Winless since August, 2009 and dismissed at 15-1 against an accomplished field, Kensei sprung a big upset in the $200,000 Salvator Mile (gr. III) when he came from off the pace under Edgar Prado to win July 2 at Monmouth Park (VIDEO).
A two-time grade II winner as a 3-year-old, Kensei had not hit the winner’s circle in his last nine starts entering the Salvator Mile. But he received the perfect trip from Prado, stalking the pacesetters before taking over at the eighth-pole and holding off a late charge by Soaring Empire to win by three-quarters of a length.
The 5-year-old son of Mr. Greeley is owned by Stonestreet Stables and was bred in Kentucky by Gulf Coast Farms. Steve Asmussen was the winner trainer.
Rule and Morning Line, two of the favorites in the field of seven, led the way through the early going. Rule, with Garrett Gomez aboard, held a narrow advantage over Morning Line and Eddie Castro through opening splits of :23.97 and :47.61. Friesan Fire, Motovato, and Kensei raced in back of the leaders but not far off the pace.
Morning Line, winner of the Carter Handicap (gr. I) in his last start, took over on the far turn while running six furlongs in 1:11.44, but Rule fought back gamely along the inside to reclaim a narrow lead when they straightened away. Those two were joined by Kensei however, and the bay horse swept three-wide into the stretch and grabbed a narrow lead at the eighth-pole. He outfought Rule and then had enough to hold off a late charge from Soaring Empire to pull the upset.
“He broke sharp and the other horses went for the lead,” Prado said. “I was in the garden spot. I was very happy with my position early. He was running pretty easily around there and made his move when I started to ask him. He really dug in.”
Kensei won four of the first seven starts of his career, his biggest coming consecutively in the 2009 Dwyer Stakes (gr. II) and Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II). But he would go winless in four starts in 2010 and was 0-for-3 this year heading into the holiday weekend. In his last start, Kensei finished 11th in the May 30 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I).
Overall, the winner improved to 5-3-2 from 17 starts and increased his earnings to $731,364. He is out of the Belong to Memare Private Feeling. A half-brother to last year's 3-year-old champion male Lookin At Lucky, Kensei was purchased by Stonestreet for $300,000 out of the 2008 Barretts May sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Kensei paid $32.40, $11.80, and $5.20. The exacta (4-3) returned $137.80 and the treifecta (4-3-1) was $193.20.
Motovato finished fourth, followed by 3-2 favorite Morning Line, Cactus Charlie, and Friesan Fire.