|Aspenite, a 2-year-old colt by Constitution, is a blue-collar horse. All he wants to do is go to work.
Sunday, Aspenite put on his hard hat again and did what he loves to do. Run.
Owned by Ron Winchell, who is a co-managing partner of Kentucky Downs, Aspenite won the 12th running of the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile by 3 1/4 lengths. This was the youngster’s third race in 36 days. The last time he ran was 11 days ago when he finished second in an allowance race at Kentucky Downs.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen had no concern about bringing Aspenite back so quick.
“None,” he said. “He went back to the track feeling good, that it didn’t knock him out. We left him here and he trained back over the racetrack and showed plenty of spirit and attitude. We felt really good about him today.”
Jockey Cristian Torres, riding the Kentucky Downs meet for the first time, was also making his debut on Aspenite. He went straight to the lead over the firm turf and stayed there. Torres said his partner was comfortable throughout and he set solid early fractions of 22.59 seconds for the quarter and 45.25 for the half.
Torres was in no hurry to ask Aspenite to turn it on. That would come, he said, when he got to the quarter pole.
When the field turned for home, Aspenite had built a two-length lead and Torres was about ready to give him his cue.
“He was still in hand as we turned for home,” said Torres, who won three races on the day. “When I chased the rein on him, he took off. When we passed the quarter pole, I really asked him. I wanted to wait as long as I could and he was there for me.”
Aspenite poured it on in the final eighth of a mile as the lead grew to three lengths. Tough Little Nut, ridden by Jose Ortiz and trained by Chris Block, was also running in the stretch but he was never going to get to the winner.
Sent off as the 6-1 fourth choice, Aspenite covered the mile in a time of 1:38.17 and paid $15.06, $7.54 and $4.88.
Tough Little Nut, who came into this off a maiden win at Hawthorne on Aug. 20, was second, 2 ½ lengths ahead of the Brad Cox-trained Mozlzil, the 5-2 favorite.
Block said that 10-1 Tough Little Nut had some trouble on the far turn.
“Jose had to take up a little bit and it cost him some ground,” Block said. “I don’t think it cost him the race – it was a nice horse that won it – but it might have been a little closer. I am just proud of him. We came up here from Hawthorne out of a little maiden special race up here to go against these guys. He showed up.”
Aspenite started his career with a fourth-place finish at Saratoga on Aug. 5 in a mile-race that was taken off the grass.
Like he did in his debut, he showed speed in a $250,000 allowance race for 2022 Keeneland September Yearling Sale graduates at 6 1/2 furlong here Aug. 31.
“He looked home free (Aug. 31) and just looked like he got a little lost here late,” Asmussen said of Aspenite’s second-place finish by a half-length. “Came back today and finished it off. He sees everything. That’s just kind of how he is. He benefited from the experience and cashed in on a very good day.”
Of course, winning a race for Winchell, who is a long-time client for Asmussen was special.
“Obviously, Kentucky Downs is as fun as it can possibly be,” Asmussen, who won two races Sunday and now has three for the meet, said. “We love to run horses here. We started off pretty slow but definitely picked it up nicely this week.”
After putting in plenty of work the last month, Aspenite will get some time off.
Aspenite is out of the mare Aspening by Candy Ride. He was purchased by Winchell Thoroughbreds at the 2022 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $350,000.
Rose Collector finished fifth and was followed home by Legal Titan, Good Bali, Sambalover, Gamblin George, Value Engineer, Blue Eyed George, Baytown Parfait and Billy the Greek.
— By Tim Wilkin
Coady Photography photos below of Aspenite and Cristian Torres winning the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Mile while carrying the silks of Kentucky Downs co-managing partner Ron Winchell.