Vehicle riders came on the winning end of a thrilling duel with New York-bred Arctic Arrogance in Saturday’s $150,000 Jerome Stakesa mile with a turn for sophomores in Aqueduct.
BG Stables’ Kentucky, trained by Michael McCarthy, earned 10 qualifying points heading into the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs with 4-3-2-1 points awarded to the next four finishers.
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The colt of Goldencents, who was ridden to victory by 2022 New York Racing Association leading jockey Dylan Davis, answered McCarthy’s question about his ability beyond the sprint distance by demonstrating his ability going straight in his stakes debut.
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“I told Dylan earlier that with the stretch, the horse could lay a little closer,” McCarthy said. “He jumped out of there and it looked like the fractions weren’t too crazy. In my opinion, they didn’t go as fast as I thought.”
Lugan Knight broke evenly from post 3. Andiamo a Firenze ridden by Kendrick Carmouche was fastest of all on his outside. Carmouche came back with Andiamo a Firenze as the field of seven came off the field, allowing Lugan Knight to take command and clock the opening quarter mile in 23.41 seconds over the fine main track.
Arctic Arrogance, with Jose Lezcano atop, placed second to Lugan Knight. General Banker tried to improve position in the backstretch but ran hard behind long shot Narciso Dali and settled near the back of the pack after a half mile in 47.70 seconds.
Lezcano asked Arctic Arrogance for more as the field rounded the turn. He found himself on equal terms with Lugan Knight at the head of the road.
The pair quickly broke away from the rest of their rivals and battled furiously down the lane with both horses giving it their all after crossing the eighth pole. Lugan Knight had something left in the final 100 yards and put his neck forward to successfully hold off his foe by half a length in a final time of 1:37.77.
General Banker, who moved wide and rallied well under Andre Worrie, finished a further seven lengths back in third. The neural network completed the superlative. Andiamo a Firenze, Narciso Dali and Valenzan Day rounded out the finish line. The drain surround was scratched.
McCarthy said Lugan Knight’s ride gave him confidence he would win the stretch battle.
“I was happy with the way the horse broke,” McCarthy said. “He found himself outstanding early on, and it looked like around the turn he still had a bit of run left. I wasn’t surprised to see how well he dug into the lane. It seemed like he was always doing a touch better than the other horse. You hate to say you have faith, but it always seemed like he kept that horse at bay. Just a strong horse and a brave performance. I was glad to see that he was able to get the mile.”
Davis said Lugan Knight found his best stride despite a poor rest.
“He broke OK, not the best,” Davis said. “But then he ended up getting into a little bit of a rhythm and was able to establish the lead. Once I got there, he was very comfortable even challenging me outside. He fought hard for me on the field. I really thought (Arctic Arrogance) was going to come up to him and pass him, but he wasn’t letting up. He really opened my eyes a little bit down there about the last eighth of a mile. I was impressed with that run.”
It was Lugan Knight’s second career victory and first against winners, adding a first-place finish in the second claiming 6 1/2-furlong sprint in October at Keeneland. He entered the Jerome from a narrow third-place effort in an optional six-furlong stake on Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs. Here he rallied four wide from five lengths off the pace and finished 1 1/2 lengths ahead of the victorious Victory Formation, who came off that effort to win the Smarty Jones on Sunday at Oaklawn.
Now that Lugan Knight has proven his mettle over a mile, McCarthy said he could potentially turn his attention to the Withers (G3) over 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 4 in the Big A. That race will be awarded 20-8-6 – 4-2 Kentucky Derby Qualifying Points.
“We’ll see,” McCarthy said. “I’m going to have to call Dylan and ask him what he thinks and go from there. A mile was a question mark for me, but it looked like he passed that test today. We have to wait and see.”
Lugan Knight, whose second dam is the Canadian champion mare Roxy Gap, collected $82,500 in Saturday’s victory and maintains a perfect aboard record of 4: 2-1-1. He returned $9.10 for a winning bet of $2.
Linda Rice, trainer of Chester and Mary Broman’s Arctic Arrogance, who is based in New York, said the son of Frosted could be given a more prominent ride in his next outing.
“We lost a job in the middle, and the horse was a little heavy, but he ran well,” Rice said. “(Lezcano) and I were just discussing and we think we’ll put him on top next time. He fights at the top. Today he did not pass. But I think it might have something to do with his weight.”
Arctic Arrogance finished a game second in the nine-furlong Remsen (G2) in December at Aqueduct and will likely continue New York’s path to the Kentucky Derby by going to the Withers.
“He didn’t win, but he had a great performance,” Rice said. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re going to keep going to the next race, and as Mr. Broman and I discussed, we’re going to take it one at a time and see how far we get.”