Battling between horses in the long stretch duel, the maiden Santiva inched away in the final strides to edge odds-on favorite Astrology and Major Gain in the $165,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) under the lights at Churchill Downs Nov. 27.
In the final stakes event of Churchill's 2010 autumn meet, Shaun Bridgmohan drove Santiva to a half-length victory over Astrology for trainer Eddie Kenneally and owner Tom R. Walters.
“He dug in and was courageous," Kenneally said of the winner. "He ran awesome, really. They came to him at the eighth pole and looked like they might even go by him. They put him in a little tight, and that’s when he really fought back and he regained momentum and was drawing away from them at the wire.”
The Louisville track ends its current stand Nov. 28. Churchill Downs will have a farewell ceremony for 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird, who has been retired from racing and will return to New Mexico Nov. 29. The ceremony will take place around the seventh race, which has a scheduled post time of 3:41 p.m. EST.
Super Saver won last year's Kentucky Jockey Club and parlayed that victory into a triumph in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands in May.
Kenneally feels Santiva could be that good. “Oh sure, he’s got the pedigree," he said. "There’s all the stamina in the world in his pedigree. He’s got the profile for the race here in May."
Santiva, making his fourth lifetime start in the 1 1/16-mile test of 2-year-olds, was coming off a second to J. B.'s Thunder in Keeneland's Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) on Polytrack Oct. 9 when he was trained by Todd Pletcher.
The winning son of Giant's Causeway --Slide, by Smarten, began his career in the Ken McPeek barn. In two starts for McPeek, he was second in a maiden test on grass at Saratoga prior to his Keeneland effort after debuting with a third on Saratoga's main track in July.
“There are some races in Florida for him this winter, so we’ll look at some of those and take it from there," Kenneally said. "We’ll just give him a little break now and get him back to the races in January or February."
With Bridgmohan riding for the first time, Santiva broke alertly and pushed 40-1 shot Prideofthechapter, leaving from the rail, for the early lead as Astrology raced three wide in third as the 7-10 choice for Garrett Gomez. Prideofthechapter led the way through fractions of :24.29 and :49.03 before Santiva pushed by on the outside as they completed six furlongs in 1:14.25.
Santiva led Astrology into the stretch while racing well off the rail as Major Gain, racing near the back early, angled to the rail. Approaching mid-stretch, Major Gain, with Robby Albarado aboard, drew alongside Santiva, who drifted in and made it difficult for the challenger to get by. Astrology, meanwhile, also slid over from the outside under right-handed urging from Gomez. Those three, battling in close quarters, fought it out down the lane before Santiva proved best late.
“He showed effort today," said Bridgmohan, who won the Clark Handicap (gr. I) over the track via disqualification a day earlier. "I have known he is a nice little horse. He just ran a phenomenal race today. Every time I asked him for a little more, he just gave it to me. He kept grinding it out and fighting all the way to the wire. The more I asked the more he fought. It has been a very nice weekend.”
The final time was 1:45.31 over a fast track.
Astrology, the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) winner on opening day of the Churchill Downs meet Oct. 31, got up at the wire for second by a head, with Major Gain a tough-luck third. It was 4 1/2 lengths back to Halo's Thunder in fourth. Cane Garden Bay, Enable, and Prideofthechapter completed the order.
The victory was worth $100,254 to the connections of Santiva, who was bred in Kentucky by Paget Bloodstock. The bay colt has banked $195,454 in his brief career.
Sent off as the third choice, Santiva paid $11.60, $4.20, and $2.80. Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton's Astrology returned $2.60 and $2.10 and completed a $26.60 exacta. Major Gain was $2.40 to show.