Fan favorite Snapper Sinclair added to his already solid reputation as the ultimate horse for the course at Kentucky Downs when the 6-year-old horse led every point of call en route to capturing the second division of the $400,000 TVG Stakes on Sept. 8.
The 6-year-old son of City Zip put his big, white face at the front of nine-horse field out of the gate under jockey Julien Leparoux and held that advantage throughout to become the first horse to win three stakes at the track. In his lone losing performance at Kentucky Downs, he was second by three-quarters of a length in last year’s Tourist Mile (now the WinStar Mint Million).
Sent off as the 2-1 favorite, Snapper Sinclair completed the one mile and 70 yards over a course rated firm in 1:40.24 and finished three-quarters of a length in front of Bob and Jackie.
“When the horse loves the track, it’s a big help and he obviously does,” Leparoux said. “He travels good on it. Going downhill or uphill he is very comfortable with it. It’s a big effort for us and I’m glad he won it today.”
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Snapper Sinclair picked up his seventh win in 33 career starts and the first-place purse money of $239,320 pushed his career earnings to $1,793,250. While he has run well at other tracks during his career, all of his stakes victories have come at Kentucky Downs.
“He definitely has an affinity for Kentucky Downs,” said Jeff Bloom, president of Bloom Racing, which partners with Chuck and Lori Allen on many of their horses. “Clearly, this is a track that Snapper is very fond of and Snapper is horse we’re all fond of. He’s the coolest horse there is. He’s just the best.”
The TVG Stakes was Snapper Sinclair’s fourth start of the season and first since finishing second in the Opening Verse Overnight Stakes at Churchill Downs on April 29. He opened the season with an allowance victory at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 4 and turned in a solid fourth-place finish in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on the Dubai World Cup program on March 27.
“This is exactly where he needed to be,” Asmussen said. “He got a little bit of a break. I’m glad he was ready for Kentucky Downs. He definitely made us proud. He definitely shines here at Kentucky Downs. He’s been a very special horse, that’s even after making the trip over to (Dubai) this year. Snapper has been very good to us for a long time.
“He ran beautifully today. He responds very well for Julien here, and very pleased to have him on him. Just a great victory celebration.”
Leparoux said the race did not play out the way he expected when Snapper Sinclair broke sharply and was quickly in front.
“I didn’t really want to be on the lead, to be honest, but he took me there very easy,” Leparoux said. “He was traveling very nice. He pointed his ears around the turn so I knew he was going to finish up good.”
With first Penalty and then Midnight Tea Time in pursuit in second, Snapper Sinclair set early fractions of :23.38 and :47.65. He had a one-length lead through six furlongs in 1:12.57.
Bloom, a former jockey, smiled as he described his reaction when Snapper Sinclair was setting the pace.
“He had been off a little bit, he was fresh, he broke so well and Julien said he was going so well, there was a change of plans,” Bloom said. “If you look at all of his races here at Kentucky Downs it’s different every time. With Snapper, put him out there and he’ll figure it out.”
Bob and Jackie, trained by Richard Baltas, hopped at the start and got away sixth in the field of nine. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez moved him into contention a couple of lengths behind Snapper Sinclair, but he could not overcome the handicap he gave himself in the long run through the stretch.
“I think it’s a race he could have won,” Velazquez said. “Broke slow, and that’s it. He ran a good race. (Snapper Sinclair) loves it here. And everything went his way, too. He loves the course and everything went his way.”
In Love Takes First Division of TVG Stakes
In Love (BRZ) scooted up the rail in the $330,160 first division of the TVG2 Stakes while holding off favored Kentucky Ghost for a 2 1/4-length victory, giving French-born jockey Alex Achard his biggest purse victory in America.
With Brown Storm (CHI) and Tut’s Revenge setting a resolute pace, Achard settled In Love into fourth in the field of nine older horses, gradually picking up steam before getting through on the inside at the top of the stretch and taking command. Kentucky Ghost ate at his deficit in the final eighth-mile but didn’t threaten the winner. He did, however, nail Brown Storm to take second by a head. In Love covered the mile and 70 yards in 1:38.55.
Those who bet the winner certainly were in love, as the 5-year-old paid $19.40 while racing in blinkers for the first time.
“I won the last time at Arlington,” Achard said, referencing a neck allowance victory over yielding turf. “That was pretty good. We thought that would be an easier swing, but we had to fight. Today was even better.
“I knew that there was enough speed in the race, which is good for us because he can be a little bit tough sometimes. We got the pace and were just behind chilling. When I asked him to go, he just went.”
Trainer Vicki Oliver said the distance was too short for Kentucky Ghost to be most effective. “He ran really well,” she said. “That was our biggest concern, that it would be too short for him. He’s always been a mile and an eighth-type of horse. His mom was a mile-and-a-half type of horse. We were hoping to get the pace that we got. We just couldn’t close into it at a mile and 70 yards.”
Kentucky Ghost’s jockey Rafael Bejarano thought he was in a winning position until Achard made his decisive, clever move.
“I had a good trip. I saved ground and had a beautiful position coming down the lane,” Bejarano said. “I let him out in the stretch and my horse gave me a good run, a good finish, but the winner today he stole the race. He had a good trip inside and he kept going.”
Though born in Brazil, In Love raced in Argentina in 2019 before Bonne Chance farm owner Alberto Figueiredo sent him to Lobo in the United States, where he’s now won three of seven starts. The only times he wasn’t competitive was in the slop in a Keeneland allowance. He also finished eighth, beaten 6 1/2 lengths, in his only previous U.S. stakes, Churchill Downs’ Grade 2 Wise Dan.
“Since he came here, he’s run very well,” the Lexington-based Lobo said. “The day of the Wise Dan, after the race he came back a little sick with a virus. I think that’s why he didn’t perform well that day.”
Since he wasn’t born in Kentucky, In Love wasn’t eligible for the $100,000 in Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund purses that help fatten the pot for each $400,000 division of the TVG. But he still earned a healthy $178,560 to more than double his earnings to $279,700 off a 4-2-2 record in 12 starts.
Even without racing for the maximum purse, In Love still provided the 30-year-old Achard his biggest victory since coming to America three years ago. Earlier this year the Indiana Grand-based jockey won Arlington Park’s Grade 3 Chicago Stakes, but that race was worth $100,000, with Abby Hatcher earning $57,600.
“Now it’s even better,” Achard said of this victory.