11/30/2013 6:27PM

Churchill Downs: Tapiture pulls away for maiden win in Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Tapiture wins the Grade 2, $175,200 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes by 4 1/2 lengths.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – After setting the bar high by running second to an eventual Grade 1 winner in his August debut at Saratoga, Tapiture had been a mild disappointment while remaining a maiden in two subsequent starts.

But all was forgiven and forgotten Saturday at Churchill Downs when the chestnut colt broke loose with a 4 1/4-length romp in the 87th running of the Grade 2, $175,200 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, a race worth 10 points toward eligibility for the 140th Kentucky Derby next May.

Ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., Tapiture freed himself from traffic into and around the first turn of the 1 1/16-mile race before getting closest to the early leader, Laddie Boy, approaching the half-mile pole. At the quarter pole, Tapiture edged past and was not challenged thereafter, with Laddie Boy, a 19-1 shot, holding second by a neck over Awesome Sky.

Tapiture returned $8.60 as the second choice in a field of nine after finishing in 1:43.51 over a fast track.

Steve Asmussen trains homebred Tapiture, by Tapit, for the Winchell Thoroughbreds of Ron Winchell. Asmussen said the colt will train at Fair Grounds this winter.

“I thought the horse really did a great job getting out of some trouble there,” said Asmussen, who also won the KJC in 2005 with Private Vow. “We’ve always thought quite a bit of this colt.”

Tapiture ran second in his career debut to Strong Mandate, who won the Grade 1 Hopeful in his next start. After a solid third in the Sept. 7 Iroquois at Churchill, the colt then finished third as the favorite in a one-mile maiden race on opening day of the 25-day fall meet.

Running in the KJC “was a plan we thought we should stick to, and obviously I’m glad we did,” Asmussen said.

The KJC lost the 6-5 morning-line favorite, Almost Famous, when trainer Pat Byrne announced several hours beforehand that the colt had suffered a slight bruise and infection to a hind hoof. Byrne said the injury was not major and he expected Almost Famous to be able to resume training in Florida in short order.

Run under the lights, the KJC field included four maidens, with Tapiture drawing the most backing of those. The other favorites, Dobra Historia (5-2) and Culprit (7-2), did very little running when finishing seventh and eighth, respectively.

The $2 exacta (6-7) paid $146.20, the $1 trifecta (6-7-4) returned $449.10, and the 10-cent superfecta (6-7-4-10) was worth $590.39.

The KJC and the Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes, which was won in 1:43.83 by Vexed, anchored a Stars of Tomorrow card that closed out a meet during which the leaders in their respective categories were owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, trainer Mike Maker, and jockey Corey Lanerie. Four months of winter racing was to begin Sunday at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky.