LOUISVILLE, KY – William and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Mitole uncharacteristically pressed the early pace, rather than set it, but it proved to be the right decision after he drew off impressively to champion Saturday’s Churchill Downs Stakes (G1) Presented by Twinspires.com.
Breaking from post 8 as the 2/1 favorite under Ricardo Santana, Jr., Mitole sat third early, just off of Promises Fulfilled‘s early pace through :22.38 and :44.71. Creeping closer through the far turn, Mitole straightened for home ready to sweep past new leader Bobby’s Wicked One, and sweep past he did.
Clearing off in deep stretch, Mitole became the day’s first winning favorite when he crossed with a commanding 3 1/2-length advantage in a final time of 1:21.21 for the 7-furlong sprint over the fast main track.
“Steve has done a really amazing job with this horse,” said Santana, Jr., who two races earlier teamed up to win the Humana Distaff Stakes (G1) aboard Mia Mischief for Asmussen and the Heiligbrodts. “He’s a really special horse for me. Today, we knew there was a lot of speed in the race, and it set up perfectly for him.”
Bobby’s Wicked One outdueled Promises Fulfilled in the end to hold second by a 1/2-length. Do Share took fourth over Whitmore, who initially looked ready to pounce off of the far turn but came up empty when the real running began. Warrior’s Club finished sixth ahead of Majestic Dunhill, with Still Having Fun, Uncontested, Uno Mas Modelo, and Wild Shot completing the order of finish.
The two-time defending winner Limousine Liberal was scratched after suffering a career-ending (but not life-threatening) injury just days prior.
Mitole’s win was sixth straight, including the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) last time out at Oaklawn Park, and improved his overall record to 10-7-2-1. The 4-year-old son of Eskendereya has now earned $992,910 and will aim to make his next start in the Met Mile at Belmont Park on June 8.
“He’s for real,” Asmussen said. “Everyone has always been beaming about his potential and he met his potential today and is now a Grade 1 winner. The horse has been capable of what he’s done before, but you see his attitude, the way he moves, you love to see it come together. Ricardo’s confidence in the horse, the way he rode him, he didn’t panic. He wasn’t on his normal lead, but he was comfortable.”
Mitole returned $6.40 to win, $4.60 to place, and $3.60 to show. Bobby’s Wicked One brought back $7.80 to place and $5.40 to show, while Promises Fulfilled paid $4.80 to show.