Suntracer, beaten by 20 lengths in his last start, was all out to hold off the closing Pyrite Mountain by a nose to win the $347,400 Kentucky Cup Turf (gr. IIIT) over the twisting Kentucky Downs turf course Sept. 13, halting a 14-race losing streak (VIDEO).
Team Block's 6-year-old Illinois-bred son of Kitten's Joy came from last to get the job done at 15-2 odds under Florent Geroux in a time of 2:27.12 over firm going on the undulating course. The clocking was just off the course mark of 2:26.98 established by General Jumbo in 2006.
Before getting credit for his first graded stakes win, Suntracer had to wait out a claim of foul from Alan Garcia, jockey on the 6-5 favorite War Dancer , who finished third. War Dancer steadied briefly when Suntracer came over after getting the lead in the stretch, but stewards decided the incident did not affect the final order of finish.
Chris Block trains Suntracer, who was coming off a ninth-place finish in the American St. Leger Stakes over his home course at Arlington International Race Course Aug. 16. The big chestnut horse, out of the multiple stakes-winning Prized mare Taxable Deduction, posted his last victory in the Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap Oct. 6, 2012, at Hawthorne Racecourse.
Whatever his recent troubles, Suntracer was all heart Saturday, coming from last on the sweeping final turn while closing eight paths wide in the stretch to strike the front. He was getting weary late, however, holding on under heavy pressure from Geroux to nip the oncoming Pyrite Mountain and Julien Leparoux. It was 2 3/4 lengths back to War Dancer in third, with O'Prado Ole fourth.
"We love this racetrack," Block said. "People from Illinois should look down here and see what's going on. We also won this race two years ago as well with Ioya Bigtime.
"Our biggest concern was it seemed like everything today was being won by front-runners," Block continued, "but we decided to come from off the pace, and we're glad it worked."
Saffron Hall wanted the early lead, which he got as O'Prado Ole pushed him along at a good clip for the distance, with several other runners in the 10-horse field jockeying for position in behind them. Fractions were unavailable as Saffron Hall continued to lead to past the quarter pole over a bunched field. Saffron Hall gave way to War Dancer as the field spread across the track in upper stretch, but the rushing Suntracer emerged from the pack with the lead. He opened a one-length advantage and proved best at the wire while all out for the win.
Pyrite Mountain, also far back early, tracked the winner through the stretch and just missed in a gallant try.
Prior to his American St. Leger debacle, Suntracer was a close third to red-hot The Pizza Man in the Stars and Stripes Stakes (gr. IIT) at Arlington, missing by three-quarters of a length. He was second by a head to War Dancer in his race before that, the Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Churchill Downs turf May 24. His latest win, his seventh in 35 lifetime starts and his fourth in a stakes, boosted his lifetime earnings to $795,006.
One of three sons of Kitten's Joy in the field, Suntracer packed 121 pounds and paid $17.40, $8, and $3.80. He topped a $121.80 exacta with the Todd Pletcher-trained Pyrite Mountain, who returned $7.80 and $5.20. War Dancer, heavily favored off his good fourth in the Sword Dancer (gr. IT) at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 17, was worth $2.60 to show.
O'Prado Ole was followed by a boxed-in Tricky Hat, Layton Register, Fear the Kitten, Cozy Kitten, Saffron Hall, and Olympic Thunder. Holiday Star scratched.
The Kentucky Cup Turf was one of four rich stakes on the Kentucky Downs card. The Franklin track had its biggest day of racing in its history, as all-sources wagering handle on the 10 live races was a record $4,253,567. That amount shattered its previous wagering record of $3,371,476, a mark that was set on a 13-race live card Sept. 25, 2013.
In the $200,000 More Than Ready Mile, even-money choice Regally Ready collared pacesetter Stormy Going in the drive and won going away by 2 1/4 lengths while completing the journey in 1:35.25.
Rosie Napravnik was aboard the 7-year-old More Than Ready gelding who picked up his fifth win in eight starts this year for Tom Ludt's Vinery Stables and trainer Steve Asmussen. Regally Ready, who paid $4 to win, improved his career line to 15-2-6 in 36 starts while extending his earnings to $1,606,806.
Stormy Going was second in the eight-horse field, with R. Great Adventure third.
Richies Party Girl, ridden by Rafael Hernandez overcame pacesetting Kiama for a 1 1/4-length win in the $200,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint.
The lukewarm 4-1 favorite in the field of 10 fillies and mares, Richies Party Girl ($10.60) tallied for trainer Wesley Ward, who owns the 3-year-old daughter of Any Given Saturday in partnership with Richard Raven. Richies Party Girl earned her fifth lifetime win from 10 starts and boosted her bankroll to $331,557.
The winning time was 1:16.51 for 6 1/2 furlongs. Kiama held on for second by a head over Eden Prairie.
In the final stakes, 11-10 choice I'm Already Sexy dominated eight other fillies and mares with a front-running score by three lengths in the $200,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf with Geroux aboard.
Strike Charmer was second, with Rosee is Cozee third.
I'm Already Sexy ($4.20), a 4-year-old daughter of Ready's Image , was timed in 1:35.25 for the one-mile distance. Racing for Hit The Board Stables and trainer Wayne Catalano, the multiple graded winner posted her seventh lifetime triumph from 16 starts while improving her earnings to $505,378.