Great Attack, closing from fifth at mid-stretch, collared favored Bridgetown close to home for a narrow victory in the $150,350 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (gr. IIIT), the first of six stakes races on the Kentucky Derby card May 5 at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).
Joel Rosario brought Houyhnhnm Stable's 5-year-old Great Attack from the back of the pack to register a three-quarters-of-a-length victory for trainer Wesley Ward. Great Attack, a son of Greatness out of the Storm Cat mare Cat Attack, completed the five-furlong distance in a quick :56.61 on a firm turf course.
Edward Seltzer and Murray Durst bred the winning bay horse in Florida.
Bridgetown, the 3-2 favorite in the field of 12, had spurted away from the field to lead by 2 1/2 lengths at the furlong mark. Bridgetown, ridden by John Velazquez, was game all the way to the wire but could not hold off the streaking Great Attack, who responded powerfully to left-handed encouragement from Rosario.
"He put in a great race. He was really running," Rosario said. "It makes me happy because I know we wore down a really nice horse."
Cactus Son, a 25-1 shot ridden by Garrett Gomez in place of Robby Albarado, split rivals at mid-stretch to get up for third, two lengths behind Bridgetown.
Great Attack was fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IIT) at the same five-furlong distance last fall at Churchill, his only other start on the course. In his most recent appearance, Great Attack was sixth in the 5 1/2-furlong Shakertown Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland, weakening late after pressing the pace.
This time, Rosario settled Great Attack in 11th early while off the inside as City Sage vied with Bridgetown and Great Mills for the lead. Following a swift :21.55 opening quarter-mile, Bridgetown took command in the stretch before reaching the furlong pole in :44.34. Great Attack launched his bid at mid-turn, angling out for the drive and finding a seam between rivals in the lane.
“As horses get older and he’s getting a little more settled in his mind, he has raced that way in the past, from behind, but you get caught up in these five-eighths sprints you can over-analyze and get caught up in having your rider a little too close," Ward said. "Today I thought, with (Bridgetown) being fresh and such a good horse, we didn’t have anything to lose, we would just sit back there and make one big run. That’s sort of how Joel likes to ride. Both of them made a perfect pair and a perfect match.”
Great Attack earned $86,692 for his sixth lifetime win from 17 starts, boosting his career bankroll to $378,010. His last victory came in the Turf Dash at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 18.
Toting co-high weight of 120 pounds, Great Attack paid $10.80, $4.60, and $3.60 as the third choice. Bridgetown, making his first start for trainer Todd Pletcher since last August at Saratoga Race Course, returned $3.40 and $3. The exacta was worth $32. Cactus Son paid $8.20 to show.