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Can Man won the 2023 Castle & Key Bourbon Stakes (G2) at Keeneland, a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, with a last-to-first stretch run to catch Noted at the wire.
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In the Castle & Key Bourbon, 27-1 longshot Can Group was last in the field of 12 going into the final turn of the mile and a sixteenth race but weaved his way through horses on the turn and in the stretch to nail Noted on the wire for a nose victory.
Can Group is trained by Mark Casse and was ridden by Francisco Arrieta, who not only picked up his first Keeneland stakes victory but his first Grade 2 victory. It is the fifth win in the race for Casse, who previously won with Airoforce (2015), Keep Quiet (FR) (2016), Flameaway (2017) and Peace Achieved (2019).
Fortune Seller led the field early while being tracked by Double Your Money with Noted and favored First World War heading up the second flight. The top two positions did not change going into the far turn, but things changed quickly in the upper stretch when the pack closed in.
Vote No emerged with the lead passing the eighth pole, while behind him Noted was being shuffled back and Can Group began his clear run between horses. Noted found racing room about 50 yards from the wire to hit the front only to be caught in the final jump by Can Group.
Can Group is a Kentucky-bred son of Good Samaritan out of the Street Sense mare Blue Gallina. Sunday’s victory was worth $198,013 and increased Can Group’s earnings to $307,013 with a record of 4-2-0-2.
Can Group returned $56.34, $21.32 and $13. Noted, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., returned $5.34 and $4.28 and finished a length in front of Vote No, who paid $9.88 to show under Gerardo Corrales.
It was another half-length back to First World War, who was followed in order by Tok Tok, Depiction, Palm Tree, Double Your Money, Coin Miner, Gorilla Trek, Fortune Seller and Nomos.
Francisco Arrieta (winning rider of Can Group)
On winning his first stakes at Keeneland:
“This is beautiful. I never thought I’d be riding at Keeneland and here I am and winning a Grade 2 – it’s amazing.”
On how the race progressed and being sure of the win:
“He was (last going into the final turn). When I moved and he saw the leaders, he just took off and, wow, it was amazing. I felt like I crossed the wire in front. He was rolling. I won with him at Kentucky Downs (maiden special weight Sept. 2) and he came from off the pace very nice, slow, so today I planned the same. Relax, give him time and make one move, and he showed up.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. (rider of runner-up Noted)
“Perfect trip, just unlucky they got us at the wire.”
Gerardo Corrales (rider of third-place finisher Vote No)
“I had a lot of horse. In the stretch he was running, but he just got a little tired.”
Tyler Gaffalione (rider of fourth-place finisher and favorite First World War)
“The post position (12) didn’t help us much, but I was really impressed with my horse. He put himself in a good spot. He traveled great throughout. He really fought on all the way to the wire. Got a little bit tired, but like I said the post position affected us a little bit.”
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