Speightstown's Central Banker gamely held off Shakin It Up in a scintillating stretch duel to win the $464,800 Churchill Downs S. (Grade 2) by a head on Derby Day at the historic Kentucky racetrack.
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This was the first graded stakes win for the 4-year-old bred by WinStar Farm and upped his record to 4-3-2 in 12 lifetime starts. The bay colt had previously finished second (to Shakin It Up) in the Grade 1 Malibu S. and third in last year's King's Bishop S., also a Grade 1.
With 56 winners and four stakes winners to date in 2014, Speightstown's runners have accumulated more than $2.7 million in earnings this year.
Breaking from post nine in the field of 11, Central Banker raced well out from the rail down the backstretch. He moved up to challenge Delaunay for the lead around the turn before assuming command with about 3/16ths to run.
Shakin It Up launched his bid a that point, and those two raced together to the wire, with Central Banker never relinquishing the lead.
Trained by Al Stall Jr. and ridden by Corey Nakatani, Central Banker covered the seven furlongs on a fast main track in 1:21.15.
“Well I thought there was going to be a ton of pace in there and when I saw him lay close and pretty comfortable,” said Stall. “I guess they weren’t going quite as fast as I thought they were. He got that outside draw as opposed to the inside draw in the (G1)Carter (at Aqueduct on April 5, where he finished fifth). And Corey said when that horse came up on him on the outside that he could literally feel his horse gritting his teeth and fighting. This horse has as big of a heart of any horse I’ve ever had in my career, by far. He’s a racehorse, that’s exactly what he is.”
Owned by Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence, Central Banker's victory was worth $270,885 and boosted his lifetime earnings to $590,785.
Central Banker is a half-brother to Grade 2 Smile Sprint S. winner Gantry and sold for $200,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September Yearling sale. He is out of the Go for Gin mare Rhum, a two-time stakes winner and a half-sister to Arkansas Derby (G2) winner Private Emblem.