Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence's Central Banker, one-for-one at Churchill Downs heading into the $464,800 Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II), made it two-for-two with an off-the-pace upset victory in the seven-furlong test May 3 (VIDEO).
Trained by Al Stall Jr. and ridden by Corey Nakatani, Central Banker, at 10-1, broke well from post 9 to be in early contention with Delaunay and Falling Sky. He was taken back soon after and rated three-wide in a tight pack of six past an opening quarter mile in :22.29 and a half mile in :44.69 on fast track.
Nakatani roused the 4-year-old Speightstown colt on the far turn, and he responded well to hook the leader, Delaunay, nearing the top of the stretch. After six furlongs in a quick 1:08.71, Central Banker had disposed of Delaunay and dug in against a determined bid by Shakin It Up. He defeated that foe by a head in a sharp 1:21.15, less than one second off the track record of 1:20.44 set by champion Groupie Doll in 2012.
Clearly Now, who also made a move on the far turn, checked in third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Shakin It Up. Broadway Empire, never far back, finished evenly for fourth 1 1/2 lengths behind Clearly Now. Favored Sahara Sky was seventh.
"(Al Stall Jr.) said to warm him up any way I wanted and that he's a horse I could do anything with, so I said, 'OK, let's go get the money.' " Nakatani said. "He's a horse that runs better when he has a target, and I was able to tuck him in there. When (Shakin It Up) came at him, he re-broke and was all racehorse from there. He made me look good."
Stall said he expected "a ton of pace" but figured it wasn't that fast when he saw Central Banker fairly close early.
"He got that outside draw as opposed to the inside draw in the Carter," Stall said. "Corey said when that horse came up on him on the outside that he could literally feel (Central Banker) gritting his teeth and fighting. This horse has as big of a heart of any horse I've ever had in my career, by far. He's a racehorse, that's exactly what he is."
Central Banker paid $23.60, $10.20, and 7.20 across the board in the 11-horse field. Shakin It Up returned $6.20 and $4, while Clearly Now was worth $4.60 to show. The $2 exacta paid $124.60 and the $2 trifecta $638.80.
Central Banker, out of the Go for Gin mare Rhum, was bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm. In the fourth start of his career, he impressively won an entry-level test on the dirt at Churchill in October 2012.
In late December 2013, Stall shipped Central Banker to California, where he finished a half-length behind victorious Shakin It Up in the Malibu Stakes (gr. I). In his 2014 debut April 5 at Aqueduct Racetrack, Central Banker finished a dull sixth in the seven-furlong Carter Handicap (gr. I); Sahara Sky and Clearly Now were among those that finished ahead of him that day.
Central Banker now has four wins, three seconds, and two thirds in 12 starts. The Churchill Downs Stakes victory pushed his earnings to $590,786.