After solid placings in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) earlier in the fall, Signalman reversed form with Knicks Go and earned his first career stakes win on Saturday in the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), a 2019 Road to the Kentucky Derby series prep at Churchill Downs.
Under a ground-saving ride by Brian Hernandez Jr., Signalman improved position on the far turn, switched out to the two path to take aim on King for a Day in upper stretch, and held off a late surge from Plus Que Parfait to win by a half-length.
Owned by Tommie Lewis, David Bersen, and Magdalena Racing, Signalman covered 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:45.29. He paid $9.20 as the 7-2 second choice in a field of 14.
Plus Que Parfait, making his stakes debut, finished 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Limonite, who edged King for a Day for third by a nose. Finishing 11th was the 3-1 favorite Knicks Go, winner of the Breeders’ Futurity and second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
“He was a big, strong horse when he went through the sales ring and today he still is that type of horse,” said trainer Kenny McPeek, who also won the 2001 Kentucky Jockey Club with Repent and acquired Signalman for $32,000 at the Fasig-Tipton October sale. “He’s taken us a long way so far and it’s been a lot of fun.
“I love the way Brian rode him today; it made up for the (Golden Rod [G2]) when we thought we were a cinch (with runner-up Restless Rider). This is what we all work for.”
Signalman is by General Quarters and out of the Trippi mare Trip South. General Quarters won the Sam F. Davis (G3) and Blue Grass (G2) before finishing 10th in the 2009 Kentucky Derby for the late Tom McCarthy.
Signalman will now enter his winter quarters at Payson Park in Florida with earnings of $448,990 from a line of 5-2-2-1. He began his career with a second-place finish in a Churchill maiden going five furlongs back in May, and followed up with a maiden victory at Saratoga going seven furlongs. He finished second in the Breeders’ Futurity and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Signalman earned 10 qualifying points for next May’s Kentucky Derby, bringing his current total to 18. Plus Que Parfait earned four points, Limonite two points, and King for a Day one point.