Suave, ridden by Rafael Bejarano for red-hot trainer Paul McGee, came to life in the slop to register his first stakes triumph, drawing away in the $232,400 Northern Dancer (gr. III) for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs Saturday.
Suave, sent off at 11-1, pulled away from J Town in the stretch to win in a time of 1:44 2/5 for 1 1/16 on a tracked rated sloppy. Ecclesiastic came on for third over fading race favorite Two Down Automatic.
Bred and owned by Jan, Mace and Samantha Siegel, the bay colt by A.P. Indy
-Urbane (by Citidancer
) was coming off a 12th-place showing in the Lexington (gr. II) at Keeneland April 17. That followed a third-place finish in the Illinois Derby (gr. II) two weeks earlier. Suave was second by disqualification in a maiden race at Ellis Park in August, his only previous start on a sloppy track.
McGee won his 11th start in 33 starts at the Churchill meeting.
"It was a big race for him," he said. "He really disappointed us that last time at Keeneland, but he had a real good trip today."
Suave broke on top but was taken back to second when J Town insisted on going to the front for Pat Day. J Town opened up by two lengths on the backstretch as Suave tracked with 2-1 favorite Two Down Automatic on the outside.
Two Down Automatic, with Robby Albarado aboard, made the first move at the frontrunner on the outside but could not go on with it. Suave, meanwhile angled out for the drive and swept past J Town and jockey Pat Day in the final furlong.
"My horse broke really fast," Bejarano said. "I went up for a little while in the front, but I looked and (J Town), he had more speed than me so I stayed in the second lane behind him. At the quarter pole J Town was moving and moving so I got to moving too, and he finished good."
J Town's scooted away on the front end. His fractions were :23 3/5, :47 2/5 and 1:12 on track saturated by thunderstorms earlier in the day.
Day said J Town was second best. "The winner is probably a pretty nice horse that you're going to hear a lot from down the road. There's no embarrassment to be second."
Suave picked up his third win in 12 career tries while doubling his career earnings to more than $240,000.
He paid $25.20, $11.80 and $7.60. J Town returned $5.50 and $4.20. Ecclesiastic, who was ridden by Jerry Bailey, was $7.40 to show. The exacta was $126.20.
Albarado was not disappointed with the effort by Two down Automatic, who finished fourth.
"He made a nice run. I was actually in stride with the eventual winner at the half-mile pole and he kind of went on and I couldn't match strides with him and he went on. Really, not many horses changed places but mine and mine finished full of run."
Chippewa Trail, Ascertain, Gran Prospect, Texas Deputy, Indian War Dance, Grande's Grandslam, Shaniko and Courageous Act followed.