Lugan Knight (inside) holds off Arctic Arrogance to win the Jerome (Chelsea Durand)
By Mary Eddy – NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— BG Stables’ Kentucky homebred Lugan Knight came out on the winning end of a thrilling stretch duel with New York-bred Arctic Arrogance in Saturday’s $150,000 Jerome, a one-turn mile for sophomores, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Michael McCarthy, Lugan Knight earned 10 qualifying points towards the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs, with 4-3-2-1 points awarded to the next four finishers, respectively.
The bay son of Goldencents, who was ridden to victory by NYRA’s 2022 leading rider Dylan Davis, answered the question McCarthy had asked of his ability beyond the sprint distance, demonstrating his proficiency going a route of ground in his stakes debut.
“I told Dylan earlier that with the stretch out, the horse might lay a little bit closer,” said McCarthy. “He bounced on out of there and it looked like the fractions weren’t too crazy fast. In my opinion, they didn’t go as fast early as I thought they would.”
Lugan Knight broke evenly from post 3 as the Kendrick Carmouche-piloted Andiamo a Firenze came away the quickest of all to his outside. Carmouche took back on Andiamo a Firenze as the field of seven exited the chute, allowing Lugan Knight to take command and mark an opening quarter-mile in 23.41 seconds over the good main track.
Arctic Arrogance, with Jose Lezcano up, tracked in second to the outside of Lugan Knight as General Banker attempted to improve position down the backstretch but keenly ran up on the heels of longshot Narciso Dali and settled near the back of the pack after a half-mile in 47.70.
Lezcano asked Arctic Arrogance for more as the field rounded the turn and found himself on even terms with Lugan Knight at the top of the lane. The pair quickly drew away from the rest of their rivals and battled furiously down the lane with both horses giving their all as they passed the eighth pole. Lugan Knight had something left in the final 100 yards and put his neck in front to successfully fend off his foe by a half-length in a final time of 1:37.77.
General Banker, who swung wide and rallied well under Andre Worrie, finished another seven lengths back in third with Neural Network completing the superfecta. Andiamo a Firenze, Narciso Dali and Valenzan Day rounded out the order of finish. Circling the Drain was scratched.
McCarthy said Lugan Knight’s trip gave him confidence that he would win the stretch battle.
“I was happy with the way the horse broke. He found himself prominent early and it looked like around the turn he still had a little bit of run,” said McCarthy. “I was not surprised to see how well he dug in down the lane. It looked like he was always just going a touch better than the other horse. You hate to say you’re confident, but it always looked like he kept that horse at bay. Just a tough horse and a gutsy performance. I was glad to see he was able to get the mile.”
Davis said Lugan Knight found his best stride despite a lackluster break.
“He broke OK, not the best. But then he did end up getting into a little bit of a rhythm and was able to establish the lead,” Davis said. “Once I got there, he was very comfortable even with the challenge on my outside. He fought hard for me down the stretch. I really thought that horse [Arctic Arrogance] was going to come up to him and pass him, but he was not giving up. He really opened my eyes a little bit down there around that last eighth of a mile. I was impressed with that run.”
It was the second career victory for Lugan Knight and first against winners, adding to a maiden score at second asking sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs in October at Keeneland. He entered the Jerome from a close third-place effort in a six-furlong optional claimer on November 26 at Churchill Downs where he rallied four-wide from five lengths off the pace and came up 1 1/2 lengths shy of the victorious Victory Formation, who exited that effort to win the Smarty Jones on January 1 at Oaklawn Park.
Now that Lugan Knight has proven his abilities at one-mile, McCarthy said he could potentially turn his attention to the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers at 1 1/8 miles on February 4 at the Big A, a race that awards 20-8-6-4-2 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
“We’ll see. I’ll have to give Dylan a call and ask him what he thinks and go from there,” McCarthy said. “A mile was a question mark for me but it looked like he passed that test today. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Lugan Knight, whose second dam is Canadian Champion Mare Roxy Gap, banked $82,500 in victory and maintained a perfect on-the-board record of 4-2-1-1. He returned $9.10 for a $2 win wager.
Linda Rice, trainer of Chester and Mary Broman’s New York homebred Arctic Arrogance, said the son of Frosted could be given a more prominent trip in his next outing.
“We missed a work in between and the horse was a little heavy, but he ran well,” said Rice. “Jose and I were just discussing and we think we’re just going to put him on the lead next time. He fights on the lead. Today, he didn’t go past. But I think it might have to do a little bit with his weight.”
Arctic Arrogance finished a game second in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Remsen in December at the Big A and is likely to continue down New York’s path to the Kentucky Derby in the Grade 3 Withers.
“He didn’t win but he put in a great performance,” Rice said. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re going to keep going to the next race and as Mr. Broman and I discussed, we’ll take it one race at a time and see how far we get.”
Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with a nine-race card, featuring the $100,000 Say Florida Sandy in Race 8. First post is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.