Sunday's Grade 3, $150,000 Bourbon at Keeneland took a terrifying turn down the stretch. The front-running Here Comes Frazier shied from jockey Julien Leparoux's whip, suddenly lurched left, crashed into the rail and fell hard. As onlookers everywhere worried about the safety of both horse and rider, the rest of the field continued on its way, and Animal Spirits overhauled Coalport in the final strides to break his maiden.
Leparoux apparently escaped serious injury. Getting up quickly, he was fit enough to ride Super Espresso in the next race, the Grade 1 Spinster.
Here Comes Frazier sprang back to his feet immediately and was snagged by the outrider before he could get away. The highly-regarded juvenile, who walked into the ambulance on his own power, was set to undergo a complete veterinary examination.
Animal Spirits' victory came one day after another maiden, Dullahan, surprised in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity. Owned by Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence, and trained by Al Stall Jr., Animal Spirits had turned in a terrific effort in defeat in his only prior start. The royally-bred bay struck the front in a loaded maiden at Saratoga on August 20, only to be nabbed by another hot prospect in Fantastic Song.
The form of that maiden was upheld when Fantastic Song came back to finish third in the Grade 3 Pilgrim last Sunday. Stall didn't hesitate to run Animal Spirits in the Bourbon, especially after Grade 2 With Anticipation winner State of Play had to skip the race.
"The race changed a little bit when the Team Valor horse that was supposed to run here (State of Play) got sick," Stall said. "When a race loses like a 4-5 shot...
"There was a maiden race earlier in the card that had a lot of entries. We just wanted to run our horse because he was doing so well. I didn't want to take a chance getting excluded from a maiden race, so we (decided to enter in) this race. Obviously, it was a spill-marred race, but our horse ran a very good race on the outside."
With Robby Albarado back aboard, Animal Spirits raced near the tail of the field early, well off the pace set by Here Comes Frazier through fractions of :23 4/5, :49 and 1:14 on the firm turf. When the near-disaster occurred in the stretch, several in the field were hampered, and the whole pack swerved out.
Coalport rallied to the lead, but Animal Spirits was gaining momentum on the outside. Playing the role of hunter rather than hunted this time, Animal Spirits got up by a half-length to finish 1 1/16 miles in 1:44 1/5 and paid $18.60, $9.40 and $5.20 as the 8-1 fourth choice.
"He was way back," Albarado said. "He broke a bit tardy, got squeezed back, was behind a bunch of trouble in the first turn. He was in trouble at Saratoga; he took the worst of it that day. It's unfortunate he didn't win (his debut), but he still ran a winning race.
"I caught it (Here Comes Frazier's spill)," Albarado said. "At the time, I was about to run up to him. Animal Spirits, it didn't seem to bother him any. He's so mature. He seems like an older horse out there. He came home real nice."
Coalport crossed the wire 1 1/2 lengths in front of the ex-Italian Lucky Chappy, who closed well for third in his American debut. Splendiferous reported home another half-length back in fourth, followed by Chalybeate Springs, Curfew Tower, Gold Megillah, Downtown Driggs, Burn the Mortgage, 2-1 favorite Monastic and Smart Ellis. Personal Interest was scratched.
Animal Spirits increased his earnings to $100,000. Bred by B.P. Walden Jr. and P. Steinberg in Kentucky, he failed to reach his reserve when bringing a $95,000 bid as a weanling at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November Sale. He later sold for $50,000 as a Keeneland September yearling.
Those were bargain prices for a colt with his pedigree. By Arch, he is out of the winning Mr. Prospector mare Pennant Champion, herself a daughter of unbeaten Hall of Famer and Broodmare of the Year Personal Ensign.
Pennant Champion is a full sister to Grade 1 heroes Miner's Mark and Traditionally, and multiple Grade 1-placed sire Our Emblem. She is also a half-sister to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire My Flag, the dam of champion Storm Flag Flying.
Animal Spirits is himself a half-brother to Broad Pennant, the dam of Grade 2 winner Interactif, who won the 2009 running of the Bourbon and finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
Stall indicated that Animal Spirits would be considered for the Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs, but wouldn't commit just yet.
"I don't know," Stall said. "I haven't dealt with (co-owner) Seth (Klarman) that much. I've enjoyed it so far. We'll talk about it and see what he wants. Obviously, the big question is whether you go over to Louisville and run in that race, but we'll see."
Ken McPeek, the trainer of Here Comes Frazier, was hoping for the best.
"He's a really good horse," McPeek said of the colt who romped in his debut and was dispatched as the 7-2 second choice here. "We're just hopeful he's OK. It looked like he was walking fine. He's never been hit (with a crop) in his life. He's so fast (that) we've never even had to lay a stick on him. I think he was shocked. Julien (Leparoux) rolled the stick over and hit him right-handed, and the horse was just shocked. That scared him over the rail.
"He's so talented. I just hope he's OK.
"It's a tough game, it's hard. I told somebody the other day, 'Racing horses is like boxing. Somebody gets to hit you in the head about nine times and then you get to him them back.' Today I got hit pretty hard."