One year after Pluck used the Grade 3 Summer as a stepping-stone to victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, trainer Todd Pletcher has the chance to sweep the two races again, this time with Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith's Finale. Favored at 4-5 in the $259,666 Summer at Woodbine on Saturday, the dark bay punched his ticket to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs on November 5 with a grinding three-quarters of a length score over 15-1 Excaper.
Positioned prominently in third as Excaper set splits of :23 4/5 and :47, Finale challenged that leader in the stretch, moved ahead slightly a furlong out, then gamely turned back Excaper's attempt at a re-rally. Under John Velazquez, Finale finished up one mile on the firm turf in 1:35 2/5. He returned $3.70, $3.10 and $2.10.
"He didn't leave the gate very good," Velazquez said. "I actually hit the door and the iron went all the way to my foot. I had to break and get a position where I wanted to be and place my feet back where they were supposed to be. After that he took me very well the first part of the race. At the quarter pole, I thought he was going to finish a little better than what he did. I think he was having a hard time with the grass. It was a little bit on the soft side and he was running at the other horse (Excaper), but he didn't have that quick spurt out of him."
Excaper was clearly second best, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of deep closer and 5-1 chance Daddy Nose Best. The latter edged 3-1 second choice Maritimer for third by a neck. Burn the Mortgage, Making Amends, Jomelo and Secret Consultant rounded out the order of finish.
According to Velazquez, Finale spun his wheels in his first two starts on dirt. Third in the mud at Belmont Park on May 5, the son of Scat Daddy fared worse on fast ground a month later when fourth by more than 11 lengths. A change in surface on July 15 at Belmont produced immediate dividends as Finale coasted by 5 3/4 lengths going six furlongs. Favored at 1-5 in his stakes debut last time in the Continental Mile at Monmouth Park, Finale pummeled an overmatched field by 10 1/2 lengths. This victory boosted his career bankroll to $237,345.
Bred by Susan Bunning in Kentucky, Finale was a $175,000 Keeneland November weanling purchase. Produced by Twinkle, Finale is a half-brother to Grade 3 winner Bright One. This female family is also responsible for Grade 1 vixen Alma North.
Finale descends from Mumtaz Begum, the dam of influential sire *Nasrullah.