LOUISVILLE, KY – A week removed from the Breeders’ Cup festivities, Woodford Racing’s Hot Springs brought excitement back to the Twin Spires after he shot to the lead in mid-stretch and strode off to victory in Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Commonwealth Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Breaking from the outside post 7 as the co-9/5 favorite under Ricardo Santana, Jr., Hot Springs took back and saved ground heading into the first turn while Marzo posted opening fractions of :24.81, :49.64, and 1:14.72. Still under a hold as the field rounded the far turn, Hot Springs began progressing well along the rail until a hole opened up, at which point he tipped out sharply to commence a three-wide bid for the lead. Gaining control inside the final furlong, Hot Springs drew off well and hit the wire with a 1 1/2-length advantage in a final time of 1:46.97 for the 8 1/2-furlong event over the yielding turf course.
“He handled the surface well today,” said Santana, Jr. “We got a lot of rain the other day, so I knew the track would be pretty heavy. I watched some replays and wanted to make sure I got him to settle early in the race. Once the hole opened up and I got him outside, he responded very well. He’s a very nice horse and very talented. I think he’s going to keep getting better into next year.”
Zero Gravity ran alongside Hot Springs at the rear early but found traffic trouble at the top of the stretch, having to steady at one point, yet he still rallied strongly enough late to take second over a weakening Marzo. Reride appeared poised to make a winning move as the field turned for home, but he flattened in the stretch and fell back to fourth. March to the Arch, the other co-9/5 favorite, faded late after chasing the early pace and settled for fifth. Sniper Kitten and Year of the Kitten completed the order of finish.
Hot Springs’ victory was his fourth in as many tries at Churchill Downs, including his first career stakes victory last out in the $100,000 Jefferson Cup Stakes. The 3-year-old son of Uncle Mo now carries a record of 7-4-1-0 with $248,480 in earnings.
“He’s 4-for-4 over the surface here, but today was the most impressive one,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “The way he was finishing up was very impressive. Hopefully, we’ll be able to come back to Churchill next year. There are some very nice races down the road for this colt.”
Hot Springs returned $5.80 to win, $3.80 to place, and $3.20 to show. Zero Gravity brought back $12.40 to place and $7.20 to show, while Marzo paid $6 to show.