The $100,000 Rushaway S. was the lead-in race to the Spiral S. (G3) at Turfway Park on Saturday, and James Covello and James Dolan's SWIFT WARRIOR (First Samurai) easily captured his synthetic debut when posting a geared down two-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile test.
Grabbing command soon after the start, the John Terranova runner proceeded to lead the way through splits of :24 2/5, :48 4/5 and 1:13 1/5 under jockey Javier Castellano. Drawing off to a four-length advantage in the stretch, the chestnut colt geared down in the final yards to stop the clock in 1:45 3/5 over the Polytrack.
"We had a beautiful trip," Castellano said. "John told me, 'Put him on the lead and improve your position,' and that's exactly what he did. He had been training so good at Palm Meadows. I worked him one time and really liked the horse.
"It's unbelievable. He was in the lead, just galloped along. It was beautiful. The thing I liked best is when I asked him he responded and took off again."
Swift Warrior earned his first stakes victory in the Rushaway, having placed second in last year's Foolish Pleasure S. at Calder and third in that venue's Tropical Park Derby on New Year's Day. He's made just one start since that latter race, finishing fourth but placed eighth via disqualification in the Dania Beach S., and was making his first start in this spot for Terranova after being initially conditioned by Steven Dwoskin.
"We originally were pointing for the Spiral but we wanted to take a more conservative route," Terranova said. "He's nice and fresh. We wanted to see how he liked the synthetic surface, so we may go to the April 16 Blue Grass (G1). He's nominated for it. This race will set him up nicely for that."
When asked about the Kentucky Derby (G1), Terranova responded, "You never know. We'll see how he is the next few weeks. He's a smart horse. We know he has some of the tools. We'll need to see if he has them all. We know he's a solid three-year old."
Swift Warrior can now claim $136,810 in earnings to go along with his 12-3-2-5 mark.
Finishing second in the Rushaway was 6-5 favorite Crimson China (Giant's Causeway), who suffered trouble in his stakes debut.
"He stumbled out of the gate, after that I had to make him run a little early. It was enough to cost my position and a chance to win," jockey Alan Garcia explained.
Though he didn't win, the runner-up effort was more than enough to ensure the Graham Motion trainee will have another shot at Swift Warrior.
"After this race there's a good chance we'll run him in the Blue Grass," Motion said. "He can definitely get the distance. He can get a mile and a quarter if he has to.
"He's always had a tendency to be a little step slow. It's something that we've worked on a bit. He's definitely a little immature. The pace didn't help him much today."
It was another 3 1/4 lengths back to The Ole Gen (The Daddy), who was followed under the wire by Swagger Jack (Smart Strike), Ocasta (Cherokee Run), Sorgho (Storm Cat), St. Ivan (Suave), Disfraz (Lemon Drop Kid) and Grandpa Gibby (Pleasant Tap).