NEW ORLEANS – Cheyenne Stables’ Cowboy Culture stayed perfect in three career starts on Saturday, showing marked tenacity and serious acceleration in the final eighth of a mile to prove victorious as the 3-2 favorite in the $50,000 Keith Gee Memorial Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
The Brad Cox-trained son of Quality Road settled in fifth of seven sophomore charges before moving closer at the half-mile pole, spinning five-wide at the top of the stretch and proceeding to hold off challenges from his inside and outside from eventual runner-up Girvin and third-place finisher Hot Dad, respectively.
Closing his final furlong in 11.64 seconds over the firm Stall-Wilson turf course, the good-looking $100,000 Keeneland September 2015 purchase started to shake loose late, increasing his margin from inches in mid-stretch to three-quarters of a length at the wire in a final time of 1:37.44 for the mile. Girvin, trained by Joe Sharp and ridden by Brian Hernandez, Jr., was impressive finishing second for owner Brad Grady off a lone dirt sprint start in December.
The well-regarded son of Tale of Ekati out-finished Warner Thoroughbreds et al.’s Mike Maker-trained and James Graham-piloted Hot Dad by a neck. It was another 3½ lengths back to I’m a Chatterbox’s younger half-brother Zinger in fourth under Gabriel Saez for trainer Larry Jones.
Cowboy Culture has been ridden all three times, including a turf mile Churchill Downs maiden victory at first asking on Oct. 30 and a local allowance on Dec. 11 at the same trip, by jockey Florent Geroux. He returned $5, $2.80 and $2.20, while Girvin returned $3 and $2.20 and Hot Dad returned $2.40. The Kentucky-bred earned $30,380 to increase his career bankroll to $89,180.
“He’s a pretty smart horse,” Geroux said of the winner. “I really liked the way he came home. He came home pretty quick and with good energy. I think we’re going to have some fun with him this summer.”
“He ran really well,” Cox said. “Florent likes him and said that when he called on him, he responded. We felt confident down the lane that he would get up. He was more mature today and is improving.”
“(Girvin) gave a great effort,” Hernandez said. “He’s not a horse bred for the grass. He just had that one solid race and this was his first time seeing two turns. I thought he ran a great race today and his gallop out was solid. We got everything out of him we planned on today.”
Sharp confirmed that Girvin will be wheeled back in three weeks’ time for the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes.
The order of finish was completed by Art Imitates Life, Warrior’s Kid and Red Corvette.