LOUISIVILLE, Ky. -- Doubles Partner remained unbeaten on grass, and looked like he could be a factor in the best 3-year-old turf races of the summer in winning the Grade 2, $200,550 American Turf Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths late Friday afternoon at Churchill Downs.
A $450,000 yearling owned by WinStar Farm LLC and trained by Todd Pletcher, Doubles Partner looked little like a stakes horse in the first three starts of his career: He was last of 11 in his career debut at Saratoga, finished a distant third of just six horses second time out at Belmont, and was seventh for an $80,000 claiming price last fall at Keeneland.
"We thought that we could take a little edge, but that didn't work out," said Pletcher.
But Pletcher switched Doubles Partner to turf for his 2-year-old finale, and that did the trick. Doubles Partner won a maiden race by a head from post 11 last November, and on Feb. 17 at Gulfstream he slipped through a tight spot on the fence and won an entry-level turf allowance by a half-length over Lentenor.
"He just needed to get on turf," Pletcher said.
Doubles Partner was off turf in his most recent start, finishing eighth in the Lane's End over Turfway Polytrack, but the colt was back to his best surface, and back on his game Friday. The American Turf unfolded with an all-out speed duel between Lost Aptitude and Strike the Tiger, the pair blazing through a half-mile in 46.87 seconds while well clear of the others. But by the top of the stretch, the splits had taken their toll, and the speedsters were finished. Garrett Gomez had Doubles Partner in full flight after saving ground for most of the trip, and Doubles Partner quickly opened daylight, easily holding clear a mild challenge from Asphalt. Guys Reward, another closer finished third, with strong favorite Setsuko fourth.
Trainer Richard Mandella said Setsuko, whose connections hoped to run in the Kentucky Derby, appeared not to handle the racing surface. Jockey Rafael Bejarano told Mandella that his mount "was lost out there."
Doubles Partner paid $11.20 and was timed in 1:41.05 over a firm turf playing quite fast. While there are no firm plans for Doubles Partner's next start, both Arlington Park and Colonial Downs have 3-year-old turf series with attractive purses.
"He's getting good at the right time," said Pletcher.