Code West and Uncaptured treated fans at Churchill Downs to a thrilling stretch drive in the $113,100 Matt Winn Stakes (gr. III) on the night of June 15, with the Bob Baffert-trained son of Lemon Drop Kid prevailing in the final jump by a head (VIDEO).
Ridden by Rosie Napravnik, the 2-1 favorite in the field of 10 3-year-olds earned his first stakes victory the hard way. Code West gave Baffert his 100th career victory at Churchill Downs. Final time for the 1 1/16-mile test was 1:43.37 over a fast track.
"Honestly, when (Uncaptured) came to us, I thought he had us," Napravnik said. "It was all the horse. He picked up and did not want to lose."
Uncaptured finished 5 1/4 lengths in front of Abstraction, the 5-2 second choice left behind in upper stretch.
An early contender for this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Code West posted his second win in a row after Baffert pulled back on Derby plans following a sixth in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) March 30. In his most recent start, he romped by 6 3/4 lengths in a first-level allowance heat as an odds-on choice on the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) undercard May 18.
Gary and Mary West own Code West, a $340,000 Keeneland September yearling in 2011. Bred in Virginia by Edward P. Evans, the dark bay or brown colt is out of the stakes-winning Saint Ballado mare Charitabledonation.
Code West was on the lead out of the gate before settling into second behind 27-1 outsider Dewey Square. Uncaptured was also prominent early, racing third toward the inside. Dewey Square showed the way through tepid quarter mile fractions of :24.67, :48.96, and 1:13.57 before Code West hit the front leaving the far turn.
Uncaptured, angled off the rail for the drive by Miguel Mena, headed Code West at the furlong mark and those two battled all the way to the wire in a terrific finish.
Abstraction, fifth on the turn, circled into contention rounding the far turn and rallied six wide before flattening out. Dewey Square was fourth, followed by Bellamine, Sunbean, Carve, Looking Cool, Treasury Bill, and Street Spice.
Worse than third just once in 10 starts, Code West improved to three wins, four seconds, and two thirds with earnings of $260,476.
The winner carried 118 pounds and paid $6,20, $3.40, $2.80. John Oxley's Uncaptured, the 123-pound high weight trained by Mark Casse, gave a great account of himself in his first start at Churchill since winning last fall's Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II). He returned $5.20 and $3.80 while completing a $39.80 exacta. Abstraction, with Leandro Goncalves aboard for trainer David Carroll, paid $3.40 to show.
Ruler of Love scratched.