Jamie Theriot, aboard Purim, had no idea if he’d get there. Julien Leparoux, on Cosmonaut, was doing his best to power under the wire. Underneath the stands, 24,480 racegoers strained to see the photo. And in the Oct. 6 Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) (VIDEO) at Keeneland, Purim – by a neck – prevailed.
For Theriot, it was the biggest win of his career and confirmation of the upward climb his career has taken since he moved his tack from his native Louisiana to the rolling hills of Kentucky.
For Purim, it was the ninth win from 21 hard-knocking starts and an automatic berth to the $2 million NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) thanks to the "Win and You're In" Challenge from the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.
For a handful of wise bettors, it was a sweet payoff ($43.80, $16.20, $9) on a horse sent to the post at 20-1.
When Purim nipped Cosmonaut in the final strides of the one-mile event, the 5-year-old son of Dynaformer took a giant leap in class from his last start, a one-length victory in the Sept. 16 John Henry Stakes over the Polytrack at Arlington Park. Second at the break, he was taken back to sixth by Theriot as Spotsgone led through early fractions of :23.64 and :47.21. Heading into the stretch, Theriot maneuvered between horses five wide and set his mount down in a determined drive. The final time was 1:35.56.
“We broke good,” Theriot said. “Our plans were to stalk and save ground, and that’s what we did. I never had to steady at all. I got the perfect clean trip. At the eighth pole I thought I would get there when I saw how close we were getting to the other horse on the lead, but (Cosmonaut) just kept digging in, digging in, and I was like, ‘Hell, I might not get to him.’ But then finally at the sixteenth pole my horse gave me a final surge and broke through.”
Cosmonaut, who came off a fifth-place finish in the Aug. 25 Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park, stalked the pace early and was a game second. He paid $5.80 and $3.60 to place, while Bernard Baruch winner Shakis (IRE) returned $3.20 to show.
Of Shakis’ finish, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said, “He had some traffic and the post position (no. 9) didn’t help us. I’m not sure he loved the turf course here. Horses either love it or hate it. I thought he ran well to be third, but no real excuses.”
Independent George, Art Master, Astronomer Royal, Istan, T.D. Vance, and Spotsgone completed the order of finish.
An Edward Joseph Sukley homebred, Purim was foaled in Kentucky out of the Lord At War mare Kirsteena. The $372,000 share of the winner’s purse boosted his career earnings to $923,003.
Purim is Breeders’ Cup eligible, but Proctor said he has not yet decided if he’ll head to the Breeders’ Cup at Monmouth Park Oct. 26-27.
“I’m not one of those guys to run a horse just to run him,” said Proctor, who trained One Dreamer to victory in the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I). “He’s Breeders’ Cup eligible, so we’ll see. He’s got a little in the bank now.”
This spring, Purim finished third to two of the best grass horses in the country – Kip Deville and Showing Up – when he was beaten three-quarters of a length in the April 13 Makers Mark Mile (gr. II). Since then it has been clear that when he’s at his best, it takes a very good horse to challenge Purim.