Gigante gets the Commonwealth Turf win under Luan Machado (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)
Churchill Downs Press Release
LOUISVILLE, Ky.— Virginia-bred Gigante angled out at the top of the stretch to collar Smokey Mandate inside the three-sixteenths pole and kicked away late to win the off-the-turf 18th running of the $257,500 Commonwealth by 4 ½ lengths over 3-5 favorite Northern Invader on Sunday at Churchill Downs – closing day of the Louisville track’s 134th Fall Meet.
Gigante, who broke his maiden at Colonial Downs as a 2-year-old in his only other race on dirt, ran 1 1/16 miles over the fast dirt main track in 1:44.46 to collect his fourth career stakes win. Luan Machado rode the winner for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
Sent off at odds of 10-1, Gigante had to check off heels as the field of eight 3-year-olds raced into the first turn but he settled nicely in fourth just behind J.P. Race, Wild Sean and Smokey Mandate who raced three-wide through early splits of :23.86, :47.56 and 1:12.12. When J.P. Race began to retreat leaving the final turn, Gigante spurted three-wide into contention and proved best down the lane.
“He’s a very nice horse and Steve Asmussen and his team did a great job getting him prepared for this race,” Machado said. “I sat a beautiful trip behind the pace and he came with his closing kick down the lane. Every time I asked him, he dug in.”
Previously, Gigante won the $165,500 Kitten’s Joy at Colonial Downs at age 2 and prevailed in this year’s $150,000 Caesars Handicap at Horseshoe Indianapolis in May at odds of 33-1 and $500,000 Secretariat (Grade II) at Colonial Downs in August at 22-1.
“He’s a beautiful Virginia-bred and it was great to see him dominate versus open company today,” Asmussen said. “I thought Luan gave him a great ride today. We’re very fortunate to be in the position we’re in with horses like him.”
Gigante returned $22.06, $2.56 and $3.66 as the fourth betting choice. Northern Invader, with Jose Ortiz up, got up by a head for second and paid $2.56 and $2.10. Smokey Mandate, ridden by James Graham, paid $2.90 to show.
Winters Lion, Lincoln Highway, Wild Sean, Worthington and J.P. Race completed the order of finish. Anglophile, Runaway Storm, Ohana Honor, Irish Aces, Bal a Kazoo, Santorini and Clyde’s Get a Gun were scratched.
Gigante netted $150,350 for owners Iapetus Racing and Diamond T Racing and now boasts career earnings of $915,475 from a record of 5-0-1 in 12 starts.
Gigante is a son of Not This Time out of the Empire Maker mare Summertime Green and was bred by Ann Mudge Backer & Smitten Farm.
Tyler Gaffalione was the leading rider of the 21-day Fall Meet with 26 trips to the winner’s circle, his 11th Churchill Downs title. Luis Saez was second with 20 wins.
Asmussen edged Brad Cox for leading trainer honors, 19 wins to 17, for his record-extending 27th local leading trainer crown.
Richard Rigney’s Rigney Racing was the leading owner at Churchill Downs for a fourth time with seven wins from 19 starters and purse earnings of $868,307, one more than Gary and Mary West’s six victories.
Racing on the Kentucky circuit will shift north to Turfway Park in Florence from Wednesday at 5:55 p.m. (all times Eastern) through March 30 on a Wednesday-Saturday schedule. The first day of the 2024 Spring Meet at Churchill Downs is Saturday, April 27, which kicks off Kentucky Derby Week festivities. The much anticipated 150th running of the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) is set for Saturday, May 4.