Churchill Downs Racing Club’s Warrior’s Club gave his 200 members a thrill they’ll cherish forever when the 2-year-old son of Warrior’s Reward took the lead shortly after the break and never looked back in winning the inaugural $300,000 Spendthrift Stallion Stakes on Sunday’s 10-race “Stars of Tomorrow I” opening day card at Churchill Downs.
Managed by Hall of Fame and four-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Warrior’s Club clocked seven furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.31 under jockey Miguel Mena to comfortably beat Cool Arrow by 2 ¾ lengths while collecting the first victory of his brief career.
“I’ve had some great moments in racing before, so it’s exciting for me, but nothing like it is for those people,” Lukas said of the Churchill Downs Racing Club members that flooded the main track after the race. “I’m so gratified that I could give so many people an enjoyable afternoon and that much happiness, that’s the big thing.”
The new Spendthrift Stallion Stakes – made possible through a partnership between Churchill Downs and Lexington, Ky.-based breeding operation Spendthrift Farm – was exclusively for 2-year-old offspring sired by any active or non-active Spendthrift stallion, including all Spendthrift-owned stallions standing regionally in North America.
Warrior’s Club, a son of Spendthrift stallion Warrior’s Reward, was purchased privately for $55,000 shortly after the creation of the Churchill Downs Racing Club was announced in late April. The 501C7 Not for Profit Social Club was formed by track officials to deliver a low-cost, low-risk glimpse into the life of a Thoroughbred owner. The 200 memberships for a one-time cost of $500 were sold out in one day.
Warrior’s Club came into Sunday’s Spendthrift Stallion Stakes winless in five starts but he crossed the finish line in second in his previous two starts against crack juveniles Wild Shot, who’d go on to run third in the Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland, and Speedmeister, who was a heavy favorite in Sunday’s $80,000-added Street Sense at Churchill Downs.
“The horses that had been beating him are really quality horses,” Lukas said. “We didn’t give a lot for this horse but that doesn’t mean a thing. When they can run, they can run but the horses that had beaten him cost a lot and had great pedigrees so he’s a blue-collar horse. He fits the scenario of the club perfectly. He’s kind of an over-achiever and he’s doing his job and that’s all you can say.”
Breaking from post position four and sporting blinkers for the first time Sunday, Warrior’s Club set the pace and led the field of 12 juveniles through an opening quarter mile in :23.10 and :45.90 for the half with Cool Arrow in close pursuit to his outside throughout. Mena dropped his hands on Warrior’s Club at the top of the stretch and the colt responded by shaking clear from his rivals.
“Coach gave me a lot of confidence in the paddock,” Mena said of Lukas. “He said that if we put him in the race and put blinkers on him, he’ll come out of there rocking. Turning for home, I asked him to run and he really just put the other horses away. The horse (Cool Arrow) came on the outside but this horse had plenty of run and fought and kept on going.”
Warrior’s Club (6-1-1-2—$107,696) banked $86,490 for the Churchill Downs Racing Club and $60,000 for his breeder John O’Meara.
Designed to benefit both racehorse owners and breeders, the $300,000 purse was structured with a unique approach to award $150,000 to the owners of the placed horses, with the other $150,000 allocated to award the breeders of the first-through-fourth-place finishers.
To his pari-mutuel backers, Warrior’s Club returned $13.60, $5.20 and $4.40. Cool Arrow, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., paid $4.80 and $3.80. Lawton, who was 5 ¾ lengths back of the runner-up in third under Robby Albarado, returned $6.80.
All Right, Sister Nation, 2-1 favorite South Sea, Tiz Trevor, On Probation, Chocolateicecream, Hunka Burning Love, Theoryintopractice and Menace the Dennis completed the order of finish. Candy Snatcher and Hollow Point were scratched.
Don’t be surprised if Warrior’s Club is considered for another stakes race in a month’s time. The $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (Grade II) at 1 1/16 miles is scheduled for the Saturday, Nov. 26 “Stars of Tomorrow II” program. That race is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series which awards points to the Top 4 finishers (10-4-2-1).
One can only dream …
SPENDTHRIFT STALLION STAKES QUOTES
D. WAYNE LUKAS, trainer of WARRIOR’S CLUB (winner): “I just told (Spendthrift Farm owner) B. Wayne Hughes that this is great for Spendthrift Farm and for the (Churchill Downs) Racing Club.
“I’ve had some great moments in racing before, so it’s exciting for me but nothing like it is for those people. I’m so gratified that I could give so many people an enjoyable afternoon and that much happiness, that’s the big thing.
“I’ve been so blessed with good horses and this little horse is just an overachiever. He’s getting better all the time. He’s just getting better and better. I don’t know where we’ll go from here but we picked up a check for $90,000 and that’s pretty good.
“The horses that had been beating him are really quality horses. We didn’t give a lot for this horse but that doesn’t mean a thing. When they can run, they can run but the horses that had beaten him cost a lot and had great pedigrees so he’s a blue-collar horse. He fits the scenario of the club perfectly. He’s kind of an over-achiever and he’s doing his job and that’s all you can say.”
MIGUEL MENA jockey of WARRIOR’S CLUB (winner): “Coach gave me a lot of confidence in the paddock. He said that if we put him in the race and put blinkers on him, he’ll come out of there rocking. Turning for home, I asked him to run and he really just put the other horses away. The horse (Cool Arrow) came on the outside but this horse had plenty of run and fought and kept on going.”
JOE SHARP, trainer of COOL ARROW (runner-up): “We were pleased. Brian (jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.) gave him a great ride from the 12-hole. He had every chance to win turning for home and I think the bottom line is that he got outsprinted to the wire. He ran to wire and he galloped out good, so I think we got outrun by a horse who was faster than us today. Hopefully we can turn the tables if we meet again. We were pleased with it, but were disappointed not to win. We definitely think it was a forward move from his last race and the ones before that, so as long as we’re moving forward we’re all happy.”
BRIAN HERNANDEZ, JR., jockey on COOL ARROW (runner-up): “We had a great run. We were right outside the winner and we got to go pretty slow down the backside. I thought doing it that way we would eliminate the rest of ’em, and we did. The winner just outsprinted us, but I thought my horse was pretty game today.”
ROBBY ALBARADO, jockey on LAWTON (third): “He ran good. I was very happy with him. He beat some nice horses today.”
Source: Churchill Downs