The magic of jockey Mike Smith turned newly minted maiden winner Arklow into a graded stakes winner May 6 in the American Turf Stakes presented by Ram Trucks (G2T) at Churchill Downs.
Video: American Turf S. Presented by Ram Trucks (G2T)
Arklow, a 3-year-old son of Arch—Unbridled Empire, by Empire Maker , runs for Donegal Racing and trainer Brad Cox. The colt, bred in Kentucky by John and Frank Penn, was bought for $160,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale for $160,000 out of the Penn Sales consignment.
Arklow raced at 2 but fared no better than second in maiden special weight at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Despite his maiden status, he debuted this year in the LeComte Stakes (G3), where he finished fourth. Then he was given a shot in the Risen Star Stakes (G2), where he finished near the back of the pack.
Cox gave him a break and brought him to Keeneland for a maiden special weight on the grass, which he won by 3 1/2 lengths. Arklow had not even worked on the grass before this race.
"We wanted to try and make him a Derby horse, but it didn't pan out that way with the points," Cox said. "I saw a mile and an eighth maiden race at Keeneland on the grass opening weekend. He ran a big race that day and obviously this was a step up today. He had a great work here last weekend on the turf. It's only the second time he ran on the turf, so I was really proud of how well he ran today."
In the American Turf, Smith became the sixth rider Arklow has had in his seven starts. Grade 1 winner Oscar Performance set the pace in the 1 1/16-mile race, leading the field of nine other challengers through early fractions of :23.85, :48.46, and 1:13.76. Conquest Farenheit and Holiday Stone stalked Oscar Performance through the first six furlongs, while Arklow and Smith were content to race five-wide and clear of all traffic throughout.
Arklow started his advance through the second turn, and by the top of the stretch was even with the leaders. Conquest Farenheit took the advantage briefly, but quickly conceded to the advancing eventual winner. Big Score was in the mix in the mid-stretch and just lost the place to Good Samaritan by a head at the wire. Arklow won by a length in a final time of 1:44.64.
"I thought there would be some speed," Cox said. "He sat mid-pack and got a little wide in the first turn, which could've been a good thing with how the turf has been playing. Mike put him in perfect position and he kept running."
Smith said he was instructed: "Don't be afraid to get brave with him."
"If I got him clear, Brad said to go ahead and let him start going a little early," Smith said. "He said he'd keep going and he was 100% right. I'm glad they told me that. Normally on the grass you want to wait and make one run. If I had done that, I probably would have lost the race. I'm just happy to be riding for these owners. They're good friends of mine."
Arklow paid $32, $12.80, and $7.80, Good Samaritan returned $4.80 and $3.40, and Big Score brought $4.