11/29/2014 6:22PM

El Kabeir narrowly prevails in Kentucky Jockey Club

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
El Kabeir (right), ridden by Calvin Borel, wins the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes by a head over Imperia (center).

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Zayat Stables has one of the very early favorites for the 2015 Kentucky Derby in American Pharoah, but another of its 2-year-old colts, El Kabeir, stamped himself as a contender Saturday with a front-running triumph in the 99th running of the Grade 2, $233,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Sent straight to the lead by Calvin Borel, El Kabeir barely outlasted Imperia under the Churchill lights in capturing the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club by a head, earning 10 points toward eligibility for the Derby next May.

“He’s a talented colt who’s just kind of needed to get his balance,” said John Terranova, the New York-based trainer who was on hand. “I’m sending a dozen horses to Tampa Bay Downs this winter and keeping the rest home in New York, so I’ll talk to Mr. [Ahmed] Zayat to see what we want to do.”

El Kabeir, a gray colt by Scat Daddy, returned $16.60 as the third choice in a field of 11 after finishing in 1:44.82 over a fast track. It was another three-quarters of a length back to Eagle in third, followed by International Star in fourth. Lord Nelson, the 7-5 favorite, was fifth.

Terranova said he opted to ship to Kentucky instead of staying home for the 1 1/8-mile Remsen at Aqueduct primarily because of the shorter distance, but also “to see how he ships and maybe a couple other things. Obviously, it worked out well for us.”

El Kabeir was making his fifth start and his first outside of New York. He won an Aug. 30 maiden race at Saratoga in his second start, then was a well-beaten fourth in the Champagne before finishing second to Blofeld in the Nov. 2 Nashua.

For Borel, the Hall of Fame jockey with three Kentucky Derby wins, this was his fourth Kentucky Jockey Club victory, following Dollar Bill (2000), Beethoven (2008), and Super Saver (2009).

Imperia, a Godolphin Racing colt making his dirt debut after three starts on turf, finished stoutly from midpack to just miss as the 5-2 second choice. The son of Medaglia d’Oro will return to the Palm Meadows training center in Florida for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

The $2 exacta (5-8) paid $88, the $1 trifecta (5-8-2) returned $258.80, and the 10-cent superfecta (5-8-2-3) was worth $176.73.

Dortmund impresses in allowance

El Kabeir was gutsy in the Kentucky Jockey Club, but his victory might well be overshadowed by what occurred in the previous race, when the Bob Baffert-trained Dortmund ($2.80) won a first-level allowance by 7 3/4 lengths under Martin Garcia.

“Awesome” is what Baffert texted to Churchill publicity staff minutes after Dortmund finished a one-turn mile in a swift 1:35.75.

Dortmund, a Big Brown colt owned by Kaleem Shah, easily won his debut, a Nov. 2 maiden sprint at Santa Anita, in his only prior start.

It was a terrific weekend at Churchill for Baffert, who stayed home in California. On Friday, the Hall of Fame trainer won the Grade 1 Clark Handicap with Hoppertunity, also ridden by Garcia.