Axelrod got his head in front when it mattered most to give the 3-year-old Warrior's Reward colt his first stakes win in Saturday night's $500,000 Indiana Derby (G3) at Indiana Downs.
Under what could only be termed a perfect ride by Florent Geroux, Axelrod was near the back of the nine-horse field before unleashing his run with about three furlongs to go. Geroux took the bay colt between horses on the turn, the swung wider to mount his charge. He still had about three lengths to make up with a sixteenth to go, but quickly closed ground to nip Trigger Warning on the wire.
The time for the 1 1/16-miles on the fast main track was 1:43 flat.
“He’s by Warrior’s Reward,” said trainer Mike McCarthy. “It’s a late-developing family, and this horse is just getting better all the time. We gave him a little bit of a break over the winter. It seemed to do him some good, and everything he’s done since then has just been great. For $500,000 I thought it was a great spot. My owner was very bullish about sending him as well, so I’m very happy about that.”
McCarthy is already looking ahead to the next stop for Axelrod.
“I’m not sure about the spacing to the West Virginia Derby,” said McCarthy. “Maybe a race like the Travers. We’ll let him dictate where we go next. There is no real standout 3-year-old race here at Del Mar (McCarthy's southern California base). So most likely he will get on the road somewhere. He’s a very hard-trying horse. Seems to run well on any surface.”
Axelrod, who finished second in the Affirmed S. (G3) last month, is now 3-1-1 in eight starts and has earned $360,925 for Slam Dunk Racing. Saturday's big payday made Axelrod his sire's leading earner this year, just in front of Commonwealth S. (G3) winner Warrior's Club.