Article via Blood-Horse, Tom LaMarra
Donegal Racing and Rockingham Ranch's Finnegans Wake returned from California in winning form to capture the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) May 2 at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).
With Victor Espinoza riding for trainer Peter Miller, Finnegans Wake fanned wide from last as the field spread out across the turf course and just got up to nail a determined Sky Captain on the wire. Jack Milton was a close third and Seek Again was fourth.
Sky Captain, who led for most of the race, was disqualifed from second and placed fourth after the rider of Seek Again claimed foul for interference near the finish. Jack Milton was placed second, Seek Again third, and Sky Captain fourth.
The final time was 1:47.24 on a course rated firm. Finnegans Wake, a 6-year-old Powerscourt horse bred in Kentucky by Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing, won for the seventh time in 29 starts. He finished eighth in last year's Turf Classic at Churchill, but later won three consecutive grade II grass stakes in California.
Sky Captain, second in an allowance race at Keeneland in his last start, dueled from more than six furlongs with United Arab Emirates shipper Umgiyo through fractions of :24.44 for the opening quarter-mile, :47.85 for the half-mile, and 1:11.28 for three-quarters of a mile as Finnegans Wake lagged at the back of a field reduced to nine after three scratched. Chocolate Ride and Grand Archalso were close up early in the Turf Classic.
It appeared as though Umgiyo would run past Sky Captain on the far turn, but the latter continued on strong as the field fanned out after a mile in 1:35.05. Jack Milton and Seek Again joined the fray from the inside as Finnegans Wake began motoring widest of all.
Seek Again, who found room between Sky Captain to his inside and Jack Milton to his outside, appeared to check near the finish. Rider Joel Rosario claimed foul against Shaun Bridgmohan, who rode Sky Captain, and the stewards disqualified the second-place finisher.
Finnegans Wake paid $9.40, $4.80, and $3.20 across the board. Jack Milton returned $4.60 and $3.40, while Seek Again was worth $3.60 to show.
The mare Stephanie's Kitten, along with Scrumpdilicious and Coalport—all three are owned by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey—were scratched the morning of the race.
"I got there just in time," said Espinoza, who later on the card won his third Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) with American Pharoah. "Turning for home I thought I would catch him, but then I said, 'Uh oh, this is going to be tough.' I started working on him. He's old. He wants to do whatever he wants.
"He wanted to take his time, so I let him do whatever he wants and enjoy himself in the beginning. Then after a half-mile I said, 'You know what, we better start moving.' I started working on him. I wanted to save ground at the end, but any little stop would have cost him the race. To swing to the outside was the best thing for him."
Finnegans Wake, who has now earned more than $1.4 million, rattled off consecutive victories in the Hollywood Turf Cup, San Gabriel Stakes, and San Marcos Stakes (all gr. IIT) from late November through early February in California. In his most recent start, he finished second in the grade II San Luis Rey Stakes on the grass at Santa Anita Park.
Finnegans Wake, out of the Silver Ghost mare Boat's Ghost, had raced five times on the grass at Churchill with one victory. Last year he also won the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) before the trip to California.