Hierro with Julien Leparoux came from the middle of the pack and made his winning rally on the stretch to capture the 88th running of the Cliff's Edge Derby Trial.
The race was the eight on the season opening card at Churchill Downs on Saturday and was run on a sloppy-sealed track thanks to a big hailstorm that hit the track and the surrounding areas.
The conditions were so bad that forced the cancellation of the 10th race which was scheduled to be run on turf.
The 11-horse field was reduced to eight after Tarpy’s Goal and Seve were scratched earlier on the day. Nonios was scratched late after a problem with his shoeing passed 15 minutes forcing him to be scratched from the race.
The field did not have a true pace-setter so at the beginning the 6-5 favorite Paynter along with Stealcase broke alertly and took the lead, but no one was in a hurry to go up front.
Paynter took the first call followed by Saint of Saints and Stealcase with Hierro settling in right behind them.
For the half-mile, The Black with Calvin Borel took advantage of their inside position and made a very early move to take the lead and take the second call fractions.
Martin Garcia identified this and settled Paynter in third place followed by Stealcase on his outside and Hierro a couple of lengths behind them.
As they started to enter the home stretch Paynter took the lead on the outside and started to fight off Stealcase's stretch rally.
But three-wide outside of that fight Leparoux was urging Hierro to make his winning move and passed Paynter with less than a furlong to go and drew clear to wing by 1.5 lengths.
Paynter held on gamely for second over Stealcase while Bourbon Courage rallied to finish fourth and The Black rounded the top five.
Hierro was ridden by Julien Leparoux, is owned by Stonestreet Stables and trained by Steven Asmussen. This are the very same connections for Dominus who got beaten at the wire by Machen last year on this race.
A great comeback win for the connections and for Hierro who had two average outings this year—although with stiffer company— and finally seems to show the promising form he showed as a two-year-old.
Now we'll see if his connections take the expected path and follow it up with a run at the Preakness for Hierro.
There are many things to consider before making that decision. They will have to wait and see how he comes out of the race tomorrow, and especially see the result of the Kentucky Derby next Saturday in order to have a clearer view on what to do.
Hierro seems to love Churchill Downs and wet tracks. He is now two-for-two at Churchill Downs and on wet tracks he has a win and a close second-place finish.
For the two favorites, Paynter and Bourbon Courage, there are different points to analyze. Maybe the off-track was not to their liking, or maybe they were just beaten by a superior horse.
Should Hierro run at the Preakness?
Paynter was fit and ready to move forward in this race. He ran a very good race but the fact that he had to take the first call might have thrown jockey Martin Garcia off his plan just a bit.
He settled in nicely in his preferred stalking position for the second call, but he had already been used for the first quarter-mile. At the end it was that the difference in the race for Paynter.
As for Bourbon Courage, he was taken back to make a run from too far behind. As I stated before the race, the winner would be at the lead or just behind it on this race due to the lack of a true pace setter.
He made a bid late but really had no kick on it. Maybe he didn't like to receive mud on the face, or like Paynter was beaten by better horses. The fact is he didn't make the move on the class step-up race, we'll have to see his next race.
For now is all about Hierro and his possible run at the Preakness. Stay tuned.
The Cliff's Edge Derby Trial | Grade III | Distance: One Mile | Purse: $200,000
|5||Hierro||Julien R. Leparoux||12.00||4.60||3.20|
|Also ran: 11 - Bourbon Courage , 2 - The Black , 10 - Motor City , 6 - Quick Wit , 3 - Saint of Saints|
|Scratched horses: Tarpy's Goal (Trainer) , Nonios (Stewards) , Seve (Trainer)|
Fractions- :22.73, :45.28, 1:09.90, 1:22.44 Final Time- 1:35.27
Winning Owner: Stonestreet Stables LLC
Winning Trainer: Steven M. Asmussen