Gary and Mary West’s Code West, runner-up in the Risen Star (G2) this winter, collected the first stakes win of his career with a valiant head triumph over Uncaptured in Saturday’s $113,100 Matt Winn (G3) at Churchill Downs.
Code West, ridden by Rosie Napravnik, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.37 to give Southern California-based Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his 100th victory at Churchill Downs and fourth in the Matt Winn. He also won the 3-year-old race with Shot of Gold (1998), Forestry (1999) and Danthebluegrassman (2002).
“I really like this horse and I really thought he could win today,” Baffert told Churchill Downs publicity over the phone. “He’s the kind of horse that is just getting better and better. This was a little short for him. I think he wants further.”
The Virginia-bred son of Lemon Drop Kid sat just off pacesetter Dewey Square, who set fractions of :24.67, :48.96 and 1:13.57. He garnered control at the head of the stretch only to be engaged by Uncaptured, who poked a head in front. The two raced in tandem through deep stretch with a determined Code West narrowly posting the victory from down on the inside rail.
“I had a great trip, but, honestly, when (Uncaptured) came to us I thought he had us,” said Napravnik. “It was all the horse. He picked up and did not want to lose. Not a lot of horses pick up and have that kind of determination down the lane. I was very impressed.”
Dewey Square, Bellarmine, Sunbeam, Carve, Looking Cool, Treasury Bill and Street Spice completed the order of finish. Ruler of Love was scratched in favor of the $207,600 Centaur at Indiana Downs in which he finished seventh of eight.
Code West, bred by the late Edward P. Evans, won for the third time in 10 career starts. He earned $66,616 to push his career earnings to $260,216.