KENT STAKES | PURSE: $200,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 3 | 1 1/8 MILES (TURF)
After an unsuccessful Triple Crown campaign, Optimizer looks to have found his home back on the turf. The D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt captured his first graded stakes win in record fashion on Saturday in the Grade 3, $200,000 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park.
The Bluegrass Hall homebred set a course record by mere hundredths of a second by covering 1 1/8 mile on firm turf in 1:47.27, beating the old mark of 1:47.33.
Sent off as the 3-1 favorite, Optimizer was coming into the race off an allowance win on the turf last month at Saratoga, which was his first victory since breaking his maiden as a two-year-old last year.
The three-year-old bay colt broke clean with Jon Court aboard and was able to go straight to the rail. He found himself in a duel, positioned right next to pacesetter and eventual runner-up Excaper, who posted fractions of :22 3/5, 46 4/5 and 1:10 3/5. Optimizer finally was able to shake off Excaper heading into the stretch and drew clear to win by 4 1/4 lengths.
"He broke alertly and he chose to lay up there close," winning rider Jon Court said. "He laid up there effortlessly. I know the track has been running really good and he was able to lay up there and finish in front of them. I always felt like I fit real well with this horse. The first time I swung a leg over him, I felt privileged that Wayne [Lukas] let me ride him. I felt privileged today and I am delighted he gave me the chance again."
Two Months Rent finished a head back for third, while Star Channel, Twilight Eclipse, Unbroken, Lucky Chappy, Cozzetti, Miami Cat and Corinthian's Jewel rounded out the order of finish. King Kressa was scratched.
The son of English Channel returned $8.40, $5.40 and $5.40 to his backers. Optimizer's first graded stakes victory boosts his lifetime earnings to $428,714 with a career record of 16-3-2-1.
Prior to this victory in the Kent, Optimizer's best finishes in stakes were seconds in the Grade 2 Rebel and Grade 2 With Anticipation, and a third in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity.
Optimizer's dam is the A.P. Indy mare Indy Pick, who is a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Finder's Fee and multiple Grade 1-winning steeplechaser Tax Ruling. All were produced by Grade 1 winner Fantastic Find. Optimizer's third dam was the noted Phipps family producer Blitey, while his third dam was 1966 champion three-year-old filly Lady Pitt.