05/27/2017 8:20PM

Cowboy Culture regains good form in Arlington Classic

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Cowboy Culture rolls to a 5 3/4-length victory under Shaun Bridgmohan in the Arlington Classic for 3-year-olds.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – He won his first three starts and beat subsequent Louisiana Derby winner Girvin in a minor Fair Grounds stakes race over the winter, but Cowboy Culture came into the Grade 3, $100,000 Arlington Classic on Saturday following definitive defeats at Gulfstream and Keeneland.

He came out of it looking like the same 3-year-old of considerable promise seen last winter after drawing away to a 5 3/4-length victory, a wide margin for a colt who hadn’t yet made the front a furlong from the finish.

Cowboy Culture beat Girvin in the Feb. 4 Keith Gee Memorial, but a month later was a flat seventh in the Palm Beach Stakes in Florida. He did not ship well from New Orleans for that start, his connections said, but there was no obvious excuse for a sixth-place finish April 7 in the Transylvania Stakes – unless Cowboy Culture just wasn’t as good as his early races suggested.

But trainer Brad Cox gave Cowboy Culture a 50-day reprieve from racing, and Cowboy Culture raised his ceiling again with a dominant performance Saturday.

“The time off might have helped him. That just goes with mental and physical maturity, especially a young 3-year-old old like that,” said Cox’s assistant, Ricky Giannini, who saddled Cowboy Culture. ”You give them time between races and they develop into something. He was always training good, but good horses train good. We were just glad to see he showed he’s still a good horse.”

The Keeneland course carried moisture and was called “good” for the Transylvania, so Cowboy Culture had raced over ground with give, but he caught an even softer course, one officially labeled “yielding,” in the Classic, and had no trouble outfinishing five rivals. No doubt the turf was laboring, as the winner got his final 2 1/2 furlongs somewhere between 32 and 33 seconds, an especially sluggish closing time given the distance he and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan put on the others in deep stretch.

Cowboy Culture’s trip was slightly complicated, mainly because the three-race maiden Sakonnet really changed the race’s rhythm coming off the clubhouse turn and onto the backstretch. Fast And Accurate broke outward and gave Parlor a sound bump at the start but quickly recovered. He went the first quarter-mile racing by himself in 24.68 seconds and the half in 49.97 while in the company of Sakonnet, who was racing in blinkers for the first time and dragged jockey Carlos Marquez up to press the leader.

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That move turned out poorly for both horses, who played no part in the end, and it displaced Giant Payday from what had been a perfect tracking trip. Cowboy Culture, too, got shuffled back, and around the far turn, stuck to the rail, Cowboy Culture had to bide his time. But when Bridgmohan found room to guide him several paths off the rail, Cowboy Culture picked up Fast and Accurate, along with Parlor, as quickly as the tiring course would permit.

“I watched some replays on him,” said Bridgmohan, who rode Cowboy Culture for the first time. “I kind of had an idea what I wanted to do out there. I thought I’d be laying a little bit closer, but the other horse got a little aggressive and I got shuffled back. I worked him last week, and he actually has a very, very good turn of foot. He showed it today. The last part, I just hand-rode him.”

Cowboy Culture, who took late action to go off the 5-2 favorite, paid $7 to win and was timed in 1:46.81 for the 1 1/16 miles. Gorgeous Kitten ran hard to finish second, a half-length in front of Parlor, who had made a wide move on the far turn and took the lead in midstretch.  Behind Parlor came Fast and Accurate and Sakonnet, with Giant Payday sixth. Don’t Split Tens, Mas Mischief, Prize Fight, and Red Corvette were scratched.

Cowboy Culture is owned by Head of Plans Partners LLC and Cheyenne Stables LLC, and was bred in Kentucky by Rhineshire Farm LLC. By Quality Road, he’s out of the Smart Strike mare English Willow, and after his first graded stakes win his record stand at 4-0-0 from six starts.

Cowboy Culture ships back to Churchill but could return to Arlington for the American Derby. Cox undoubtedly will separate Cowboy Culture from two other 3-year-old turf horses under his care, most notably Arklow, who went from a Keeneland maiden win to an impressive score in the American Turf at Churchill on Kentucky Derby Day. Cox also trains Mr. Misunderstood, who failed to hold strong grass form when tried on a fast dirt track in the Illinois Derby.