LOUISVILLE, KY – Gary and Mary West’s Game Winner took command away from Knicks Go in mid-stretch and drew off strongly to maintain his perfect record while winning Friday’s Grade 1, $2,000,000 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.
Bumped as he broke from post 9 under Joel Rosario as the even-money favorite, Game Winner sat three-wide in mid-pack early while Complexity set opening fractions of :23.24 and :46.87 before being overtaken by Knicks Go heading into the far turn. As the field straightened for the stretch run to the wire, Knicks Go appeared poised to pull a 40/1 upset, but Game Winner was making a strong move to the front. Collaring the new leader at the 1/8 pole, Game Winner fought gamely before drawing off late to win by 2 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:43.67 for the 1 1/16-mile event over the fast main track.
“He broke fine, but it looked like they took my spot and I had to go wide,” Rosario said. “He seemed like he didn’t mind that. He was comfortable. That’s why we got him moving at that point, instead of getting inside and taking back. Turning for home, the more I rode him, the more he gave it to me.”
Knicks Go drifted out in the stretch but still held on to take second by a length over Signalman, who closed strongly from the rear before flattening late. Mr. Money took fourth over Gunmetal Gray, while Dueling crossed in sixth ahead of Mind Control. Completing the order of finish came Topper T by a nose over Tight Ten, a weakened Complexity, Derby Date, Well Defined, and Standard Deviation.
Code of Honor was scratched the day of after spiking a temperature.
Game Winner’s win was his fourth in as many starts and his third straight Grade 1, including the Del Mar Futurity and the American Pharoah Stakes. The son of Candy Ride, purchased for $110,000 as a yearling, has now earned $1,506,000 for trainer Bob Baffert.
“Talk about a rough trip!” Baffert said. “I was glad (Rosario) was patient with him. I felt a lot of pressure coming here because I have a really thought a lot about this colt. I know he is a really good horse. He showed it today; he was much the best. I am so happy for Gary and Mary West. I felt more pressure because I told Gary, ‘I don’t think they can beat us.’ They have put a lot into the game. This horse likes Churchill Downs; that’s a good sign. These races are hard to win. I have a great crew and a great team and we got it done.”
Game Winner returned $4 to win, $3.20 to place, and $2.80 to show. Knicks Go brought back $21.40 to place and $11.20 to show, while Signalman paid $15.80 to show.