Late drama in Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, Race 10 on 2015 Kentucky Derby Day

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May 2nd, 2015

Slight favorite Finnegans Wake got up late in a dramatic conclusion to Saturday's Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1), the race prior to the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs.

Front-running Sky Captain was all out to hold on down the stretch while Seek Again and Jack Milton ranged alongside to challenge. But inside the final sixteenth, Sky Captain bore out several paths, herding Seek Again, taking his lane, and ultimately causing him to check off heels.

Finnegans Wake rallied from last, taking the overland route, and thereby remained free and clear of the trouble unfolding to the inside. He thrust his nose in front on the line, just nabbing Sky Captain, with Jack Milton a near-miss third and Seek Again shut off back in fourth.

After a stewards' inquiry, Sky Captain was disqualified and placed fourth for interfering with Seek Again. The revised order was Finegans Wake, Jack Milton, Seek Again and Sky Captain.

Finnegans Wake negotiated 1 1/8 miles on the firm turf in 1:47 1/5 beneath Victor Espinoza, who will guide favorite American Pharoah in the Derby. He's also owned in partnership by Donegal Racing, who will be represented by Keen Ice in Derby 141.

The demoted Sky Captain turned in a big effort in defeat after being on the front end through splits of :24 2/5, :47 4/5 and 1:11 1/5. That could be taken as another positive sign for his stablemate in the Derby, Danzig Moon, following the victory of Tepin in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) earlier on the card. All three are trained by Mark Casse.

Umgiyo, the traveling companion of Mubtaahij, was a bit too fresh when arguing the pace and trailed home last. Fans of Mubtaahij will hope that's not a harbinger, while those who oppose him will take it as further evidence against him.

Finnegans Wake, only eighth behind Wise Dan and Seek Again in this race a year ago, is continuing his remarkable resurgence since joining trainer Peter Miller. After bagging this first Grade 1 coup, he returned $9.40.

Still, it's tough to escape the what-might-have-been if star distaffer Stephanie's Kitten hadn't been scratched, as just one of the Ramsey withdrawals on Derby Day. To be fair, her pacemakers could also have helped ensure a better set-up for Finnegans Wake. But the classy mare was very much missed in this spot.