Stubbins broke last of nine in the Woodford Stakes Presented by Keeneland Select (G2T) at Keeneland Oct. 5, then came running outside the leaders in deep stretch to score his first victory since returning from Dubai.
The 3-year-old colt by Morning Line let the early speed go in the 5 1/2-furlong test. In the stretch, he found another gear and motored past Leinster in the final sixteenth to win by three-quarters of a length. The favorite, Imprimis, was third, another 1 1/2 lengths in arrears.
Stubbins stopped the timer in 1:01.44, establishing a new course record for the 5 1/2-furlongs at the historic Lexington oval. He was mated on advice of Mike Recio’s Rockbridge Bloodstock and offered through Recio’s South Point Sales at the 2016 Keeneland November Sale and the Keeneland September sale the following year.
The top three finishers had their previous race at Kentucky Downs.
“The other ones went on,” said winning rider Joel Rosario. “I knew he has late speed, so I didn’t want to hurry him. When I called on him, he was there.”
Tyler Gaffalione, who rode Leinster, said his mount did everything expected of him until the final strides.
“The other horse ran us down,” he said. “My horse was in full flight, and (Stubbins) was finishing all the way to wire. He had a lot left.”
Trained by Doug O’Neill and racing in the colors of McShane Racing, Stubbins broke his maiden Jan. 5 at Santa Anita Park in his first start on the turf. He won the next two at Santa Anita, including the off-the turf Pasadena Stakes by eight lengths, before being shipped to the Middle East for a try in the rich U. A. E. Derby (G2).
In his most recent outing, he was second, beaten 1 3/4 lengths, in the Sept. 12 Franklin-Simpson Stakes (G3T). Rosario was aboard for the first time in the Kentucky Downs race and said the undulating, European-style track likely helped Stubbins.
“It’s different,” Rosario said of the southwestern Kentucky course. “It will get them fitter.”
The Woodford was not a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In,” but Stubbins is nominated to the program, and Rosario said the colt’s performance could put him in the picture.
“He was strong in this race, and the course here today was very firm,” the rider said. “That’s like it would be in California,” he added with a smile.
Stubbins may meet another South Point Sales grad in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Fasig-Tipton HRA grad Shekky Shebaz backed up his Lucky Coin S. victory with a strong 2nd in Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational, also on October 5.