With much of the day’s attention falling on the rich Spiral Stakes, and the return of Pure Fun in the Bourbonette Oaks, it would have been easy to let Turfway Park’s third three-year-old stakes race of the day, the $75,000 Rushaway Stakes get shuffled to the bottom of the deck. A rousing last-to-first run by a promising young colt, though, might make the supporting race the most important of the bunch as the participants move forward in 2013. Crop Report looks to be a horse with a big future, and yesterday he began to make good on all the favorable impressions he’s received since arriving back in the United States.
Rescued from the brink of extinction, the Rushaway went from a race that almost didn’t happen to the catalyst for a very unique winner’s circle scene. Saved thanks to sponsorship dollars by Team Valor International, it was their familiar green and red silks that rode proud and true down the Turfway stretch to an impressive victory yesterday. This left Team Valor Founder and CEO, Barry Irwin smiling in the victor’s enclosure as both the presenter and the accepter of the Rushaway trophy.
Much talked about this spring as another highly talented runner imported by Irwin and team, Crop Report opened at 1-9 and was sent off as a hot 3-5 favorite. He looked like anything but that the first few jumps out of the gate, though, as his less than athletic beginning left him far behind the rest of the field a few jumps into the race. That beginning soon would only lead to a more impressive result.
Rider, Joel Rosario, admitted that his newly blinkered charge gave him some anxious moments early on as the pair remained last the entire backstretch as second choice Divine Ambition rattled off moderate leading fractions. Rosario had been through this before, having had a very similar trip in Crop Report’s only other race in America when the son of Medaglia d’Oro had finished a fast closing third to eventual Spiral winner, Black Onyx. Getting into gear heading into the far turn, and by the time the field straightened out, it was a rallying Crop Report who was the only one with any chance to reel in Divine Ambition.
Gobbling up ground with his man-sized strides, Crop Report collared the leader in late stretch, and rolled right on by to win going away by 1 ¾ lengths. Final time for the 8 ½ furlongs was 1:45.66 over the Polytrack surface that was neither yielding fast times, nor playing overly kind to deep closers. The strapping bay colt raised his record to 4-2-0-1, having romped in his second and final outing in England as a juvenile.
A pleased Irwin was candid in his assessment of the result. "I don't know if he did improve today, to tell you the truth. He might have run the same race he ran at Gulfstream," Irwin said. "We've never had a horse like this. He's a May 31 foal … when he works in the morning, when he's in motion, he's as good as Animal Kingdom. But he's so immature and so klutzy away from the gate that he gives up five, seven, eight lengths at the start. He's not going to make the (Kentucky) Derby, but I think he's an exciting prospect for a race like the Belmont."
While Irwin may have downplayed a run for the roses, he did leave the door open for the immature, but obviously talented colt, to return in Keeneland’s Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes in three weeks’ time. One has to wonder if a win in the Blue Grass might change his owner’s mind at taking a shot at Team Valor’s second Kentucky Derby win in the past three years.
*-Today's update from Team Valor makes it sound much more likely that Crop Report will wait for the Peter Pan Stakes as a prep for the Belmont Stakes.