Stonestreet Stables’ Hierro broke his maiden over the Churchill Downs main track as a juvenile and returned a winner under the Twin Spires April 28 in the $232,6000 The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (gr. III) (VIDEO), as he overtook a trio of horses in the stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
With Julien Leparoux aboard for Steve Asmussen, Hierro came four-wide into the stretch in the one-mile Derby Trial and wore down favored Paynter , as well as The Black and Stealcase en route to his first stakes victory. The final time over the sloppy track was 1:35.27.
Run under the lights on opening night at Churchill, the Derby Trial was delayed more than a half hour due mainly to a violent storm earlier in the evening. The race did not go to post until 10:17 p.m. EDT.
It was worth the wait for Hierro, whose only previous win in five tries came at Churchill last November. He is by Hard Spun , out of the Navarone mare Brief Bliss. Sally Andersen bred the 3-year-old chestnut in Kentucky.
The Derby Trial score could propel Hierro to the May 19 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico Race Course.
California shipper Paynter, who was making just his third start and entered off a fourth-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) was among a group of horses who vied for the early lead and he was just in front of Saint of Saints and Stealcase after an opening quarter-mile in :22.73. But The Black, with Calvin Borel aboard, made a bold move along the rail heading into the turn and led the field of eight until they hit the top of the lane. He ran a half-mile in :45.28 and six furlongs in 1:09.90.
Paynter eventually wrested a narrow lead away from The Black and Stealcase approaching the eighth-pole, but Hierro was just hitting his best stride and overtook the 13-10 choice in mid-stretch. Paynter held on for second under Martin Garcia, a neck in front of Stealcase and Shaun Bridgmohan. The Black tired to fifth, two lengths behind Bourbon Courage.
Hierro earned $139,886 for the triumph and increased his earnings to $186,966.
The winner paid $12, $4.60, and $3.20. The exacta (5-7) returned $38.20, and the trifecta (5-7-9) was worth $223.
A crowd of 26,527 was announced.