Favored Spin Master, ridden by Miguel Mena, survived a sizzling three-way duel for the early lead and then pulled away under hand urging to score a 2 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $108,500 Matt Winn Stakes for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs.
Racing for the first time since he suffered his only career loss in the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) on March 3 at Gulfstream Park, Spin Master covered six furlongs over a "fast" track in a stakes record 1:08.30 and paid $6.20, $4.40 and $2.80 as the 2-1 favorite in the field of six. Demarcation rallied from fifth to gain the runner-up spot under jockey Jesus Castanon and paid $4.40 and $3. Run Alex Run, who was part of the three-way battle for the early lead under Jamie Theriot, challenged the winner before he settled for third and paid $2.60.
The winning son of Distorted Humor , who is owned by Eldon Farm Equine and trained by Dale Romans, won for the third time in four career starts and rebounded from his setback in the Hutcheson, where he finished last in a field of nine. He improved his career earnings to $103,004.
Spin Master's dominating effort validated Romans' confidence in Spin Master, who was viewed as a possible candidate for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) before he went to the sidelines following his poor effort in Florida.
"We really didn't think past this race in terms of where he'll go next," said Romans. "We'll probably sit down and map out two or three races for him from here. We still think he's one of the best 3-year-olds in the country."
Spin Master broke alertly and quickly engaged in a three-way battle for the early advantage with Weather Warning and Run Alex Run. The eventual winner prompted the pace three-wide through rapid early fractions of :21.49 for the first quarter and :44.42 for the half-mile. Mena moved Spin Master past the tiring Weather Warning as the field approached the head of the stretch, while Theriot rallied Run Alex Run along the rail to take aim on the leader. Run Alex Run ran out of steam mid-stretch as Spin Master drew clear under light handling from Mena. Demarcation came on while wide to gain the runner-up spot, although he was no threat to the winner.
"He was really comfortable -- I let him do it on his own," said Mena, who scored his first stakes victory at Churchill Downs. "He's fast. He went three-wide on the turn, but I had a lot of horse the whole way."
Probation Ready finished fourth in the Matt Winn, while U D Ghetto and Weather Warning completed the order of finish. Firerock Base was a late scratch.