FRANKLIN, Ky.— Trainer John Sadler thought the best place for Bran to start was far from his Southern California base, and in Saturday’s $1 million FanDuel Turf Sprint, a Grade 2, six-furlong test at Kentucky Downs.
His decision worked out perfectly, as jockey Vincent Cheminaud guided the 4-year-old gelding to victory by a neck over pace-setter Artemus Citylimits, with even-money favorite Arrest Me Red coming home third, a length back. The time of 1:07.41 was a track record over the firm turf course, following fractions of :21.51 and :43.97.
As a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, Bran earned a fees-paid berth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) on Nov. 5 at Keeneland. Sadler wasn’t at the race, but was in Lexington to prepare for the upcoming Keeneland sales.
And the Breeders’ Cup? “Yeah,” said Sadler, with the victory being his first at Kentucky Downs, after shipping a handful of horses to the track in past years. “We’ll take him home. He’ll be in Arcadia awhile and come with the contingent we’re building for the Breeders’ Cup.”
The Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland will be 5 1/2 furlongs, while Sadler saying, “He might be better at six (furlongs). But for free, we’re going to be in there. He’s a horse that’s good to ship and travel.”
Cheminaud was patient with Bran, which like his rider hails from France, where the gelding raced until last fall. Other than finishing second at 40-1 at Churchill Downs in the Grade 2 Twin Spires Turf Sprint on Kentucky Derby Day, Bran’s work has taken place on the West Coast, where he scored his previous two wins of 2022.
“I think people maybe underestimated him a little bit, but they forget how good his race was at Churchill,” Sadler said by phone. “That was a really good second at Churchill. I thought he was a good fit for this.”
“The last time I rode this horse,” Cheminaud said, “I finished second. The trainer told me he was very good to win today, and now we won it. I’m very happy.”
Bran found Santa Anita to his liking. “Remember, when we’re talking about Santa Anita, he’s run six (furlongs) on the flat and he’s run 6 1/2 down the hill,” Sadler said. “So he’s had good experience, then you throw in what they do in Europe, where the courses are different. So all those little things made a good vibe for the horse going there.”
Cheminaud was patient with Bran, breaking in the middle of the 11-horse field. He began to move forward with about five-sixteenths of a mile to go, and came home the strongest.
“My horse was beautiful before the race,” Cheminaud said. “I was a little bit relaxed from the start. I followed the horse that was in front of me (Charcoal), my horse was very good at the finish, and he finished strong.”
Bran paid $25.56, $12.30 and $6.32. Artemus Citylimits returned $10.34 and $5.92, while favorite Arrest Me Red paid $3.04. Because the winner was not a Kentucky-bred, he was not eligible for the $450,000 from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund. From the $648,640 purse, Bran took home $320,540.
Although Lael Stables’ Arrest Me Red disappointed his backers by finishing third with Irad Ortiz Jr., trainer Wesley Ward said having about three months off might have been the difference between a victory and third place.
“He ran good,” Ward said. “He is kind of a big guy and we have planned on this race since Belmont Day (when he was second in the Grade I Jaipur). Belmont (June 11) till now is quite a bit of time, and he might have needed one to get him right back on course. He is a big, heavy dude. So, you never know.
“He ran a great race and take nothing away from the winner,” Ward added. “We are just going to see how he came out. He ran a game race. There were just a couple others better than us. Hats off to the winner. He beat us today. These million-dollar races are special.”
Cheminaud almost didn’t ride Bran. “His agent said he had to wait on (trainer Steve Asmussen),” Sadler said. “I really wanted this rider. They tell you when you go somewhere, get Prat. I said, ‘If you can’t get Prat, give me the next lookalike.’ He’s a French jockey, and comes from the Andre Fabre school. He rode him so well at Churchill, I was very pleased to get him back.”
Mike Maker, trainer of runner-up Artemus Citylimits, was satisfied with his horse’s performance. “I was watching my horse, and didn’t see much of the winner,” he said. “But we finished second (at 10-1 odds), no excuse.”
The victory was Cheminaud’s second on the 12-race program, and his third of the Kentucky Downs meet.
“It’s a great meet for me,” he said, “to be in America, my summer was very good. I’m very happy to be here and to be riding here.”
Kentucky Downs Press Release
Photo: Bran and Vincent Cheminaud victorious in the FanDuel Turf Sprint (Coady Photography)