New York shipper Swingforthefences dug deep to prevail in a tough stretch battle by a half-length in Friday's $250,000 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows.
The colt claimed his first stakes victory over a game Courageous Act.
"We had to dig a little hard,'' said winning jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. "But when I asked him he gutted it out and gave me all he had.''
Swingforthefences responded to right and left-handed whip action from his rider while getting past Courageous Act, who led by a head leaving the final turn and was determined to hold on. Swingforthefences completed the 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds in 1:43.31.
The win was worth $150,000 to Klaravich Stables, Inc., Swingforthefences' owner. It raised the career earnings of the Kentucky-bred son of Boston Harbor–Varnish to $310,970.
"I felt good turning for home,'' said winning trainer Richard Violette. "He got there then they made another run inside of him. They did the same thing twice and then finally he put about three-fourths of a length on them. That was the ballgame.''
Swingforthefences was positioned to the outside of two rivals entering the stretch run with Courageous Act and jockey Brice Blanc racing between outside of pacesetting J Town, ridden by Pat Day.
J Town dropped back to fourth after setting the entire early pace. Courageous Act clinged to his lead until the last 70 yards before Bridgmohan's mount gained command in the final stage.
"I had to really get after my horse,'' Bridgmohan said. "But he really gave me what he had. That's all I ask.''
Violette was glad to see Swingforthefences positioned so close to the lead late.
"We knew turning for home whoever was in front needed to have dead aim on them,'' Violette said. "It's not that long of a stretch and speed carries pretty well. The winner was shuffled back to fourth early in the six-horse field.
"He circled horses in both turns,'' Violette said. "Right away not only do you lose ground but you lose momentum."
J Town led by a length early but never could shake free from Courageous Act, who broke from the third spot in the starting gate.
Bridgmohan knew he was sitting perfect in third.
"It looked good going down the backside because both horses had company on the front end,'' the jockey said. "It worked out a great trip for me. It worked out great.''
The second choice at 8-to-5 odds, Swingforthefences paid $5.40, $2.80 and $2.20. Courageous Act returned $5.20 and $3. Cryptograph closed ground late to finish third and paid $2.80 to show.