LOUISVILLE, KY – Fresh off of an impressive third-place finish here in the Breeders’ Cup Sentient Jet Juvenile Stakes, Signalman returned in a big way on Saturday, battling fiercely with Plus Que Parfait in the stretch before prevailing by a nose in the Grade 2, $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Breaking from the rail at 7/2 odds under Brian Hernandez, Jr., Signalman sat in midpack early while Topper T shot like a rocket from post 14 and took command through quick opening fractions of :23.12, :46.83, and 1:12.33. Angling off the rail as he exited the far turn, Signalman waited for running room to appear before he surged between slower foes. Continuing to run hard in the late stages, the Kenny McPeek trainee held on gamely to win the 8 1/2-furlong event over the sloppy (sealed) main track in a final time of 1:45.29.
“This horse always gave me a lot of confidence,” said Hernandez, who also won the 2016 Kentucky Jockey Club aboard McCracken. “We were able to work out the best trip possible in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile from the 14-hole. Today, I was able to get him up into the race early and he really showed what he could do. You’re always fortunate to have the horse under you and today we did. Down the lane he was actually looking over at the TV screen. Even with the little quirks he still shows a lot of promise. He’ll be exciting down the road.”
After spending much of the race at the rear of the field, Limonite put forth an incredible rally to nose out King for a Day for third. Farther back came Roiland, Tracksmith, and Current, who finished seventh after being bumped and bothered at the start. Topper T gave way in the stretch and finished eighth ahead of Dunph and Royal Urn, while the 3-1 favorite Knicks Go finished a disappointing 11th. Mick’s Star, Blue Steel, and Everfast completed the order of finish. Manny Wah was a trainer scratch, while Kentucky Allstar was unable to draw in as an Also-Eligible.
The Kentucky Jockey Club is part of the Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Signalman earned 10 points for the win, with Plus Que Parfait receiving 4 for second, Limonite 2 for third, and King for a Day 1 for fourth.
Signalman’s victory was first since breaking his maiden at Saratoga on September 1. The juvenile son of General Quarters now sports a record of 5-2-2-1 with earnings of $448,990 for owners Tommie Lewis, David Bernsen, and Magdalena Racing (operated by McPeek’s wife, Sherri).
“He was a big, strong horse when he went through the sales ring and today he still is that type of horse,” said McPeek, who purchased Signalman for $32,000 as a yearling. “He’s taken us a long way so far and it’s been a lot of fun. I love the way Brian rode him today; it made up for the (Golden Rod) when we thought we were a cinch (with runner-up Restless Rider). This is what we all work for.”
Signalman returned $9.20 to win, $5.20 to place, and $3.80 to show. Plus Que Parfait brought back $14.20 to place and $9.80 to show, while Limonite paid $9.20 to show.