This may be just the beginning for Finale, who earned a starting slot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) with a three-quarters of a length win in the $259,666 Summer Stakes Presented by TVG (Can-IIIT) on the Woodbine lawn Sept. 17 (VIDEO).
Trained by Todd Pletcher for owners Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith, 2-year-old Finale is now in a position to emulate Pluck, last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner who also won the Summer Stakes for Pletcher. This was Pletcher's fourth win in the Summer.
Finale went off at 4-5 odds and completed the one-mile event in 1:35.51 over firm going. This year's $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf is scheduled for Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.
With John Velazquez aboard, Finale won for the third straight time and improved to three-for-three on grass in his brief career. Finale was coming off a 10 1/2-length romp in the Continental Mile on grass at Monmouth Park Aug. 20.
Finale is a son of Scat Daddy out of the Lively One mare Twinkle that sold for $175,000 at the Keeneland 2009 November sale. Susan Bunning bred the dark bay or brown colt.
Velazquez positioned Finale, who was a step slow into stride, forwardly on the outside in third as 15-1 outsider Excaper and Maritimer dueled through quarter-mile fractions of :23.85, :47.14, and 1:10.93. Rounding the bend in the one turn test, Finale ranged up on the far outside to challenge and took a short advantage approaching mid-stretch. Under consistent right-handed urging, Finale was forced to battle to hold off a game Excaper and Emma-Jayne Wilson in the final furlong before prevailing.
"He didn't leave the gate very good," said Velazquez. "I actually hit the door and the iron went all the way to my foot. I had to break and get a position where I wanted to be and place my feet back where they were supposed to be.
"At the quarter pole, I thought he was going to finish a little better than what he did. I think he was having a hard time with the grass. It was a little bit on the soft side and he was running at the other horse (Excaper), but he didn't have that quick spurt out of him."
Excaper was a clear second by 3 1/4 lengths over Daddy Nose Best, who rallied from last in the field of eight under Julien Leparoux to snatch the show spot by a neck from Maritimer. Burn the Mortgage, Making Amends, Jomelo, and Secret Consultant followed.
Finale improved his career record to three wins in five starts with earnings of $237,345. The victory was worth $153,345.
He began his career on the dirt at Belmont, debuting with a third-place finish on a muddy track May 5 before turning in a distant fourth-place effort as the 4-5 pick on a fast Belmont strip June 10. Pletcher switched Finale to the Belmont turf for his next start on the inner course July 15 and Finale responded with a 5 1/4-length tally while going six furlongs. His next start came in the easy victory over five rivals at 1-5 odds in the Continental Mile.
"He's a much better horse on the grass by far," said Velazquez. "He seemed to struggle on the dirt and not get a good grip on it."
Under equal weights of 122 pounds, Finale paid his backers $3.70, $3.10, and $2.10. Excaper, racing on Lasix for the first time after breaking his maiden in his debut by 3 1/4 lengths Aug. 7 for trainer Ian Black, returned $10.10 and $6.70. The exacta was worth $40.30. Daddy Nose Best, shipped in by trainer Steve Asmussen off a maiden-breaking win on the Saratoga turf Aug. 27, paid $3.50 to show.