04/04/2015 4:06PM

Kobe's Back overcomes poor start to win Commonwealth

Coady Photography
Kobe's Back wins the Commonwealth Stakes by three-quarters of a length Saturday at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – In what trainer Peter Eurton hopes will be a dress rehearsal for this fall’s Breeders’ Cup, Kobe’s Back rallied from last after a poor break to run down C. Zee for a victory in the Grade 3, $300,000 Commonwealth Stakes on Saturday at Keeneland.

Kobe's Back ($7.60) was making his second start off a layoff of more than seven months and his second for Eurton. The trainer elected to ship the colt from his California base to test the colt's affinity for the Keeneland strip, over which the Breeders' Cup will be contested Oct. 30-31.

“That’s one of the reasons why we chose [this spot] because the Breeders’ Cup is here,” said Eurton, who last year brought Dance With Fate from California to Kentucky to capture the Blue Grass Stakes. “That was a big influence, to see if he would like the track.”

Kobe’s Back, who won the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes early last year for John Sadler, finished a close second in the Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes on March 7 in his first outing for Eurton. The C R K Stables color-bearer was winless in three prior attempts outside of California. However, Eurton said he’s been impressed by how the colt has developed this spring. 

“He’s trained like a really good horse,” Eurton said. “His last race, maybe he needed it, and maybe the pace was too slow. I don’t know how good he can be, but we’re gonna give him a chance to prove it.”

When the gates opened on the Commonwealth, Kobe’s Back, under Gary Stevens, broke awkwardly and trailed the field of seven early. Rocket Time was away fastest, leading Jessica’s Star through splits of 23.19 seconds and 45.95. C. Zee – coming off a career-best performance when winning the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship – stalked those leaders third and loomed the danger turning for home. But Stevens steered Kobe’s Back wide to launch a bid down the middle of the track. The pair collared C. Zee late and edged clear to win by three-quarters of a length, stopping the clock in 1:22.16 for seven furlongs.

“I didn’t like [the way he broke], but when I saw them all congested on the front end, I thought, ‘Well, maybe they’re setting a pretty good pace,’ ” Eurton said. “He wants to run. Gary says he’s been training unreal in the mornings. I knew he could run around them if he took to the track.”

After Kobe’s Back and C. Zee, it was another two lengths back to Rocket Time, who easily held third over Jessica’s Star. Bourbon Courage, sent away as the favorite, finished sixth.