Mike McCarty's Private Vow, who ran last in a disastrous Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) effort last month, rolled to a 2 1/4-length win over six rivals in the $222,400 Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) for 2-year-olds on closing day at the Churchill Downs fall meet Saturday.
The 7-10 choice of the bettors, Private Vow, under Shaun Bridgmohan for the first time, was a bit rank on the clubhouse turn while attempting to press the early leader High Cotton. But he settled down on the backstretch under firm restraint by Bridgmohan and was able to wrestle the lead from High Cotton at the top of the stretch. He won under steady urging by 2 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:45 4/5 for the 1 1/6-mile test.
High Cotton rallied for second for Robby Albarado after being passed in the stretch by Hyte Regency and Corey Lanerie, who settled for third, 1 3/4 lengths behind the runner-up.
Private Vow redeemed a disappointing Breeders' Cup when the Kentucky-bred son of Broken Vow
had to be eased on the turn at Belmont Park after a rein broke on jockey John Velazquez. That prevented the Steve Asmussen trainee from showing the ability he displayed in winning Belmont's Futurity (gr. II) by nine lengths in September. His fourth win six tries this year was worth $137,888 to his connections and increased his bankroll to $382,508.
While the colt's poor luck in the Breeders' Cup still stings, the victory validated Asmussen's belief that Private Vow has the talent to become a contender for next year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) on May 6.
"Nothing will make up for the lost opportunity of the Breeders' Cup, no matter what," said Asmussen. "But now he's a multiple graded stakes winner in five lifetime starts, he has a two-turn win over Churchill's surface, and now, without a doubt or other ideas, you figure out how do you get back here in the first Saturday in May with the most horse possible? That's definitely our quest."
Out of the Deputy Minister mare Smooth as Silk, Private Vow was a $180,000 Keeneland sale in April.
High Cotton took the early lead after angling out a bit following the start and set moderate fractions of :24 1/5, :48 4/5 and 1:13 2/5 when taken on by Private Vow, who was never far behind the leader.
Unable to match the winner in the stretch, the Iroquois (gr. III) runner-up in his last start answered gamely when headed by Hyte Regency. The latter rallied while five wide and was closest to Private Vow with a furlong to run, but he lacked the closing kick.
"My only shot at beating Private Vow was to try to get some momentum and get the jump on him turning for home," said Albarado aboard High Cotton. "I tried to, but he was on me the whole way around there. Take nothing from him, he's a very good horse. He's one of the best 2-year-olds we've seen this year. But my horse ran well – and he'll be a better 3-year-old, I think."
Private Vow paid $3.40, $2.40, and $2.20.
High Cotton returned $3.80 and $3.20 as the 7-2 second choice.
Hyte Regency's show was $4.80.
Red Raymond finished fourth, followed by Iroquois winner Catcominatcha, Great Point, and International Cat. Carse scratched.