The similarities between last year's Miller Lite Cradle Stakes winner and this year's were striking. Both were owned and bred by Claiborne Farm, both were trained by Frank Brothers, Corey Lanerie rode both, and both share the same sire -- Pulpit.Passport was the Claiborne Farm homebred that took center stage today in this $200,000 test at 1 1/16 miles for 2-year-olds.
Trainer Frank Brothers is very close to this colt's family. "Well, he's the first foal of Trip who won $888,000, I trained his mother, and I trained his father, and both of them ran long. We've had this race in mind all along; it's a good stepping stone if you have a horse that comes along at this point in time."Last year, Brothers set a stakes record with Laity who ran the race in 1:43 3/5. This year, he and Claiborne Farm set a personal milestone in becoming the first owners and trainer to win three Cradle Stakes. They also teamed up to win the 1996 edition with Haint.
"The horse broke good, but he doesn't have a whole lot of early foot," Lanerie remarked after scoring his second consecutive win in the Labor Day headliner. "We saved ground on the first and second turn, and we got a little pressure at the five sixteenth pole; so I angled him out and thought we were an easy winner, but the eight-horse (Izzie's Halo) really made us work for it." Passport held on to win by a neck in 1:46 over a fast track.Passport is now undefeated in two lifetime starts. He won his first race at Ellis Park racing a mile on the turf course. As the third choice in the Cradle, he paid $11.40, $5.00, and $3.00. Izzie's Halo had a brief lead at the head of the stretch and returned $4.60 and $3.80, while favored Bold Start faded to third for a show payoff of $3.00.Jockey Edgar Paucar won his first riding title ever at River Downs. The native of Peru has won three titles at Beulah Park and closed out the Jockey Club Meet with a record of 53-43-55 from 288 trips to post. Rinzy Nocero won the Albert Palacios Trainers Award, recording his first training title at the track, with a record of 19-17-11 from 111 starts. Apprentice jockey Brandon Minnock received the Rodney Dickens Award for outstanding performance and horsemanship. The 17-year-old finished fourth in the rider's standings with 28 wins for the meet.
The day started out on a somber note as River Downs paid tribute to trainer Jeff Williams, who died in the crash of Comair flight 5191 in Lexington, Ky.
Family, friends, and jockeys assembled in the winner's circle as a riderless horse was walked to the finish line. The large crowd on hand gave a respectful moment of silence.