Video: Ben Ali S. (G3)
Unbeaten in two starts over the main track—both allowance races in October of 2014 and October of 2015—the 4-year-old Candy Ride colt raced in last in the eight-horse field entering the first turn of the 1 1/8-mile Ben Ali, rocketed up into contention with a dream rail trip in the backstretch and wore down grade I winner Noble Bird in the stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
The winner hit the wire with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard in 1:48.57. Longshot Breaking Lucky checked in third, another 4 3/4 lengths back.
"It was a great ride and it was a great effort by the colt," said winning trainer Neil Howard. "He's a result of what these people do on (Farish's) Lane's End Farm every day."
Noble Bird, who won last year's Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, appeared to be running easy on the front, clicking off fractions of :23.58, :47.76, and 1:11.86 through six furlongs under jockey Julien Leparoux. Leparoux still had not asked the son of Birdstone as Eagle went under a drive through most of the final turn, but the winner was able to inch by in the late stages.
"We had a beautiful trip. ... We got lucky and were able to follow the fence the whole way," Hernandez said. "When we turned for home, Noble Bird sprinted away from us, but our little horse dug in, laid his life on the line and ran him down. He had to run hard to run him down, but he got the job done for us."
Off as the 2-1 favorite, Eagle paid $6, $3, and $2.40 across the board. Noble Bird delivered $4 and $3.60, and Breaking Lucky brought $7.20 to show.
Bred in Kentucky, out of the Mineshaft mare Sea Gull, Eagle has a 6-3-2 record from 13 starts, with earnings of $395,406.