By Alan Carasso
Fern Circle Stable & Three Chimneys Farm's King Fury (Curlin) took advantage of a fast early pace in Saturday's GIII Stonestreet Lexington S. over a sloppy Keeneland main track and closed off fastest of all to cause an 18-1 upset, earning 20 points towards a potential appearance in the GI Kentucky Derby in three weeks' time.
A maiden winner at first asking over a distance of ground at Churchill Sept. 3, King Fury could not overcome a wide trip when eighth of nine behind Essential Quality (Tapit) in the GI Claiborne Breeders' Futurity over this course and distance Oct. 3. The half-length winner of the Oct. 25 Street Sense S. beneath the Twin Spires, he could do no better than seventh when wheeled back on 12 days' rest in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile and added blinkers–to no avail–en route to a fifth in the GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. at Churchill Nov. 28.
They lined up three across the strip entering the first turn, as the rail-drawn and well-backed Noble Reflection (Liam's Map) set a demanding tempo from Swiftsure (Uncle Mo), with the much-hyped Besos (Empire Maker) three deep. Favored Proxy (Tapit) lingered towards the rear of the field with just two behind, including King Fury–getting the blinkers off for this seasonal debut–who was guided down to the inside by Brian Hernandez, Jr. down the backstretch after climbing through the sloppy going rounding the first turn.
Traveling noticeably more comfortably at halfay, the $950,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga grad improved into fifth on the bridle approaching the turn, angled to the outside of Noble Reflection while full of run off the home corner and stayed on well enough to best Unbridled Honor (Honor Code)–who made a run from absolute last–by 2 1/2 lengths. Starrinmydreams (Super Saver) raced prominently throughout and rounded out a trifecta that returned better than 1200-1. Proxy ran on admirably for fourth. The McPeek-trained and Fern Circle-owned Senior Investment (Discreetly Mine) upset the 2017 Lexington at 11-1.
“I got to the five-eighths pole and went 'Man, they're in trouble from this point,' because he was just doing it the right way and traveling and taking us the whole way,” said Hernandez, Jr. “He was so powerful today that I knew I would just be able to pick my way through like we did. He was just there for me the whole way.”
The 20 points earned for the victory Saturday leave King Fury on the fence for the Derby, but McPeek is game to face the challenge, should the opportunity present itself.
“We'll check him after this race,” he said. “I think he's going to handle a mile and a quarter without any trouble. Whether he gets in, it's out of our control. We'll see how he bounces out. We think a mile a quarter would be great. We'll look at the opposition. The [May 15 GI] Preakness S. is a great race too. It could be either-or, but it would definitely one or the other.”
King Fury is the first–and, sadly, only–produce for his dam, named a 'TDN Rising Star' following a smashing debut for Commonwealth New Era Racing and trainer Todd Beattie before winning Keeneland's GII Lexus Raven Run S. in track-record time of 1:21.32. Acquired by Coolmore for $2.35 million at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton November Sale, Taris was a bang-up second after setting a furious early pace in the GI La Brea S. in her first run for trainer Simon Callaghan. She would go on to win four of her next seven starts, capped by a victory in the 2016 GI Humana Distaff S. She was later acquired privately for breeding purposes and Scott Heider's Heider Family Stable took full ownership of the mare upon dissolution of the partnership. Taris died shortly after foaling King Fury.
Taris's success at the races helped to make members of her immediate female family extremely popular at public auction. Her dam, who sold for $24,000 in foal to Flatter at the 2012 Keeneland November Sale, was bred to Tapit in the aftermath of Taris's 3-year-old season and was sold to Stonestreet for $1.5 million at KEENOV in 2015. That produce, a colt, fetched $900,000 as a Keeneland September yearling in 2017. Taris's full-sister Stoweshoe, a winner in West Virginia-bred stakes company at Mountaineer Park, was sold for $330,000 at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton February Sale. Her 4-year-old son Desert Peace (Curlin), a $1.3-million KEESEP yearling of 2018, was a handicap winner at Meydan Mar. 11, while Stonestreet homebred Cantata (Medaglia d'Oro) annexed a Fair Grounds turf allowance Mar. 12.
King Fury becomes the 39th graded winner for his sire, himself the slop-loving winner of the 2007 GI Breeders' Cup Classic. While King Fury is the first produce of a daughter Flatter to produce a graded winner to Curlin, the stallion has eight such winners from A.P. Indy-line dams, including 'TDN Rising Star' and recent GI Central Bank Ashland winner Malathaat and Stonestreet's fellow Oaks contender and GSW Clariere.
STONESTREET LEXINGTON S.-GIII, $200,000, Keeneland, 4-10, 3yo, 1 1/16m, 1:43.50, sy.
1–KING FURY, 118, c, 3, by Curlin
1st Dam: Taris (GISW, $1,086,260), by Flatter
2nd Dam: Comedy, by Theatrical (Ire)
3rd Dam: Don't Be Silly, by Lord At War (Arg)
1ST GRADED STAKES WIN. ($950,000 Ylg '19 FTSAUG). O-Fern
Circle Stables & Three Chimneys Farm, LLC; B-Heider Family
Stables, LLC (KY); T-Kenneth G. McPeek; J-Brian Joseph
Hernandez, Jr. $120,000. Lifetime Record: 6-3-0-0, $262,739.
Werk Nick Rating: A+++ *Triple Plus* Click for the
eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Unbridled Honor, 118, c, 3, Honor Code–Silvery Starlet, by
Unbridled's Song. O/B-Whisper Hill Farm, LLC (KY); T-Todd A.
3–Starrininmydreams, 118, c, 3, Super Saver–Boy Crazy, by Sky
Mesa. O-Stewart Racing Stable & WinStar Farm LLC; B-Dallas
Stewart & WinStar Farm, LLC (KY); T-Dallas Stewart. $20,000.
Margins: 2 3/4, 2 1/4, 1. Odds: 18.20, 20.10, 8.10.
Also Ran: Proxy, Noble Reflection, It's My House, Swiftsure, Hockey Dad, Bezos. Scratched: Ultimate Badger.Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by TVG.