Banned became the fifth horse in Churchill Downs history to sweep the track’s pair of stakes events for 3-year-olds on turf.
The race lost most of its appeal when half the entrants in the 1 1/16-mile test were scratched after competing in the $200,000 Oliver Stakes on the grass at Indiana Downs June 15. That left Banned as the 3-10 choice of the four that remained.
The winning son of Kitten's Joy fought jockey Jose Lezcano, who took a firm hold of the headstrong colt early, but he still proved much the best. He won by two lengths while clocking a time of 1:43.66 over a course that had been rated yielding earlier but was upgraded to firm.
Tom Proctor trains Banned for Glen Hill Farm. Banned won Churchill's American Turf Stakes (gr. IIT) on the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) undercard at Churchill May 6 and has now won two of his three starts in 2011.
“I was really confident in him coming into the race, but the four-horse field scared me,” Proctor said. “Too many things can happen in a small field that will make you not get there.”
Ken and Sarah Ramsey bred the $130,000 Fasig-Tipton yearling in Kentucky. The bay colt is out of Cardinalli, by Capote.
Redboard took the early lead over Banned, who bobbled at the start but tugged hard at Lezcano while held snugly in second through quarter-mile splits of :24.69, :49.31, and 1:13.58. Banned, cutting into the advantage on the final turn, soon took over and opened a healthy lead in the lane as Perregaux took up the chase.
“He is a very nice horse and has a lot of talent," Lezcano said. "He broke good and sat comfortable and then went very well at the end. I felt like a winner the whole time.”
Benergy, ridden by Javier Castellano, gained through the stretch to finish a willing second by 3 1/4 lengths over Perregaux and Robby Albarado. Redboard trailed.
Banned won twice in four starts at 2, completing his season with a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. II) at Churchill last November. The colt returned to action April 17 at Keeneland, beaten a neck when third in a one-mile turf allowance.
With the Jefferson Cup victory, he has won four of seven lifetime starts with earnings of $299,076.
“I don’t know how good he is yet. Opinions don’t matter in horse racing," Proctor said. "You put them in the gate and they tell you how good they are."
Proctor said he is unsure of where Banned would race next.
The winner carried top weight of 121 pounds and paid $2.60 and $2.10. Benergy, a maiden winner in his most recent race for trainer Dale Romans on the Churchill turf, returned $3 while completing an $8.40 exacta. There was no show wagering.
"He’s improving every race," Romans said of the runner-up. "I think (Banned) is probably the best 3-year-old turf horse in the country right now, but I think our horse even wants to run a little further.”