A ferocious homestretch battle in Sunday’s $225,000 Matt Winn S. (G3) at Churchill Downs culminated with Kentucky Derby (G1) alumnus Cyberknife getting the better of Howling Time in a driving finish.
Seven sophomores faced the starter in the 1 1/16-mile prize, which serves as a stepping stone toward major post-Triple Crown prizes like the Haskell S. (G1) and Travers S. (G1). Although Cyberknife failed to factor when finishing 18th in the Kentucky Derby, bettors pounded the Brad Cox trainee down to 1-2 favoritism in the Matt Winn, choosing instead to remember his confident score in the Arkansas Derby (G1) two months ago.
Second choice in the betting was Howling Time, winner of the 2021 Street Sense S. at Churchill Downs. Fresh off a runaway allowance score over Louisville’s famous oval, Howling Time brought a “horse for the course” profile to the Matt Winn and nearly parlayed his home-track advantage into a graded stakes upset.
The Matt Winn was pretty much a two-horse battle from start to finish. When the gates opened, Howling Time flashed speed and raced out to set fractions of :24.19, :47.81, and 1:11.51 while tracked by Cyberknife. The two colts reached even terms at the five-sixteenths pole, and although Cyberknife appeared to have more momentum at the top of the stretch, Howling Time wasn’t giving in without a fight. They flew down the lane as a pair, and only the photo finish camera could reveal Cyberknife as the winner by a nose in 1:41.98.
“He broke a little slow but I was able to get him into a good position,” winning jockey Florent Geroux said of Cyberknife. “He was traveling well and (Howling Time) was really game on my inside. We were battling the whole stretch. I couldn’t tell which one of us won but I’m glad it was Cyberknife.”
Howling Time, game to the finish, pulled six lengths clear of the rallying third-place finisher Rattle N Roll. Droppin G’s, Camp David, Trafalgar, and Tough to Tame trailed the field.
Bred by Ken and the late Sarah Ramsey, Cyberknife races in the colors of Gold Square. The son of hot young sire Gun Runner was produced by the Flower Alley mare Awesome Flower.
With four victories from eight starts and earnings of $996,520 under his belt, Cyberknife ranks among the most accomplished members of his generation. Winning the Matt Winn indicates Cyberknife has shrugged off his Derby defeat and is poised for a strong summer season.
“He’s still a developing three-year-old and he gets that experience by running in the afternoon,” Cox said. “I think he’s making good progress and ran hard today. We got on the right side of a tight photo. (Howling Time) ran a really game race. (Cyberknife) is a horse that I think we are looking to take the next step. He’s a sound, happy horse and he’s growing up. We’re excited about him as a prospect throughout the rest of the year.”