LEXINGTON, KY – A thrilling stretch run led to several minutes of anxiety for both horses’ connections, but in the end, the photo finish determined that Current had prevailed by a mere nose over Henley’s Joy to win Sunday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Dixiana Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland.
The Bourbon is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Current receiving an automatic berth in the Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs on Friday, November 2.
Breaking from post 10 under Jose Ortiz at 9/2 odds, Current settled near the rear of the field and saved ground while the 7/5 favorite War of Will set unpressured opening fractions of :23.59, :48.82, and 1:14.30. With the field revving up behind him, War of Will was set down for the stretch run and attempted to stave them off. Salvator Mundi led the three-headed monster including Current and Henley’s Joy that closed in on the pacesetter, with the four colts battling gamely in the final 1/2-furlong. For what could have felt like hours after they crossed the line, the connections and jockeys waited in vain for the response from the stewards. The decision: Current by a nose each over Henley’s Joy and Salvator Mundi, with War of Will less than a length behind, in a final time of 1:45.10 for the 8 1/2-furlong event over the firm turf course.
“When we straightened for home, I felt like he started running,” Ortiz said. “I put him in the clear, but when I hit him left-handed, he drifted out in the two or three path. But he was running. Inside the 1/8 pole to the wire, I was hoping I’d get there. It was so close, I didn’t know if I had it. He broke OK. He was very relaxed the whole time, and that’s the point, get your horse to relax. He kicked home very well.”
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione was disappointed with the close loss but was effusive in his praise of Henley’s Joy following the tough loss.
“I had a good trip, sat inside, waited for a spot, and asked him in the stretch,” Gaffalione said. “He finished up strong – he just didn’t get the bob. I had a lot of confidence when we hit the wire. I was a little worried because the 10 (Current) was running strong late. When we galloped out, he ran by us pretty quickly, but I was just hoping we got to the wire quick enough.”
Mick’s Star headed Tracksmith for fifth, 1 3/4 lengths behind the fearsome foursome. More Than A. P. took seventh, Blockbuster was a 1/2-length past Forloveofcountry for eighth, and Shazier was another 1/2-length back in tenth. Mr Wrench It, Pradar, and Ice City Ghost completed the order of finish. Concrete Rose and Life Mission were scratched.
Current’s win was his second straight following a maiden-breaking effort at a mile over the Belmont Park turf. The Todd Pletcher-trained son of Curlin has now earned $201,450 for owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta.
“He’s been training very professionally,” said Pletcher assistant Ginny DePasquale. “We’ve really thought a lot of this horse. Todd thought he had a good future. So he sent him here and, of course, he was right. We’re really happy about today.”
Current returned $11.80 to win, $5.40 to place, and $3.80 to show. Henley’s Joy brought back $4.80 to place and $4 to show, while Salvator Mundi paid $14.60 to show.