05/06/2011 5:55PM

American Turf: Banned charges home a clear winner

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Tom Keyser
Banned pulls clear to victory in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Going into the first turn of Friday's $237,400 American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs, Banned was only in front of three of the 11 rivals he was facing in the Grade 2 event. His jockey, Garrett Gomez, was a little concerned.

"Going into the first turn I thought sooner or later he'd start moving forward, but he really didn't," Gomez said. "He was actually kind of content with where he was at."

It soon became obvious that Banned was saving himself for the stretch run.

Banned split horses turning for home, then tipped outside and charged home with an eye-catching rally down the center of the Churchill Downs turf course to win the American Turf by 4 1/2 lengths. Close Ally got second by a head over Air Support.

It was the third win from six starts for Banned, a son of Kitten's Joy owned by Leonard Lavin's Glen Hill Farm and trained by Tom Proctor. In his previous two wins, Banned raced close up to a soft pace. Friday, he showed a new dimension by rallying from far back, a dimension that Proctor was glad to see.

"I didn't know if he could kick like that but I was glad to see it," Proctor said. "I kind of enjoyed that one. By design we were trying to get off of it. Mostly I left it up to Garrett [to] be comfortable. I prefer not to get in a hurry."

Gomez said his early concerns over where Banned was early in the race were quickly erased when he asked him to start to run a little bit down the backstretch.

"Once I got him moving forward a little, I thought I had them all within striking distance," Gomez said. "I thought if he came home the way he's supposed to - the way I thought he would - I thought he would be contending for the win at the end. Did I know he was going to swoop by them that fast and just make the lead that easily? I made the lead so easily I actually caught him by surprise."

Banned covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.05 and returned $8.60 to win as the favorite.