (Inca King),” said Guidry of the favorite. “I tried to get out around (Jazz Quest) a couple of times. He finally got loose after we got into the stretch. There wasn’t any pace, but that’s not an excuse.”
An $8,500 Keeneland yearling buy in 2005, Inca King is a gelded son of Sir Cat--Inca Prized (Prized) bred in Kentucky by Dr. Ben F. Roach and Parrish Hill Farm. Coming off a 2 3/4-length first-level allowance win on the Keeneland turf April 27, Inca King improved his lifetime mark to 3-3-0 in nine starts with earnings of $218,722 after collecting Saturday's winning share of $134,280.
He paid $18.60, $6.20, and $3.60.
Duveen, who won the American Turf (gr. IIIT) on a yielding Churchill turf course last out May 4 for trainer Dale Romans, returned $2.80 and $2.10.
Jazz Quest, third in the American Turf, was $3.20 to show.
Lattice finished fourth, followed by Trimaran, Biggerbadderbetter, and Kettle Hill.