Get Smokin had never won a race or ever even traveled beyond 1 1/16 miles in any race before entering the starting gate for the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series 'Win and You're In' 1 1/2-mile Grade 2 FanDuel Kentucky Turf Cup Stakes on Sept. 9 at Kentucky Downs. None of that mattered to the gelding, who rocketed to the lead, cruised loose on a two-length advantage into the far turn, stepped into overdrive on the uphill climb to the wire, and dug-in for 1 3/4 length tally in a dazzling gate-to-wire winning performance.
Guided by regular pilot Fernando De La Cruz, Get Smokin ($41.14) hit the finish line in 2:28.66 over a firm turf course. Spooky Channel got up for second over Santin, who had chased Get Smokin for most of the journey, in third.
"Going to the lead, that was the strategy," trainer Mark Casse said. "That's the way he runs. We felt we would establish a big lead and hope that everyone else would think he could not go that far. Guess what? He did."
While a glance at the past performances for the $1.7 million Kentucky Turf Cup may have suggested a farfetched target for 19-1 shot Get Smokin, co-owner Harlan Malter was convinced this was the perfect spot for his gutsy front-running gelding.
"(Get Smokin is) an absolute dream to own. He just lays it out for you every single time," said Malter, the managing partner of Ironhorse Racing Stable.
Gear Jockey Holds on to Earn Breeders' Cup Berth in Ainsworth Turf Sprint Win
Gear Jockey found just enough gears for jockey Jose Lezcano to get home a narrow winner in the $1 million Ainsworth Turf Sprint Sept. 9 at Kentucky Downs. It was his first victory since he won the same race two years earlier.
Gear Jockey, a 6-year-old son of Twirling Candy, now is 2-for-2 at the unique Kentucky Downs course. Thanks to a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" invitation, he's also primed for a second start in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint this Nov. 4 at Santa Anita.
Lezcano hustled Gear Jockey out of the No. 9 gate and took station just behind the early leader, Bad Beat Brian, around the sweeping turn. Heading into the stretch, he gained a clear lead and then was all out to hang onto it.
The favorite, One Timer, loomed the biggest threat, closing sharply on the far outside, but fell just a head short in a blanket finish involving seven horses, all within 1 length of the winner. Bad Beat Brian held third with the camera placing Olympic Runner and Cogburn fourth and fifth.
Gear Jockey, trained by Rusty Arnold, finished the six furlongs on firm turf in 1:10.59, winning for the fifth time from 24 starts. -- By Bob Kieckhefer