Juddmonte Farms' homebred Senure headed White Heart in the final strides to win the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship Stakes (gr. IT) on Sunday at Santa Anita.
Penamacor, left alone to set the pace, led by four lengths after the opening quarter-mile and soon distanced the field, building a ten-length lead after a half-mile run in :47.46. He increased his lead to 12 lengths after six furlongs (1:11.30) and maintained that same advantage with a quarter-mile to run in the 1 1/4-mile turf event. The field, save for El Bueno, quickly began to reel in the pacesetter and the advantage shrunk to 3 1/2 lengths at the stretch call. White Heart, second at that point under Gary Stevens, emerged with the lead in deep stretch but could not fend off Senure's late run, losing by a head-length at the wire. Cagney finished third, followed by Kudos, Penamacor, and El Bueno.
"After three-eighths, he was really keen, he was really pulling hard," said winning jockey Alex Solis. "I finally got him to relax around the seven-eighths pole and after that, I just had to be patient. I followed (White Heart) all the way around and I got (Senure) out at the three-sixteenths and he finished strong. My main concern was to keep my horse relaxed."
Five-year-old Senure (Nureyev--Diese, by Diesis) completed the distance in 1:59.47 on the firm course to earn his second grade I turf win of the year, though his first without the assistance of the stewards. In July's United Nations Handicap (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park, Senure finished second to With Anticipation but was placed first by the stewards following an inquiry. Following that, Senure finished a disappointing eighth in the Arlington Million (gr. IT). He has now won seven of 17 career races, including the 2000 Fastness Handicap (gr. IIIT).
"My son could saddle this horse and he'd win," said Humberto Ascanio, assistant to Bobby Frankel. "He's a nice horse. At first I was concerned. He was a little rank, pretty fresh, because he was training pretty good. On the backstretch he started to relax, but still I was concerned at the head of the stretch when Laffit (Pincay Jr., aboard Penamacor) opened up about seven lengths and I wasn't sure we were going to catch him. I knew we were going to make a big run, but I wasn't sure. And he did (make a big run). Bobby (Frankel) told me he would run in the Breeders' Cup (Turf), but I don't know. I have to talk to him tomorrow. He's probably going to go."
The win marks the 11th in a grade I win this year for Frankel, and his third straight win in this race. Overall, Frankel has won the race four times.
Senure, the 17-10 favorite, earned $180,000 and returned $5.40, $2.80, and $2.40. White Heart, the second choice at 9-5, paid $3 and $2.40. Cagney was worth $3.60 to show. The $1 exacta returned $5.10. (Chart, Equibase