05/03/2014 3:27PM

Central Banker turns back Shakin It Up in Churchill Downs

Tom Keyser
Central Banker and Corey Nakatani (right) hold off Shakin It Up and Mike Smith in the Churchill Downs Stakes on Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Central Banker became the big-game performer Al Stall Jr. always thought he could be when he grimly held on Saturday in the 80th running of the Grade 2, $400,000 Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby undercard.

Always on the pace after breaking sharply from post 9 under Corey Nakatani, Central Banker dug down in the final furlong amid a thunderous roar from the Derby Day crowd to prevail by a head over Shakin It Up. He returned $23.60 after finishing seven furlongs in a swift 1:21.15 over a fast track.

“This is something else, to win like this on Derby Day,” said Stall, who trains the 4-year-old colt for Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence. “We’ve always thought a whole lot of this horse – a whole lot. It’s just been a matter of finding the right circumstances for him and having a little luck.”

Central Banker disposed of Falling Sky and Delaunay while disputing the pace, but then Shakin It Up and jockey Mike Smith came to call, and Clearly Now also started gaining with big, looping strides.

In the final furlong, however, Central Banker proved gamest, with Shakin It Up finishing 1 3/4 lengths before Clearly Now. Broadway Empire was another 1 1/2 lengths back in fourth in a field of 11 older horses, while Sahara Sky, the 5-2 favorite, was never a factor.

Central Banker, a 4-year-old colt by Speightstown, was making his 12th career start. The colt won three of his first six races but had lost five in a row coming into the Churchill Downs, with a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Malibu at 10-1 last December being the most frustrating and notable defeat in that span. The bay colt had raced just once since the Malibu, finishing a no-threat sixth in the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct.

The $2 exacta (9-11) paid $124.60, the $1 trifecta (9-11-2) returned $319.40, and the $1 superfecta (9-11-2-3) was worth $2,680.40.