May 30, 2023

Chimney Rock prevails as Four Wheel Drive sputters at Churchill Downs

Chimney Rock
Chimney Rock edges Jack and Noah in a salty allowance May 17 at Churchill Downs (Coady Photography)

Six months after playing second fiddle to Four Wheel Drive in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2), Chimney Rock gained revenge in Sunday’s featured 10TH race at Churchill Downs. While 7-10 favorite Four Wheel Drive flubbed the start and never got close, Chimney Rock delivered a fine stalk-and-pounce effort to deny Jack and Noah in a thriller.

The top two were both shortening up to 5 1/2 grassy furlongs after finding the Jan. 26 Texas Turf Mile too far. Chimney Rock, who finished one spot ahead of Jack and Noah when fourth at Sam Houston last out, went off at 5-1 here.

The 10-1 Jack and Noah showed his usual zip to grab the early lead, but all eyes were on Four Wheel Drive’s flat-footed break from the rail. Out of position, the hitherto unbeaten favorite worked his way through traffic into midpack. Any hope that Four Wheel Drive would put in a mild run was dashed upon straightening, as he sputtered on one-paced and wound up seventh.

Jack and Noah, in contrast, was enjoying life through an uncontested opening quarter of :22.85 on the firm turf. Chimney Rock was perched in a tracking position the outside, covering up The Gray Blur, and advanced to challenge the leader turning for home.

After reaching the half in :46.20, Jack and Noah still had energy left to resist Chimney Rock. The duo pulled clear of the pack in a rousing stretch battle.

Under Jose Ortiz, a relentless Chimney Rock got the better of a stubborn Jack and Noah by a head. The Mike Maker trainee crossed the wire in 1:04.27 and rewarded his loyalists with $13.80 to win.

“Today’s race definitely suited him better (than the turf route), and he ran as he did when he was a 2-year-old,” Maker told Churchill publicity. “I think this is the start of bigger things down the road for him but we know what he likes to do.”

Jack and Noah was also turning the tables on Four Wheel Drive, having tired to fourth behind him in last fall’s Futurity (G3). Another 3 1/4 lengths back in third came the troubled Guildsman, who was off slow, steadied on the turn, and altered course before improving down the lane. Also doing his best work late was fourth-placer Race Driver, Jack and Noah’s stablemate from the Mark Casse barn.

The Gray Blur faded to fifth, followed by Betchaiwill, Four Wheel Drive, Bango, City Front, Hopeful Treasure, Alec and Arthur, and Kierkegaard.

Four Wheel Drive’s jockey, Manny Franco, commented on the disappointing comeback:

“We didn’t have the trip today. I tried to get him around horses and was just a little flat.”

Trainer Wesley Ward had discussed sending Four Wheel Drive to Royal Ascot if this tune-up went well. That trip could be in jeopardy, especially since the star 2-year-old didn’t show much spark once he had the chance to salvage a decent result.

Ward scratched his other entrant, Maven. Also staying in the barn were Jamming Cameron, the last two also-eligibles Williston Way and Johnny Unleashed, and the main-track-only pair of Hop Kat and Banks Island.

Three Diamonds Farm’s Chimney Rock is now a dual-surface stakes hero, his first score coming in the Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile on dirt at Fair Grounds. The son of Artie Schiller understandably thrives on turf, with close seconds in the 2019 Indian Summer at Keeneland and Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint to go along with his Breeders’ Cup placing. Those likewise came at the hands of Ward runners Kimari and Cambria, respectively.

Bred in Louisiana by Stargazers and Clear Creek Stud, Chimney Rock sold for $18,000 at the Equine Sales Co. of Louisiana’s Consignor Select Yearling Sale. He’s now earned $410,105 from a 9-3-3-1 line. His dam, the stakes-placed Wheaton mare What’s Your Point, is a granddaughter of multiple Canadian stakes winner Zadracarta, who nearly upset the 1989 Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) on Arc Day.