Trainer Dale Romans not only overturned a heavy favorite in Saturday night’s $100,000 Matt Winn (G3) at Churchill Downs, but ran one-two when longshots King Zachary and Tiz Mischief finished well ahead of 1-2 choice Ax Man in the 1 1/16-mile test for three-year-olds.
A winner twice in five starts but a distant sixth in the Wood Memorial (G2) in his only prior stakes appearance, King Zachary was sent off at 12-1. He ran like a favorite, though, putting away his pace-setting stablemate and opening up late to win by 4 3/4 lengths under Robby Albarado.
“King Zachary just keeps getting better every time we see him. I was confident entering the race that he’d run a big effort,” Romans said.
Tracking in third behind Tiz Mischief as that one was pressured by Ax Man through splits of :24.55, :48.08, and 1:12.15, King Zachary was switched to the outside approaching the final turn and made a winning three wide bid. Owned by Tom Conway, King Zachary completed the course in 1:42.86 on a fast track on a hot “Downs After Dark” evening in Louisville.
“I think we are setting ourselves up for a big year with this horse,” Albarado said. “Dale gave me a lot of confidence this week. When Corey (Lanerie) went to the lead with Tiz Mischief I just settled and sat right off the pace. It worked perfectly.”
Tiz Mischief finished eight lengths clear of Ax Man, who had a neck on Funny Duck. Combatant and Home Base completed the order of finish.
Odds-on favorite Ax Man threw in the towel turning for home, but jockey Mike Smith said the colt was never in the frame of mind to win.
“He just completely lost it. I’ve never seen him act like that. He was so bad,” Smith said. “We couldn’t even get the ear-things out of his ears. I don’t know how he got to the gate in one piece, and then he got in there he went to tearing them up. He was kicking at the gate with both back legs. He stopped for a second when they kicked (the starting gate), then he kicked again and I got completely left.”
Third in his first two outings, King Zachary broke his maiden by 7 3/4 lengths at Gulfstream on March 18 in his third start. Next up the track in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, he rebounded with a half-length allowance score at Churchill on Kentucky Derby Day. His record now stands at 6-3-0-2, $172,650.
By Curlin and out of the Giant’s Causeway mare On My Way, King Zachary was bred in Kentucky by Waymore LLC. He was a $550,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase.