LOUISVILLE, KY – Newtown Anner Stud’s Beckford brought the goods under the lights on Saturday night, rallying furiously in front of the grandstand to win the $100,000 William Walker Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Breaking from post 7 under Julien Leparoux as the 3-2 favorite, Beckford was troubled early and sat off while Salmanazar posted opening splits of :22.78 and :45.62. Fanning wide off of the far turn, Beckford commenced a strong stretch run and overtook the leader late. The Brendan Walsh trainee hit the wire first by 3/4 of a length in a final time of :57.28 for the 5-furlong turf sprint.
“He’s a very fast horse,” Leparoux said. “I knew he needed a target in front of him, so we sat off the pace in a good spot around the turn, and he flew home. I think he is going to have a very bright future ahead of him.”
Masked took third, 2 1/2 lengths behind Salmanazar and the same distance ahead of I’m Corfu in fourth. Vitsal took fifth by a 1/2-length over Elusive Mischief, with Pure Shot and Drena’s Star completing the order of finish. Angaston and Battle Station were scratched.
Beckford’s win was his first in his second American start, the first coming in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar, where he finished fifth ahead of the recent Grade 3 Lexington Stakes winner My Boy Jack. The 3-year-old British-bred son of Bated Breath now has a career record of 7-3-2-0 with worldwide earnings of $328,380.
“We thought he was a special horse when we first got him,” Walsh said. “Just by simply looking at his past performances, he ran some very nice races as a 2-year-old. He does his best running with a target in front of him. We’ll probably regroup and see how he comes out of this race to determine a plan for him the rest of the year.”
Beckford returned $5 to win, $3.40 to place, and $2.60 to show. Salmanazar brought back $4 to place and $2.60 to show, while Masked paid $2.60 to show.