Photo by Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs
By Evan Hammonds, @blackcat30
Lea, a 3-year-old son of First Samurai, notched his first stakes win in Churchill Downs’ Commonwealth Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT) Nov. 17. Bred and owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, the chestnut colt defeated King David by three-quarters of a length. Lockout was third.
The winner, trained by Al Stall Jr., is the first foal out of the Galileo mare Greenery. Stakes-placed Greenery is a half sister to group II winner Lady in Waiting and group III winner Savannah Bay.
Settling into third place early behind Finale and Casual Trick, rider Brian Hernandez Jr. got the perfect trip while racing off the hedge. The early fractions were honest with the opening quarter-mile going in :23.45 and the half going in :47.29.
"He left there like he normally does and he fought Brian just a hair, which he does," said Stall. "Once he came back to Brian, it was his race to win or lose."
Lea moved into second after six furlongs in 1:11.93 and assumed command in early stretch, opening up a three-length lead at the eighth pole after a mile in 1:36.17. King David, far back early, came with a late run under Julien Leparoux, but fell short. The final time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:42.27.
"We had a clean trip," Hernandez said. "We knew he was fast and so we wanted to give him the best trip we could and stay out of his way. I was a good passenger and, when I called on him, he spurted home pretty good.
"He's got room for improvement and looks like he'll just keep getting better and better," he said.
Lea was third last time out in his stakes debut, a rallying effort in the nine-furlong Hawthorne Derby (gr. IIIT) over very soft going. He ran second in his debut June 10 under the Twin Spires, a one-turn effort on turf, then broke his maiden at Saratoga Race Course July 1 going 1 1/16 miles. A win against allowance-optional claimers followed Aug. 30 at nine panels.
Lea, the favorite, paid $7.20, $4.20, and $3.60. King David returned $5 and $3.60. Lockout paid $4.80 to show. The 6-11 exacta paid $38.80.
Lockout was followed by Skyring, Any Given Royal, Artest, Finnegans Wake, Excaper, Quick Wit, Finale, Film Shot, Two Months Rent, Burn the Mortgage, and Casual Trick.
Stall said this was the season-ender for Lea.
"He'll go to South Carolina and then prep for something in the summer," he said.
The win was Claiborne’s 31st stakes win at Churchill Downs, which leaves the farm just one back of Calumet Farm’s all-time mark of 32 wins.
For an Equibase chart, click here.