HOT SPRINGS, AR – Shortleaf Stable’s High North pressed the pace three-wide before taking a narrow lead in the far turn, then drew off down the stretch to take Saturday’s $150,000 Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
Breaking well from post 6 under Florent Geroux, High North ran three-wide alongside Soul P Say and Ike through opening fractions of :23.54, :47.78, and 1:12.36. Poking his head in front near the 3/8 pole, High North continued to duel with Ike to his inside for much of the stretch before drawing off late to win by 2 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:43.73 for the 1 1/16-mile dirt event.
“It was a nice trip,” Geroux said. “I was in perfect striking position. The other horse took me earlier than I wanted, but he was feeling good and pulled away at the end.”
Ike was much the best of the rest, taking second by 3 3/4 lengths over Higher Power. The favored Title Ready failed to fire after running a ground-saving trip along the rail and took fourth. Ego Trip, Soul P Say, Fire When Ready, and Arazi Like Move completed the order of finish.
High North’s win was his first since breaking his maiden at Keeneland last October and now sports a record of 7-2-1-0 with career earnings of $168,950. The 3-year-old son of Midnight Lute was stepping back in class after failing to hit the board in three consecutive Kentucky Derby prep races.
“We put blinkers on him, hoping it would put a little more speed into him,” said trainer Brad Cox. “It did, obviously. Florent did a good job, knuckling down on him a little bit and getting him into position into the first turn. That’s kind of what we were looking for. He really ran well. I was very proud of the performance. We thought a lot of this horse all along.”
High North returned $11.80 to win, $5.60 to place, and $4.40 to show. Ike brought back $4.60 to place and $3.40 to show, while Higher Power paid $6.60 to show.