(Photos: The field coming into the stretch, Coady Photography; Peace Achieved at the finish, Grace Clark/Kentucky Downs.)
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Joe Minor's 2-year-old Peace Achieved, winner of Kentucky Downs' $500,000 Gainesway Farm Juvenile, won his third straight race Sunday at Keeneland, holding off the late-running Vitalogy by a neck in the $250,000, Grade 3 Dixiana Bourbon. With the victory in the 1 1/16-mile grass stakes, Peace Achieved earned an entry-fees paid berth in the $1 million Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.
Peace Achieved started his career with two defeats sprinting on grass at Churchill Downs. His streak started at Ellis Park when trainer Mark Casse added blinkers and stretched the Declaration of War colt out to a mile. Peace Achieved backed up that 6 3/4-length victory with a 2 1/2-length score in the Gainesway Farm Juvenile. Jockey Miguel Mena has been aboard for all three victories.
"I've been pretty impressed by him," Casse said. "I thought his last few races were really good. There was some give in the ground and I think he might have struggled with it a little today. But the good news is I bet it's going to be hard and fast at Santa Anita. We'll be pretty confident. I think the cutback to the mile isn't going to hurt our feelings either."
Asked if Peace Achieved has been a surprise, Casse said, "We thought he could run. Obviously you never know the ones who will go to this level. (Assistant trainer) Dave Carroll and I were talking about it
Peace Achieved continues the success of recent winners of Kentucky Downs' mile 2-year-old stakes. Last year's winner was Henley's Joy, who in July won the Grade 1 Belmont Derby, with the race won in 2017 by millionaire Snapper Sinclair. Both Peace Achieved and Henley's Joy came into the lucrative Kentucky Downs stakes off maiden victories at Kentucky's Ellis Park, whose purses are enhanced by money transferred from Kentucky Downs under an agreement with the tracks' horsemen's association.
"We've left a lot more horses in Kentucky this year," Casse said. "With what's going on with the circuit now, Kentucky is just going to get better and better. I'm excited and impressed what they've been able to do here in Kentucky, and you're going to see more and more good horses. Ellis Park is not Ellis Park anymore; it's a serious place... Same thing, Kentucky Downs. Money talks."
Also, he said, "Kentucky is so much more friendly to horsemen and horses, and that's a big factor, too."