Saturday, September 27, 2008 12:00 AM
By Eric Wing
FLORENCE, KY . . . September 27, 2008 . . . Benefiting from a patient ride by Shaun Bridgmohan, Zanjero bided his time early, then split horses decisively in mid-stretch to score a length and a half victory in the 15th running of the $350,000 Kentucky Cup Classic (G2) at Turfway Park Saturday.
Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC and trained by Steve Asmussen, Zanjero was never more than five lengths off the lead. Even so he sat next to last, away from the early pace set by 8-5 co-favorite Honest Man. As the horses continued down the backstretch, Zanjero inched his way gradually up the rail and then split horses in midstretch, gaining racing room to continue on to victory.
Extreme Supreme, a 12-1 longshot, made a menacing middle move on the far turn to temporarily take command and held everyone off but Zanjero to finish second, four lengths ahead of 42-1 rank outsider Canela in third. Honest Man faded to fourth, a length and a half ahead of Yate's Black Cat. Stream Cat, 8-5 co-favorite with Honest Man, never threatened from the back of the pack and finished last of six.
"The race went just as I hoped it would," said winning owner Ron Winchell. "He broke clean and was close to the pace. It looked like that's where you wanted to be all day. He has a good late kick as long as he doesn't use it too early. We'll talk things over with Steve (Asmussen, regarding the Breeders' Cup)."
It was a big day for winning trainer Steve Asmussen, who spent the day at Belmont preparing stable star Curlin for what would be an historic Jockey Club Gold Cup win that vaulted Curlin past Cigar as the all-time richest North American-based Thoroughbred. But Asmussen did find time to get to a TV for Zanjero's impressive performance at Turfway, and he elaborated on Breeders' Cup plans for the colt.
"That horse ran great," said Asmussen, pumping his fist. "I did get to see it. Yes, this horse is going to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile."
At the Breeders' Cup, Zanjero will undoubtedly be ridden once again by Bridgmohan. "I was very confident at the top of the stretch," he said. "I got him settled behind the leaders and waited for a seam to open up, and once it did, it made my job a lot easier. He went on like a true professional."
Extreme Supreme ran a very good second and trainer John Ward thought his horse was expertly guided in the 5-year-old's first effort in stakes competition. "I thought this jockey (Otto Thorwarth) put him in a spot he could win, and it was up to the horse and the horse didn't win. Credit the jockey (for the good finish)."
"John kind of left it in my hands," said Thorwarth. "Everybody in the race looked like they wanted to sit right off of it so he told me to go ahead and let him run up close. He said to don't ever discourage him, that he's the kind of horse that you gotta let him run his own race, so that's what I did."
One of the race's biggest surprises was show horse Canela, who was entered in both the Classic and today's Hawthorne Gold Cup. "He was cross entered at Hawthorne because we didn't think there would be a lot of speed in there," said trainer Michael Maker. "But there turned out to be, so this was a better spot."
Sent off as third choice, Zanjero paid $7.40 to win while registering his sixth victory in 18 lifetime starts. Today's win sent the 4-year-old son of Cherokee Run past the $1.5 million mark in career earnings. It was the second win of 2008 for Zanjero, who last time out captured the ungraded West Virginia Governor's Stakes on August 2 at Mountaineer Park.