If you happened to see the Matt Winn Stakes on June 12 at Churchill Downs the very same question may be boggling your brain.
One of the things that makes Thoroughbred racing the greatest sport in the world is the pure rush of adrenaline that accompanies that flight through various furlongs. And when the race goes to a photo, oh my goodness. The stretch run that precedes the picture precipitates those palpitations that produce a true love of the ponies. The Matt Winn was all of that and then some.
Arkansas Derby champ Cyberknife came into this grade 3 race with something to prove. After a disappointing 18th place finish in the Kentucky Derby, this Brad Cox-trained son of Gun Runner was looking to get back to his winning ways. Normally a race that features some solid three-year-olds, this edition was no different. Runners like grade 1 winner Rattle and Roll and the scary-good Howling Time meant this was anything but a gimme.
The gates opened and as expected Howling Time immediately took it to the Knife. Trained by Churchill staple Dale Romans, this son of Not This Time ran gamely down the back stretch leading the field through solid fractions with a quickening pace. Turning for home in the mile and a sixteenth drive over the Downs dirt, Cyberknife came at him, but the Time was still there.
Keeping his eyes off the tote board, Howling Time never realized the 1 to 2 favorite was supposed to get by. Digging in like a wolf in the winter, the Romans conditioned colt was no doubt ready to run. Fighting to the finish, Cyberknife and Howling Time engaged in an epic stretch duel.
As these two gallant warriors wrestled to the wire with neither giving an inch, it was clearly a display of the sport at its finest. Who got their nose down at the wire was the real question as the “photo” sign illuminated.
Was it an upset or a reclamation? The popular opinion trackside was the courageous effort by the underdog would prevail. After a few anxious moments and butterflying bellies, the judges said Cyberknife by a razor. Who was really right?
The bottom line here is everybody won. Cyberknife got the W and Howling Time earned lots of respect. And all the fans enjoyed the thrills that make Thoroughbred racing the greatest game in the world.