Almasty posts front-running Commonwealth Turf upset
Claimed for $30,000 in March, Almasty made his graded stakes debut a winning one in Friday’s $100,000 Commonwealth Turf (G3) at Churchill Downs. Jockey Jon Court guided the 3-year-old to a short lead as the field passed the stands the first time and the chestnut opened a clear advantage entering the backstretch of the 1 1/16-mile turf affair. Almasty was never threatened the rest of the way, accelerating to a commanding edge in upper stretch and easily holding course to the wire in a 4 1/4-length upset.
Almasty was overlooked as the 11-1 eighth choice among 11 sophomore rivals. He established splits of :23.48, :48.10 and 1:13.48 en route to stopping the teletimer in 1:45.41 on the “good” turf.
Trained by Brad Cox, Almasty finished fourth when making his first stakes attempt two starts previously in the listed Better Talk Now at Saratoga on August 31. The son of Scat Daddy was exiting a third in a conditioned allowance/optional claiming race at Belmont Park on October 17.
With the $58,280 payday, the ridgling has now earned $158,831 from a 10-4-1-1 record. Almasty is owned by Rupp Racing Wentworth Brochu LLC and was claimed from his fourth career start earlier this year at Fair Grounds.
Saham, the narrow 4-1 second choice, rallied belatedly to finish a clear runner-up, 3 ½ lengths better than the 8-1 Quality Bird in third. Next under the wire came Granny’s Kitten, Nun the Less, Wayward Kitten, 4-1 favorite Nucifera, Obsidian Splendor, One Go All Go, Bucchero and Magic of Believing. Czar and Bullards Alley were scratched.
Bred in Kentucky by Paget Bloodstock & Horse France, Almasty is out of the Pleasant Colony mare Minicolony, a daughter of Irish champion Minstrella and a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Colonial Minstrel and Grade 3 heroine Minidar, the dam of Grade 2 scorer A Little Warm. This is also the immediate female family of Grade 2 winner Blofeld and Grade 3 victor Pleasant Strike.
BRAD COX, trainer of ALMASTY (winner): “We looked at the two-other-than on Sunday and I looked at the race last night and decided to stick with this race against the 3-year olds and obviously worked out. Going to the lead wasn’t really the plan. It looked like on paper that there was a lot of speed and we kind of though wed by laying third or fourth saving ground around the first turn, but he ended up on the lead. This horse is real sharp, he had a good work nine days ago, he had a five-eighths in :59-and-4 which is real sharp. He’s been doing great and just really showed it today.”
JON COURT jockey of ALMASTY (winner): “I was a little concerned that someone would want to press the pace with me. If not maybe I would sit second or third. It’s soft out there but he’s handled it well enough to hold them all off be several lengths. Me and Brad (Cox) have a great communication relationship and he pretty much tells me what I need to know and I have the ability to understand in depth of what he’s talking about. My confidence soars and always has with Brad so that’s a big plus too. I went into this race with a lot of confidence with where Brad had his horse and everything came into play. I liked the inside post. I was going to utilize the speed to his favor, that’s not necessarily the plans I would go with but that’s how it worked out today.
BRENDAN WALSH, trainer of SAHAM (runner-up): “I can’t be disappointed with him. From that draw and that ground, he ran super. I cannot be disappointed with him. He’s been a great horse all year and we’re looking forward to a big year next year with him.”
JOE ROCCO JR., jockey on SAHAM (runner-up): “The horse ran great. We got the pace we wanted, but I think the course kind of helped the horses with good speed to keep going on. It has been a little harder to make up ground in the last week. My horse closed from the back and he ran great. I’m really proud of him. I think he’s going to be an ever better horse.”
IAN WILKES, trainer of QUALITY BIRD (third): “He ran good. He was a little closer to the pace today, and he got into a little bit of traffic and he had to ease up. But the horse ran great. He’s still learning. He’s still getting better and this was a really good race.”
CHRIS LANDEROS, jockey on QUALITY BIRD (third): “He ran a good race. I was really proud of him just for finishing well. He handled the first turn great, but when I called on him at the half he kind of struggled with the track. It’s a little bit soft. But I was proud of him because I didn’t think he’d get to where he finished, but he ran-on hard and he ran a good race.”
Almasty photo courtesy of Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos