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Looking Good

Leading Names

Last updated Feb. 20 at 2:10 pm ET

Improbable, Mucho Gusto Workouts

NEXT RACE Country House, Game Winner, Improbable,
Mind Control, Mucho Gusto, Sighalman,
Vekoma, War of Will


 
Click to go to horse; click back to return

COUNTRY HOUSE
GAME WINNER
GUNMETAL GRAY
IMPROBABLE
MIND CONTROL
MUCHO GUSTO
SIGNALMAN
VEKOMA
WAR OF WILL

 

COUNTRY HOUSE (KY)
Trainer: Bill Mott
Owner: Mrs. J. V. Shields, Jr. & E. J. M. McFadden, Jr.
Breeder: J. V. Shields, Jr.
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike (CAN), Private Feeling)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Quake Lake (War Chant, Shooting Party)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 5-7-11-1-0 (24) 2.69
Foal Date: May 8, 2016


NEXT RACE: Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 23.

He debuted with an off-the-board finish on turf at Aqueduct on Oct. 6 before returning in December to finish a close second in a one-mile maiden race at Aqueduct.

In the words of the track press office, Country House "put open a show" on Jan. 17 at Gulfstream Park with 3 1/2-length win in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight. He spotted five rivals many lengths after breaking very slowly from the rail. Luis Saez allowed the 3-5 favorite to settle into a rhythm, and he joined the field midway along the backstretch before launching a sweeping move on the turn. He gained the lead at the top of the stretch and continued on to score comfortably in a time of 1:44.49.

Assistant trainer Ken McCarthy: “I don’t know what happened. Luis thought he slipped a little behind. It looked like he was standing in the gate fine. He was impressive once he got going. You’re never sure, when they do that and they get distance between them and the field, how they’ll react. Luis said he wanted to go right away, but he just wanted to steadily bridge the gap, let him grab a breath, and go again.”

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Mott said, “It was very exciting. It was his third race. He was a little bit of a slow learner, but it looked like he started to get it yesterday after what I would say was a difficult start. It was of his own doing. He came out of the gate slow and took a left-hand turn into the rail. He spotted the field eight or 10 lengths by the time they made the first turn. When he made his move, it was quite impressive. It looked like Luis Saez turned his whip down, hit him once, and he drew off from the field. Time will tell how good he is. He looks like a horse that’ll get the distance. He’s had three races. I think at this juncture, with a horse like him, we might want to (run in a stake). You have the mile and a sixteenth races. The mile and an eighth races are probably the ones you want to be pointing for. We could go back in allowance company, but I’m not sure we want to do that.”

Feb. 13 NOTE: Co-owner Guinness McFadden said, “I don’t know that you ever really think you’re on the Derby trail until it happens. You just hope that he’s competitive and that he can get better going over a mile. We’re pretty pumped. Running here was Bill’s call. He had been training well and seemed to be moving forward so this seemed to be the next step. Bill’s a great trainer and we’ll keep doing what he suggests. Were really happy with where we are right now. He didn’t look too interested when we ran him first time on the turf. But he had definitely trained well on dirt. He looked like a dirt horse early on and seemed to get over the dirt nicely. He kind of comes off the pace...."

In the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Feb. 16, War of Will won, Country House was second, longshot Roiland third and Hog Creek Hustle fourth. War of Will broke well from post 13 and pursued front-runner Gun It -- who broke from post 14 -- and Dunph leaving the first turn, and the first quarter-mile run in 23.71. Up the backstretch, Gun It continued to lead the way, with War of Will in closest pursuit, followed by Dunph, Mr. Money and 10 others and the half-mile  gone in 47.36. Far back of those four were Country House, Roiland and Hog Creek Hustle. Into the far turn, War of Will took charge and led with six furlongs timed in 1:12.20 with Gun It, Mr. Money and Dunph about to fall away. War of Will opened a clear lead in the stretch. Country House, ridden by Luis Saez, came on strong to finish 2 1/4 lengths back of the winner after being in 11th position, almost 10 lengths off the lead, after the first half-mile and ninth on the far turn. Roiland, third by a total of 3 3/4 lengths under James Graham, was able to accomplish that at 69-1 odds when he came from dead last, 16 1/2 lengths off the pace, at the second call. Hog Creek Hustle ran his second straight credible two-turn race to come fourth, 2 1/4 lengths behind Roiland. He was 13th after the first half-mile.

Luis Saez: “He ran well. We could have won, but he kept lugging in.”

Feb. 17 NOTE: Assistant trainer Riley Mott said, “We were very pleased with his effort despite running pretty green in the stretch.“He came back well and looked good this morning. I’m sure the boss and the owners will discuss his next race once we get him back home, but given how he shipped so well and handled the track fine, I would say the Louisiana Derby would be an option for us.”

WORKOUTS SINCE JANUARY 1

Jan. 5, Country House 48.60 Breezing 1/20 at PAY
Jan. 13, Country House 49.20 Breezing 10/40 at PAY
Jan. 30, Country House 50:60 Breezing 10/19 at PAY
Feb. 5, Country House 50:00 Breezing 11/22 at PAY
Feb. 11, Country House 49:20 Breezing 3/28 at PAY

 

 

 

GAME WINNER (KY)
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Owner: Gary and Mary West
Breeder: Summer Wind Equine
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Candy Ride (ARG), Ride the Rails, Candy Girl (ARG))
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Indyan Giving (A.P. Indy, Fleet Indian)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 3-6-10-1-0 (20) 2.33
Foal Date: March 6, 2016

$110,000 Keeneland September 2016


NEXT RACE: San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on March 9

Game Winner began an undefeated juvenile season with an Aug. 18 maiden special weight win at 9-5 odds at Del Mar. With Joel Rosario up, he beat eight others and had a 5 3/4-length margin of victory timed in  1:11.21. The chart says he " dueled four wide, took the lead on the turn, inched clear leaving the turn, continued off the rail in the stretch and won clear under left handed urging."

On Sept. 3, Game Winner won the Del Mar Futurity with Mario Gutierrez aboard, and they sat five lengths off the pace for a half-mile before coming home in 1:23.18 for seven furlongs. This time he prevailed by 1 1/2 length at 8-5 odds. Rowayton was second, and Roadster, trained by Baffert at 3-5 odds, finished third. Six ran.

On Sept. 29, Game Winner was sent off at 3-10 and was the easy winner of the newly-named American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita, defeating four others. Gunmetal Gray was clearly second best. His time was 1:43.77, about a half-second better than the winning counterpart filly that day. Game Winner flanked Rowayton through fractions of 23.43, 47.50 and 1:11.85, then went on to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Gunmetal Gray was never more than 1 1/2 length back in third and got by Rowayton in late stretch. Rowayton was a length back of him in third at the finish.

Bob Baffert: “I can’t take credit for this horse. The Wests and their team found this horse and trusted me with him. Clients put their trust in me. I just want to get there with a nice healthy horse. This horse tipped us off this summer that he was going to be a good one. He is strong and he still looks a little heavy. It’s exciting to have this horse. These horses sort themselves out. Circumstances dictate who gets there. I had one bullet here and I just want to keep him healthy; I don’t plan to do too much with him before the Breeders Cup. The good ones get there. I was very happy to win the first American Pharoah. Pretty cool and nice of Santa Anita to name a race after him. We had the same groom on this horse as American Pharoah (Eduardo Luna).”

Joel Rosario: “He broke well out of there. I just chirped at him a little bit, put him on the outside, and he responded to that really well. I wasn’t trying to be too far back, and that worked out. He’s a very good horse. He kinda just waits for other horses, he’s a one-run horse. He stays galloping and kinda waited for some company. He’s an easy horse to ride, I was just a passenger today.”

Gary West:  “He came out of the Del Mar Futurity really well. He’d been training well and we thought he’d like two turns. His family all liked a mile and a quarter, but you never know until they do it. I didn’t think he deserved to be that big of a favorite (1-5), but he ran great. We’re looking forward to the Breeders’ Cup for sure…I’ve been in the horse business about 40 years. All days are not like this one.”

In the 1 1/6 mile Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5, favored Game Winner overcame adversity to surge past longshot Knicks Go in deep stretch and score a 2 1/4-length victory. Signalman finished third after having to break from the outside, and Mr. Money ran fourth. Game Winner was timed in in 1:43.67 over a fast main track. Second-choice Complexity assumed the early lead and maintained a daylight advantage in the run down the backstretch with 40-1 shot Knicks Go in closest pursuit and Game Winner racing outside in mid-pack. Turning for home, Complexity stopped running hard and Knicks Go took command, but Rosario had Game Winner in high gear on the outside. There was a brief bump between the two at midstretch before Game Winner drew off. Knicks Go held the place by a length over the closing Signalman, with Mr. Money finishing another 6 1/4 lengths back in fourth.

Bob Baffert: "Talk about a rough trip! I was glad Joel was patient with him. I felt a lot of pressure coming here because I have really thought a lot about this colt. I know he is a really good horse. He showed it today; he was much the best. I am so happy for Gary and Mary West. I felt more pressure because I told Gary 'I don't think they can beat us.' Breeders' Cup, you have to step it up. It's championship racing. You have to show up. You have to have a good horse, and you have to be lucky, and we were -- the horse, in the paddock when I saddled him, he couldn't have looked any better. There's some other horses in there. It looked like a good field. There's some nice horses in there. I thought he was a good horse, but he's a lot better than I thought he was. For him to do what he did that last quarter mile and for him to give that horse a head start like that, being that wide, that's a serious horse. I'm glad I wasn't watching the race with Gary, because we both would have been saying, 'We're done, we're done.' But any other horse, he would have been done, but that's how good a horse he is."

Joel Rosario: “He broke fine, but it looked like they took my spot and I had to go wide. He seemed like he didn’t mind that. He was comfortable. That’s why we got him moving at that point, instead of getting inside and taking back. Turning for home, the more I rode him the more he gave it to me.”

Dec. 28 NOTE: He is in light training at Santa Anita.

Jan. 9 NOTE: Trainer Baffert told DRF.com, “Game Winner has gotten bigger and stronger. He’s a pretty serious horse. He’s tough. He doesn’t need the lead, and he’s got the speed to put him anywhere. He’s not one-dimensional.”

Jan. 13 NOTE: Trainer Baffert says Game Winner's next race will be the March 9 San Felipe "if all goes well."

Jan. 21 NOTE: Trainer Baffert told DRF.com after Game Winner's solo workout, "He’ll get ready pretty quick."

Jan. 29 NOTE: It's probably nothing, but we are looking for a workout.

Jan. 30 NOTE: Game Winner worked today at Santa Anita, five furlongs in 1:03.40.

Jan. 31 NOTE: Trainer Baffert said this about Game Winner's Wednesday workout to DRF.com, “He went easy. He went off a little slow. He’s pretty ready. He didn’t lose much condition. We’ve got plenty of time."

Feb. 3 NOTE: Game Winner resides in stall 33 of trainer Baffert's barn at Santa Anita, the same one formerly occupied by American Pharoah.

WORKOUTS SINCE JANUARY 1

Jan. 9, Game Winner 35:20 Handily 1/6 at SA
Jan. 20, Game Winner 48:60 Handily 14/86 at SA
Jan. 30, Game Winner 1.03:40 Handily 35/42 at SA
Feb. 8, Game Winner 1.00:20 Handily 6/92 at SA
Feb. 13, Game Winner 1.01:60 Handily 26/50 at SA
Feb. 19, Game Winner 1.25:00 Handily 1/1 at SA

 

 



GUNMETAL GRAY (KY)
Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
Owner: Hollendorfer, LLC and West Point Thoroughbreds
Breeder: Lee Pokoik
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Exchange Rate (Danzig, Sterling Pound)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Classofsixtythree (Include, Rambling Rose)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index:  4-7-11-0-0 (22) 3.00
Foal Date: April 28, 2016

$85,000 RNA Keeneland September 2017
$225,000 OBS March 2018
Broodmanre Classofsixtythree’s daughter Land of Liberty sold for $250,000 at the Keeneland September 2018 sale. The mare produced an American Pharoah filly on May 2, 2018 and was bred back to Gun Runner.


NEXT RACE:

It was his second start, and he was an easy 6 3/4-length winner of a one-mile maiden special weight at Del Mar on Aug. 22. After stalking early fractions of 23.02 and 47.12, he finished all alone in 1:38.60 under Drayden Van Dyke at 5-1 odds. Eight ran.

On Sept. 29, while Game Winner was sent off at 3-10 and was the easy winner of the newly-named American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita, defeating four others, Gunmetal Gray was clearly second best. His time was 1:43.77, about a half-second better than the winning counterpart filly that day. Game Winner flanked Rowayton through fractions of 23.43, 47.50 and 1:11.85, then went on to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Gunmetal Gray was never more than 1 1/2 length back in third and got by Rowayton in late stretch. Rowayton was a length back of him in third at the finish.

Jerry Hollendorfer: “No excuse for running second. I don’t know yet whether we’ll go to Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup.”

 Flavien Prat: “It was a good run. We had a good trip and he made a nice run down the lane. The winner was just better than us today.”

On Nov. 2 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Gun Metal Gray finished fifth, beaten 12 1/2 lengths by his nemesis Game Winner.

On Jan. 5 in the one-mile Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, 7-2 second choice Gunmetal Gray rallied from last of seven to win by one length under Mike Smith in 1:38.96. The resulting speed figure was less impressive than this win looked. Taken in hand by Smith up the backside and around the far turn, Gunmetal Gray was 6 3/4 lengths off the pace after a half-mile and was caught six-deep turning for home. He continued to advance and near the wire overtook Much Better, ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, and Sueno, ridden by Kent Desormeaux. Much Better pressed the early pace of 23.46 and 46.95 set by Savagery and took the lead a quarter-mile out in 1:11.64, and was up by 2 1/2 lengths at the furlong marker, but he faltered. Sueno, who was never worse than third or fourth a couple of lengths back, slipped by Much Better inside the furlong marker, clearing that one by 3/4 length at the wire.  It was another 1 1/4 length back to Gray Magician, who was third or fourth at each call. Easy Shot ran evenly three or four lengths back to come in fifth, beaten 3 1/4 lengths. The 3-5 favorite, Coliseum, finished sixth by another length after breaking a bit slowly and pulling Joe Talamo. Savagery weakened to finish a poor last.

Gunmetal Gray's chart call says he was "unhurried and angled in early, settled inside, came out on the second turn and four wide into the stretch and rallied under left handed urging to be along in time."

Jerry Hollendorfer: “Mike knew we wouldn’t be near the lead, and we were hoping to get some pace to run at. Mike sat back, bided his time and he ran them down.  We came back here after the Breeders’ Cup, and he’s really trained well the past two months.”

Mike Smith: “I didn’t expect to be that far back. I got taken off my game plan a little bit.  Coliseum kind of slipped and broke to the right.  He really hit me in behind and set me farther back than I wanted to be. I learned that distance shouldn’t be a problem, which is very important.  The best part of his race was certainly the last part of it.”

Jan. 27 NOTE: Trainer Hollendorfer said after today's workout, “He galloped out good" and confirmed Mike Smith has a return engagement in the Robert B. Lewis.

Jan. 31 NOTE: Trainer Hollendorfer said, “Mike told me Gunmetal Gray can run as far as (the others) can run. I hope he’s right.”

In the 1 1/6-mile Robert B. Lewis Stakes on a sloppy track at Santa Anita on Feb. 2, only five ran. Mucho Gusto came through at 3-5 odds to win by 4 3/4 lengths under Joe Talamo. He tracked Magnificent McCool and Kid Cantina through an opening quarter-mile of 23.67, when Kid Cantina was suddenly pulled up. That left Magnificent McCool and Flavien Prat alone through the half in 46.55. At six furlongs in 1:10.51, that one was joined by Mucho Gusto, and the race was all but over. Gunmetal Gray, ridden by Mike Smith, slipped past Easy Shot and Rafael Bejarano to take second, a half-length better. Magnificent McCool faded to fourth and last, beaten 7 1/2 lengths. Kid Cantina was vanned off. The race was timed in 1:41.81.

WORKOUTS SINCE JANUARY 1

Jan. 20, Gunmetal Gray 1.02:80 Handily 111/135 at SA
Jan. 27, Gunmetal Gray 1.15:20 Handily 15/19 at SA
Feb. 17, Gunmetal Gray 48:40 Handily 34/76 at SA

 

 



IMPROBABLE (KY)
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Owner: WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and Starlight Racing
Breeder: St. George Farm LLC & G. Watts Humphrey Jr.
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): City Zip (Carson City, Baby Zip)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Rare Event (A.P. Indy, Our Rite of Spring)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 12-9-13-0-0 (34) 4.23
Foal Date: Feb. 11, 2016

$110,000 Keeneland November 2016
$200,000 Keeneland September 2017


NEXT RACE: San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on March 9

In his debut on Sept. 29 at Santa Anita, Improbable romped by 7 1/4 lengths.

Improbable remained undefeated with a 7 1/4-length romp in the Street Sense Stakes on Breeders' Cup Friday at Churchill Downs. Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke at 4-5 odds, Improbable tracked just off the early lead that was shared by Trophy Chaser and Manny Wah. At the half-mile pole, following fractions of :22.27 and :44.96, Van Dyke tipped Improbable to the outside and rallied three wide to complete the one-turn mile in 1:35.61 over a track rated fast. Trophy Chaser stayed on for second. Manny Wah, Marquee Prince, Louder Than Bombs, Moonster, Reward the Miracle and Unionizer completed the order of finish.

Assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes: “I think he’s a pretty exciting horse. He showed some talent in his debut and trained really well out in California. Hopefully this kick starts a fun weekend.”

Drayden Van Dyke: “I knew I’d be just behind some of the early pace setters. I tracked the one that I thought was the better, and when the hole opened up right after we passed the Big Board I moved him outside. He was very professional throughout the entire race."

On Dec. 8 in the 1 1/16-mile Los Alamitos Futurity, trainer Baffert recorded his fifth straight and 11th overall victory of the fixture with Improbable, sent off at 1-5 odds in his two-turn debut. Mucho Gusto finished second. Improbable broke well from post 1 under Drayden Van Dyke in the field of six. They saved ground in mid-pack while Mucho Gusto and Savagery contested the very early going. Savagery blew the first turn, carrying Extra Hope out a few paths and Dueling even wider, leaving Mucho Gusto to lead in fractions of 23.25 and 47.25 with Savagery, who recovered, pressing him. At that point, Improbable was two wide in a joint third under a hold, but Van Dyke soon let him go, and Improbable caught the other two quickly. They were three abreast turning for home. Savagery dropped back in early stretch. Mucho Gusto kept trying but couldn't stay with Improbable, who won by five lengths. Mucho Gusto held second, finishing three lengths clear of Extra Hope. Savagery finished  fourth but was disqualifed to fifth for interfering with Dueling. The time was a solid 1:41.18.

Bob Baffert: “At the top of the stretch. he looked a little lost. He had to hit him a couple of times. Once he straightened out, he got into that long, beautiful stride of his. The good horses always find a way to win. He had trained like he was going to run like this. I was really excited about (Mucho Gusto). He tried very hard and just got a little tired. His race was very encouraging. We’ll just let these horses come along at their own pace and hope they stay healthy. That’s the key. Improbable has a long stride like Justify, he’s just a smaller version. I’m not saying he’s at Justify’s level yet, but he’s a really good horse.”

Drayden Van Dyke: “We were just behind the trouble on the first turn, and to be honest, we benefitted because we ended up where wanted to be, three wide behind the leaders. This is just such a cool horse. He hit another gear when we got to the stretch.”

Elliott Walden of WinStar Farm; “Bob has liked this horse all along. When Justify went to the farm from Del Mar this summer, Bob put Improbable in his stall. I loved his race today. The best thing about it was his last eighth of a mile and the way he galloped out. That gives you the hope for the future and that’s what we’re all looking for going towards the Spring Classics.”

Jan. 29 NOTE: Nominated to the UAE Derby.

WORKOUTS SINCE JANUARY 1

Jan. 9, Improbable 38:00 Handily 2/3 at SA
Jan. 14, Improbable 49:20 Handily 20/42 at SA
Jan. 20, Improbable 48:00 Handily 6/86 at SA
Jan. 26, Improbable 1.02:00 Handily 33/46 at SA
Feb. 1, Improbable 58:40 Handily 1/35 at SA
Feb. 8, Improbable 1.15:00 Handily 13/19 at SA
Feb. 13, Improbable 1.12:80 Handily 3/9 at SA
Feb. 20, Improbable 1.13:20 Handily 7/23 at SA

 

 



MIND CONTROL (KY)
Trainer: Gregory Sacco
Owner: Red Oak Stable & Madaket Stable
Breeder: Red Oak Stable
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Stay Thirsty (Bernardini, Marozia)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Feel That Fire (Lightnin N Thunder, Ubetwereven)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 2-2-6-0-0 (10) 2.33
Foal Date: April 11, 2016


NEXT START: Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct

Mind Control finished second behind Call Paul in his debut at Delaware Park. He returned to break his maiden by three lengths on Aug. 12 at Monmouth Park.

In the Sept. 3 Hopeful Stakes, Mind Control was 5-1 on the morning line and sent off at 10-1, but he didn't know the difference and paid $22.20 to win. Mind Control showed his speed every step of the way to win under John Velazquez in 1:22.99 for the seven furlongs. Mind Control was sent under a rapid pace from the gate and was kept in close company by Nitrous to his outside down the backside while Sombeyay sat in range from the rail. Derby Date, who recovered from stumbling at the break, rated along in fourth to his outside. Mind Control and Nitrous battled head-to-head through an opening quarter in 22.96 seconds, and a half-mile in 45.68 as Mucho was called on for run by Jose Ortiz. Turning for home, Mucho made a sweeping move to the outside of Mind Control and Nitrous, and with three-quarters run in 1:10.17, the trio led five others through the stretch. Mucho tried to advance to the outside of Nitrous as Mind Control kept his path along the inside, and refusing to be denied kept his advantage to the wire by 3/4 length while Mucho took the runner-up spot 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Nitrous, who was a half-length in front of Sombeyay in fourth. Rounding out the order of finish was Dream Maker, Thatwouldbegrand, Backtohisroots and Derby Date.

Gregory Sacco: "Our intent was to let Nitrous go because the way he rated last time, we thought if we got him in position, Johnny could make a move on him when he thought it was the right time. He has gears. He ran a great race against Call Paul [in his debut on July 5 at Delaware Park] and then at Monmouth, but then you have to do it on the big show. We had a lot of horse at the quarter pole. Johnny said he was actually waiting a little bit. He's still a little green and learning.

"It's my first Grade I so it's real special. I'm the son of a trainer. My dad never had the opportunity to train these types of horses. It's very meaningful. It's a great feeling. I have my whole family here and I can't be any happier."

On the possibility of running the Breeders' Cup Juvenile: "I'll have to discuss it with the (owners), but I would think so. I don't think the distance will give him limitations. The way he's trained and galloped out last race, he's just a genuine horse. He has a ton of ability the main thing is that he's so smart. He acts like an older horse and does everything right. For a young horse, it's a big plus. He'll go back tomorrow morning to Monmouth. We'll savor this win and go from there."

John Velazquez: "I told Gregory earlier I was going to try to come out running and get position early in the race. The horse didn't want to be on the lead and fortunately it worked out that way. He settled pretty easy along the backstretch and got settled to the turn. Once we reached the three-eights pole and I asked him, he was full of run. I was real proud of the way he finished he came on and never relinquished."

After shipping to Lexington, he came down with a fever that caused him to miss the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.

On Nov. 2, Mind Control finished well after a poor start, but he came in seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs after a two-month layoff. He reportedly also had a fever after shipping to Lousville.

Dec. 29 NOTE: Trainer Sacco found himself very talkative about Mind Control.  "It was a combination of things. He'd flown in (to Kentucky) for the second time and unfortunately he didn't take the trip the way we would have liked. Unlike the time we flew him in for the Futurity, he just wasn't himself for a day or two, but then he settled in nicely at Churchill and was back to himself. It was very rainy there, and we really didn't do a lot with him. It was a combination of him not being himself and then getting a terrible start and losing position in the race. We were happy to see him pass half the field in the stretch, but the main thing is he came out of the race very good. After the Breeders' Cup, we weren't down on him. We really knew that wasn't him....

"(From there), the original plan was to go the Springboard Mile, but it really made sense to stay (in New York) and run in our backyard. He's really trained well at Belmont the past six weeks and we couldn't be happier to be in the Jerome on Tuesday. He hasn't missed a beat. The training track at Belmont is on the deep side, but it's in great shape and he's gotten a lot out of every work. His fitness and energy level is right where we want it to be going into Tuesday's race.  ....He's really trained well. You don't know until you line them up in the gate again, but his weight is great, and his coat is great, and the works have been exactly what we wanted. We're looking forward to a big effort on Tuesday."

Mind Control made his 2019 debut on New Year's Day in the one-mile, one-turn Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct, and he was a non-threatened winner sent off as the 3-2 favorite under John Velazquez. Mind Control set the early pace in company with 2-1 second choice Souper Jackpot through splits of 24.16 and 48.40, shook that one off, maintained his edge in the stretch, and outkicked a charging Our Braintrust to prevail by 1 1/2 length in 1:39.06 on a track rated good. Our Braintrust, who was stretching out to a mile for the first time, showed the form that led to a second-place finish in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity. He finished four lengths clear of Family Biz for second.

Greg Sacco: "He sat off the horse when he broke his maiden, but in this race, by the way he's been training, I knew how sharp he is and was going to come out of there bouncing. I didn't want Johnny to take a hold of him. Johnny is so smart, once the gate opens, he knows what to do. I anticipated him breaking fast today and putting his head in the game and the rest would be up to Johnny and Mind Control. He took the heat from the Casse horse (Souper Jackpot) down the backside. He was at his throatlatch the whole way, and then (Our Braintrust) came to him at the eighth pole, and he spurted away. He's still green and learning. We're overwhelmed with this performance today. Of course, when you run like that...it's hard to fault the way he ran today."

"(The Withers) is in our backyard here at Belmont now where we're comfortable. He ran the way he has been training, and we'll look forward to the next step. With him being a grade I winner, the Wood goes up to a million (dollars). We would take every race, race by race, but it certainly is appetizing and enticing."

John Velazquez: "I wanted to put him in the race and make sure that I was in a good position where if someone was going crazy, I could just sit off the speed. I broke well and got the position I wanted in the first part of the race. I saw the other horse on the outside (Souper Jackpot), he didn't want to go, so I got close to him, and by the turn we both came in and kind of sat there. Down the lane, I remember from Saratoga he opens up and he waits, so I waited until they came after him to get after him really hard and he responded really well. It seems like he galloped out okay. He put his ears up...it seems like he might handle the two turns pretty good."

Jan. 2 NOTE: Trainer Sacco told DRF, “He’s always galloped out really well, is strong in his gallops. He’s never acted like a sprinter to me. He has a lot of wind, a lot of stamina. Everything is a test, like a building block. My gut tells me he will handle it. You never know until you try, but even him getting a terrible break and not being himself in the Breeders’ Cup, he passed half the field in the stretch."

Jan. 16 NOTE: Johnny V will stay on Mind Control in the Withers, not Moretti.

Jan. 18 NOTE: Trainer Sacco said, "He waits on horses a little bit. Our Braintrust ran a really nice race to be second (in the Jerome), and when he came to him in mid-stretch, Johnny tapped him a few times and he took off. I thought he galloped out nicely that day.  He came out of the race in great shape. He had a nice maintenance work in 48 and change and galloped out in 1:01 and he's doing really well. It's a beautiful facility and a great track to train on. Mind Control, and a couple others, have settled in nicely. We're really satisfied with the accommodations at Belmont, and the training track there is in great shape, which is a great plus for any trainer." Are you excited? It's pretty high. He's a neat horse to be around. The Hopeful was really exciting, and after the little mishap at the Breeders' Cup, where he just wasn't himself, he rebounded great in the Jerome. We're excited to see how far he will take us. When he broke his maiden at Monmouth, he laid off a horse comfortably and then drew off. So, I don't think he has to be on the lead. Just the way it set up in the Jerome, the outside horse (Souper Jackpot) wasn't gunning for the lead so Johnny just sat there. It was our intention if someone was gunning for the lead, to sit off and rate. He is rateable, it just depends how it sets up. We'll leave those decisions up to Johnny. The mile and an eighth (of the Withers Stakes) is a test. You don't know if they can do it until they're in it, but the way he's trained, and the way he's galloped out in the mornings, doesn't give us the indication he won't be able to handle it. With the Wood jumping up to a million-dollar purse with him being a grade I winner, if he were to pass the test in the Withers, the Wood would be the right spot prior to the Derby."

Feb. 15 NOTE: Trainer Sacco said, "Knock on wood, he's right on schedule and we can't be doing any better. It always helps the horse to have time between races, it's just the way it worked out. We skipped the Withers to run in the Gotham. We're happy where he is with his training and where he's at physically. The two months is beneficial and we're coming in with a fresh, strong horse for the Gotham. He's adapted to New York really well. He's settled in nicely, and it's been a real pleasure training here at Belmont. We can get a lot out of the works training on the deep track. He's matured and filled out. We're very happy we chose this New York path."

WORKOUTS SINCE JANUARY 1

Jan. 15, Mind Control 48:77 Breezing training track 5/26 at BEL
Jan. 23, Mind Control 49:23 Breezing training track 10/48 at BEL
Feb. 3, Mind Control 48:68 Breezing training track 7/41 at BEL
Feb. 11, Mind Control 49:25 Breezing training track 29/88 at BEL
Feb. 17, Mind Control 1.01:55 Breezing training track 1/23 at BEL

 

 


MUCHO GUSTO (KY)
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Owner: Michael Lund Petersen
Breeder: Teneri Farm Inc. & Bernardo Alvarez Calderon
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Mucho Macho Man (Macho Uno, Ponche de Leona)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Itsagiantscauseway (Giant's Causeway, Countervail)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 2-0-10-0-0 (12) 1.40
Foal Date: April 26, 2016

$14,000 Keeneland January 2017
$95,000 Keeneland September 2017
$55,000 RNA OBS March 2018
$625,000 Fasig-Tipton May 2018 (not a typo)


NEXT RACE: Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn or Sunland Derby at Sunland Park

Mucho Gusto won at first asking sprinting at Los Alamitos on Sept. 20. Timed in 1:10.14 for six furlongs, his winning margin was four lengths at even money odds under Joe Talamo.

His next victims were found in the seven-furlong Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar on Nov. 17, which he took by 1 1/2 length at 4-5 odds with Talamo once again aboard. Five ran. He led through fractions of 22.36, 45.36 and 1:10.32 en route to a final time of 1:23.51.

On Dec. 8 in the 1 1/16-mile Los Alamitos Futurity, trainer Baffert recorded his fifth straight and 11th overall victory of the fixture with Improbable, sent off at 1-5 odds in his two-turn debut. Mucho Gusto finished second with Joe Talamo aboard. Improbable broke well from post 1 under Drayden Van Dyke in the field of six. They saved ground in mid-pack while Mucho Gusto and Savagery contested the very early going. Savagery blew the first turn, carrying Extra Hope out a few paths and Dueling even wider, leaving Mucho Gusto to lead in fractions of 23.25 and 47.25 with Savagery, who recovered, pressing him. At that point, Improbable was two wide in a joint third under a hold, but Van Dyke soon let him go, and Improbable caught the other two quickly. They were three abreast turning for home. Savagery dropped back in early stretch. Mucho Gusto kept trying but couldn't stay with Improbable, who won by five lengths. Mucho Gusto held second, finishing three lengths clear of Extra Hope. Savagery finished  fourth but was disqualifed to fifth for interfering with Dueling. The time was a solid 1:41.18.

Dec. 22 NOTE: Likely to ship out of Santa Anita for his next stakes start, or so said trainer Baffert to DRF.

Jan. 26 NOTE: Now likely to stay at home for the Robert B. Lewis.

Jan. 29 NOTE: Nominated to the UAE Derby.

In the 1 1/6-mile Robert B. Lewis Stakes on a sloppy track at Santa Anita on Feb. 2, only five ran. Mucho Gusto came through at 3-5 odds to win by 4 3/4 lengths under Joe Talamo. He tracked Magnificent McCool and Kid Cantina through an opening quarter-mile of 23.67, when Kid Cantina was suddenly pulled up. That left Magnificent McCool and Flavien Prat alone through the half in 46.55. At six furlongs in 1:10.51, that one was joined by Mucho Gusto, and the race was all but over. Gunmetal Gray, ridden by Mike Smith, slipped past Easy Shot and Rafael Bejarano to take second, a half-length better. Magnificent McCool faded to fourth and last, beaten 7 1/2 lengths. Kid Cantina was vanned off. The race was timed in 1:41.81.

Bob Baffert: “He got to sit off the pace, which was good. They have to learn to do that, and I was really happy with Joe.  He rode him with a lot of confidence today, like he was a good horse and he was on his own.  I didn’t give him any instructions…He’s a good horse.  He’s a fighter, too.  If they’d have hooked him, he likes to fight. This is the time of the year when you want to start getting excited about something. I want to run him in spots where he’s going to be very competitive, and we have those other horses, so it depends on what the other horses are doing.  Right now, I’m going to nominate my horses everywhere and whoever’s doing great that week runs in that race. Let the games begin.”

Joe Talamo: “Every race, he’s getting better and better. He settled today like he’s been doing this a hundred times. He galloped out real strong.  I don’t think distance is going to be any problem.  At the three eighths, I was pretty confident.  He’s a 3-year-old, but he feels like an older horse.”

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Baffert said, “The horse got to sit off the pace, and they have to learn to do that. I was happy with Joe. He rode him with a lot of confidence and was on his own. I didn’t give him any instructions. When he asked me what he should do, I told him, ‘You need to WIN THIS RACE.’ This is the time of year when you start getting excited about the big three-year-old races. We’re still dreaming in Technicolor, but the horses have to start performing and moving forward from this point, and it’s fun to be in this position.”

WORKOUTS SINCE JANUARY 1

Jan. 10, Mucho Gusto 1.02:00 Handily 3/15 at SA
Jan. 21, Mucho Gusto 1.26:40 Handily 2/3 at SA
Jan. 27, Mucho Gusto 1.12:60 Handily 2/19 at SA
Feb. 12, Mucho Gusto 48:00 Handily 13/95 at SA
Feb. 20, Mucho Gusto 47:60 Handily 4/57 at SA







SIGNALMAN (KY)
Trainer: Kenny McPeek
Owners: Tommie M. Lewis, David A. Bernsen LLC & Magdalena Racing (Sherri McPeek)
Breeder: Monticule
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): General Quarters (Sky Mesa, Ecology)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Trip South (Trippi, Summer Sweethear)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 1-6-5-0-0 (12) 3.80
Foal Date: March 21, 2-016

$32,000 Fasig Tipton October 2017


NEXT RACE: Foutain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 2

On Sept. 1 at Saratoga, Signalman broke his maiden at second asking in a seven-furlong maiden special weight. He bested Lion Dance and Limonite by a nose and and a neck while ridden by David Cohen in a time of 1:23.89. The chart says he "rated along stalking the leader from path two, issued a challenge nearing the three-sixteenths pole, forged to the front after a few additional strides, felt a duo in the final stages, but held sway, kept to the task at hand."

On Oct. 6, Knicks Go won the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at 70-1 odds. Under Albin Jiminez, he set a comfortable pace -- without much pressure -- and led throughout before prevailing by 5 1/2 lengths. Signmalman was second after lagging behind in sixth during the early going and then having some momentum-costing trouble leaving the turn. Standard Deviation was third after closing from 11th of 13, beaten 6 1/4 lengths. Sombeyay, fourth and beaten 7 3/4 lengths, saved ground and tracked Knicks Go around the first turn, down the backstretch and around the far turn when he was jammed on both sides before breaking free.

Kenny McPeek: “We came into this really confident. He had a lot of trouble at the head of the lane. Brian explained it to us and said he got stopped. He said he might have been able to win if that hadn’t happened. This horse wants a longer stretch and he has punched his ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.”

Brian Hernandez Jr.; “We had a fairly good trip up until around the quarter pole. The horse from the four path kind of sawed off a couple of them to our outside and we got slammed into the fence pretty good. It stopped our momentum and the winner was able to sneak off away from us. But the good thing about it was that our horse gathered himself up. He ran on nicely so we have to be proud of him to put in effort like he did for such a young horse.”

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer McPeek said, “He’ll stay here at Keeneland and probably have his workouts here to prep for the Breeders’ Cup. Small chance he’ll have one work at Churchill. It’ll be a couple weeks until we think about working him, but at this point all the partners are in on entering him and running. He came back with some scratches on his left hip from the incident at the head of the stretch, but it doesn’t look like anything we can’t handle.”

In the 1 1/6 mile Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5, favored Game Winner overcame adversity to surge past longshot Knicks Go in deep stretch and score a 2 1/4-length victory. Signalman finished third after having to break from the outside, and Mr. Money ran fourth. Game Winner was timed in in 1:43.67 over a fast main track. Second-choice Complexity assumed the early lead and maintained a daylight advantage in the run down the backstretch with 40-1 shot Knicks Go in closest pursuit and Game Winner racing outside in mid-pack. Turning for home, Complexity stopped running hard and Knicks Go took command, but Rosario had Game Winner in high gear on the outside. There was a brief bump between the two at midstretch before Game Winner drew off. Knicks Go held the place by a length over the closing Signalman, with Mr. Money finishing another 6 1/4 lengths back in fourth.
 
Kenny McPeek; “I’m very pleased with his race, and we felt like from the post (14) that we needed to take back and settle and try to cut the corner, and Brian did that. We’re real pleased. He galloped out in front. Maybe there’s a race in the spring going a mile and a quarter we were thinking about.”

Brian Hernandez Jr.: Ken’s going to get one these someday. Hopefully these 2-year-olds we had today will come back and be in the winner’s circle as 3-year-olds. I loved the way he did it. He overcame the 14 post and was closing on good horses.”

Nov. 18 NOTE: Trainer McPeek said Signalman stands more than 17 hands and added, “Signalman, which was a very inexpensive purchase, is a really big, strong colt. When he drew the outside post in the Juvenile, I told Brian to just take back to find a spot at the rail. I thought he ran a very credible race with the way the track was playing and can only improve from that in the Jockey Club. Distance should definitely not be a problem for him. He’ll get a break after the Kentucky Jockey Club and point to starts as a 3-year-old in the Derby prep races.”

Nov. 21 NOTE:  Trainer McPeek said, “Distance should definitely not be a problem for him. We were really proud of his effort in the Breeders’ Cup. I told Brian (before that race) to take back and make one run after drawing post 14. He ran really well from being that far out there at the start.”

On Nov. 24 on a sloppy-sealed track at Churchill Downs, 7-2 second choice Signalman, ridden by Brian Hernandez, Jr., won the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes after grabbing the lead with three-sixteenths of a mile to run.  Fourteen ran. He held off a late charge from 14-1 shot Plus Que Parfait to win by a neck, timed in 1:45.29. Signalman broke from the rail, rated in sixth down the backstretch as longshot Topper T led the field through a quarter mile in 23.12 and a fast half-mile in :46.83. As the leaders neared the final turn, Signalman showed a quick burst of speed and moved into third along the inside. Topper T, also on the rail, passed the six-furlong marker in 1:12.33 but was tiring. King for a Day briefly poked his head in front at the top of the stretch and Plus Que Parfait and Limonite were hitting their best strides after racing near the back of the pack. But it was Signalman who zipped past Topper T while between horses as Plus Que Parfait was engaging in his late challenge. Limonite, sent off at 20-1, narrowly edged King for a Day for third -- they were another 1 3/4 lengths back of the winner. Roiland, Tracksmith, Current, Topper T, Dunph, Royal Urn, 3-1 favorite Knicks Go, Mick’s Star, Blue Steel and Everfast completed the order of finish.
 
Kenny McPeek: “He was a big, strong horse when he went through the sales ring, and today he still is that type of horse. He’s taken us a long way so far, and it’s been a lot of fun. I love the way Brian rode him today; it made up for the (Golden Rod) when we thought we were a cinch (with Restless Rider). This is what we all work for. He’ll get a little rest, probably at Payson Park for about a month. Then, we’ll ease him back into things and look at races like the Blue Grass down the road. We’ll let him tell us, but obviously the big one is in May.”

Brian Hernandez Jr.: “This horse always gave me a lot of confidence. We were able to work out the best trip possible in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile from the 14-hole. Today, (from post 1) I was able to get him up into the race early and he really showed what he could do. You’re always fortunate to have the horse under you and today we did. Down the lane he was actually looking over at the TV screen. Even with the little quirks, he still shows a lot of promise. He’ll be exciting down the road.”

Dec. 28 NOTE: Being pointed to the March 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Jan. 8 NOTE: No workouts since the Kentucky Jockey Club.

Jan. 24 NOTE: Said by TDN to be in light training at Payson Park, with the Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 2 "under consideration."

Jan. 29 NOTE: Nominated to the UAE Derby.

Feb. 3 NOTE: Trainer McPeek said, “He’s doing fine. I wasn’t thrilled with the speed of that breeze yesterday. I think it was too quick, and he didn’t really need that kind of work right now. He just kind of overdid it. The short-term goal is still the Fountain of Youth. I don’t see any reason why he can’t make that one. He’s still got a month until his next start.”

Feb. 13 NOTE: Trainer McPeek told TDN, (In addition to Harvey Wallbanger), I’ve got another really nice colt here, Signalman, and the plan with him has been either the Fountain of Youth or the Tampa Bay Derby, but I’m probably leaning towards the Fountain of Youth with Signalman.  Signalman’s a big bull, hits the ground a little harder than Harvey (Wallbanger). Harvey really floats over the ground, but Signalman is just a powerful machine. He certainly stamps himself as a serious prospect. The problem now is to keep them separated. I had this problem years back when I’d had Harlan’s Holiday and Repent and ended up with Sarava winning the Belmont, so keeping these kind of horses separated is a good problem to have, and we’re going to try to do that. Nine-tenths of it is keeping them healthy, and then if you can make the race, you’ve got to get the lucky trip."

Feb. 16 NOTE: Trainer McPeek said, “He worked good. I was happy with it. I have to work (him and Harvey Wallganger) this weekend, but right now I’m leaning towards Signalman here (in the Fountain of Youth) and waiting with Harvey Wallbanger for the Florida Derby.

WORKOUTS SINCE JANUARY 1

Jan. 26, Signalman 39:80 Breezing 11/12 at PAY
Feb. 2, Signalman 46:63 Breezing 2/73 at GP
Feb. 9, Signalman 49:58 Breezing 51/81 at GP
Feb. 16, Signalman 1.00:11 Breezing 3/37 at GP


 

 


VEKOMA (KY)
Trainer: George Weaver
Owner: R. A. Hill Stable & Gatsas Stable
Breeder: Alpha Delta Stables, LLC
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Candy Ride (ARG), Ride the Rails, Candy Girl (ARG))
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Mona de Momma (Speightstown, Society Gal)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 4-4-7-1-0 (16) 2.56
Foal Date: May 22, 2016

$135,000 Keeneland September 2019.

Same name as a roller coaster manufacturer

NEXT RACE: Foutain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 2

He won at first asking sprinting at Belmont Park.

Vekoma was sent straight into stakes company and responded by winning the one-mile Nashua Stakes the day after Breeders' Cup, running greenly and on the wrong lead in the stretch.

George Weaver after the race: “He still has some maturing to do.”

Dec 28 NOTE: Vekoma is reportedly set to resume training very soon at Palm Beach Downs after a 30-day break, with his 3-year-old debut date still up in the air.

WORKOUTS SINCE JANUARY 1

Jan. 12, Vekoma 38:51 Breezing 1/3 at PMM
Jan. 19, Vekoma 49:87 Breezing 12/21 at PBD
Jan. 29, Vekoma 51:16 Breezing 16/19 at PBD
Feb. 10, Vekoma 1.02:47 Breezing 3/3 at PBD
Feb. 16, Vekoma 1.00:73 Breezing 3/6 at PBD


 

 

 

WAR OF WILL (KY)
Trainer: Mark E. Casse
Owner: Gary Barber
Breeder: Flaxman Holdings Limited
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): War Front (Danzig, Starry Dreamer)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Visions of Clarity (Sadler's Wells, Imperfect Circle)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 5-8-17-4-0 (34) 1.72
Foal Date: April 17, 2016

$175,000 Keeneland September 2017
$298,550 Arqana May 2018
His dam is a half-sibling to multiple grade I winner Spinning World

NEXT RACE: Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 23.

War of Will didn't win in his first four starts, but he was competitive in stakes company.

After finishing third in a Woodbine maiden special weight, on Sept. 15 he finished second to by less than a length to Fog of War after having a stretch lead in the Grade I Summer Stakes.

He was shipped to Kentucky, and on Oct. 7 he ran fourth in the Dixiana Bourbon Stakes won by Current, with Henley's Joy and Salvator Mundi getting second and third.

He finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf as a maiden.

Then, on Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs, he broke his maiden in his fifth start going 1 1/16 mile on a sloppy sealed track under Tyler Gaffalione. Eleven ran. His time was 1:45.45. He engaged in a stalking trip and cleared the field going away by five lengths under a hand ride. The chart says he "stalked the pace early, shifted into the three path in the far turn then drew off down the lane while ridden out to the wire."

Jan. 16 NOTE: Trainer Casse said, “He’s a horse that we loved as soon as my brother (Justin Casse) bought him. Our assistant Jamie Begg had him for about two weeks at Belmont and said that he was special. We kind of rushed him into his maiden race and I thought he would have a good chance to win the Summer Stakes. Finally, in the Breeders’ Cup, he had a really wide trip so he ran an exceptionally well fifth considering the hand that was dealt to him. Early on, we felt like he needed to stay on grass, but he trains as good as a horse can train on the dirt. I personally don’t think he could’ve won any more impressive and it was a solid field. He ran ten one hundredths of a second slower than the Kentucky Jockey Club. Tyler geared him down in the last sixteenth, so no doubt he could’ve run faster than the Kentucky Jockey Club. All that said, we like our chances. Weather could play a factor (in the LeComte) even though I think a little moisture in the track won’t hurt our feelings. This is a heck of a race, it’s going to be a trip. It’s a mile and 70 yards with a big field and quick run to the first turn. You’re going to need luck, and it can’t be bad.”

Ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, 8-5 favorite War of Will stalked, pounced and drew off to win the LeComte Stakes on Jan. 19 going a mile and 70 yards at Fair Grounds in a field of 12. He got home in a time of 1:43.44 on a track rated fast, which is 1.9 second faster than Needs Supervision won the Silverbulletday one race prior. Hog Creek Hustle closed from eighth, four or five lengths off the early pace, to finish second. Third was Manny Wah, who was hustled from the far outside post by Channing Hill to grab the lead while dueling with Maplpais going up the backstretch, the half-mile going in 49.22. Manny Wah easily shook off Malpais in the far turn but was immediately engaged by the three-wide War of Will, who was never more than 1 1/2 length off the pace. War of Will hit the six-furlong mark barely in front in 1:14.63. In the stretch, War of Will got away from Manny Wah, and Hog Creek Hustle came by too. War of Will beat that one by four lengths going away, with Manny Wah another two lengths back in third. Wicked Indeed finished fourth, beaten 6 1/2 lengths, and a head in front of Plus Que Parfait, who was a neck in  front of Chase the Ghost.

Mark Casse: “This was about a month ago, but I had some friends over and I said ‘We have a big chance to win the Derby this year.' I don’t usually say things like that, so that tells you what I think of him. I’ll talk to Gary, but (the Risen Star Stakes) would make the most sense, it’s why we’re here. We love this place, and it’s a great place to get a horse ready. I don’t know that there would be a real reason to leave.”

Tyler Gaffalione: “My horse broke sharp. It looked like (Manny Wah) had a little more speed going into the turn, and I took him back and went to his outside to try and get the best trip possible. He relaxed for me on the backside and when they came down to run, he really turned it on.”

Jan. 21 NOTE: Trainer Casse told DRF.com on Jan. 20: “He acts like he didn’t even really run. What I didn’t notice right away was his gallop-out yesterday, which was really strong. He ran to his works and his gallops. He’s an impressive horse to watch train.”

Jan. 24 NOTE: Trainer Casse said, "He's doing extremely well. I can't say enough great things about him, and I think he's an absolute superstar. I think he's a better dirt horse, although with a better trip in the Breeders' Cup, he could have been a Breeders' Cup winner. But it was probably a blessing because had he won the Breeders' Cup, it would have been much tougher to try him on the dirt. Sometimes things happen for a reason."

Feb. 10 NOTE: Trainer Casse said on Feb. 9, “I don’t think that he could have worked any better, so that was good. It’s pretty well the same bunch that he’ll be up against (in the Risen Star). Obviously the post is outside, but we’d rather be out there than inside. He’s got enough speed so he’ll get over and if he’s as good as we think he is, it shouldn’t matter.”

Feb. 14 NOTE: Bloodstock agent Justin Casse, brother of trainer Casse, said “I always call Gary (Barber) when I find something that I like. I didn’t really run it by Mark because he trusts me, so I called Gary because one of the first horses I bought for him was Jack Milton, who also was by War Front. I bought him two other stakes horses by War Front, so he knew that the sire worked. I called him only 30 minutes before he went through the ring. Told him he’d be reasonably priced. He breezed well at the sale, he was a good mover, had a good turn of foot and speed for his size. The rest is history, Gary got him. He didn’t look like a dirt horse, but he didn’t strike you as one that’s all turf either. He was just a real good looking horse, but I didn’t really classify him as one or the other. In pedigree, he’s instantly classified as turf because of who a lot of his relatives are, but if you look deeper into his pedigree he’s related to horses like Tacticus and Aldebaran. The horse that beat him in the Summer is debatably the best now 3-year-old turf male, Fog of War. To run second to him in only his second start in a Grade I spoke volumes for him. Obviously everyone was buzzing about how he worked on the dirt. With horses that I buy, I feel like I own a piece of them because I get really excited and get really into it. I feel like they’re my own to a certain extent, and to be there with my brother, family and girlfriend would be special too. Trying to take it one step at a time and appreciate having such a nice horse. It’s hard to not get caught up thinking about the Derby and it’s fun to daydream. There are too many things that can happen between today and tomorrow.”

In the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Feb. 16, War of Will won, Country House was second, longshot Roiland third and Hog Creek Hustle fourth. War of Will broke well from post 13 and pursued front-runner Gun It -- who broke from post 14 -- and Dunph leaving the first turn, and the first quarter-mile run in 23.71. Up the backstretch, Gun It continued to lead the way, with War of Will in closest pursuit, followed by Dunph, Mr. Money and 10 others and the half-mile  gone in 47.36. Far back of those four were Country House, Roiland and Hog Creek Hustle. Into the far turn, War of Will took charge and led with six furlongs timed in 1:12.20 with Gun It, Mr. Money and Dunph about to fall away. War of Will opened a clear lead in the stretch. Country House, ridden by Luis Saez, came on strong to finish 2 1/4 lengths back of the winner after being in 11th position, almost 10 lengths off the lead, after the first half-mile and ninth on the far turn. Roiland, third by a total of 3 3/4 lengths under James Graham, was able to accomplish that at 69-1 odds when he came from dead last, 16 1/2 lengths off the pace, at the second call. Hog Creek Hustle ran his second straight credible two-turn race to come fourth, 2 1/4 lengths behind Roiland. He was 13th after the first half-mile.

Mark Casse: “For a big horse, he has tremendous speed. He had to hit the gas a little to get over, so that got him a little riled up. It’s like hitting the gas and trying to hit stop. They’re not as easy to stop as a car. He got him rolling and probably made the lead a little earlier than we would have liked. He’s done this a few times early on. When he gets the lead, he starts wandering. If he keeps winning there will be some big targets for him to chase. As long as he’s happy and healthy, that’s where we’ll go and then we’ll talk about it from there I think (Fair Grounds) is a wonderful place to get a horse ready for the classics. We have right now four or five Derby horses and our two major Derby horses are here right now. I think a lot of that. I have (assistant) David Carroll, who I have utmost respect for, so that’s important for me. Last year we almost won the Kentucky Oaks with Wonder Gadot, and she stabled here. It’s a great place, it’s nice and the weather isn’t bad. Horses stay happy and safe here for the most part.”

Tyler Gaffalione: “The horse broke well today. I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane, but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there. Mark and his team have done a great job. They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Feb 17 NOTE: Assistant trainer David Carroll said, “He looked wonderful (this morning). He cleaned up his feed last night and cleaned up his breakfast this morning.  Just had a little jog this morning and jogged beautifully. He seems very bright and not tired. We’re thrilled to death with him. He likes it here, and I don’t see Mark or Mr. Barber wanting to change anything, so as long as he stays healthy and sound it is the game plan (to stay for the Louisiana Derby). With the outside post, we needed to get a forward position, and once we did that he was on the bridle. Tyler took over a little sooner than he had liked. He said yesterday was the first time he waited on horses. Once he got after him I thought that he finished up very nice and his gallop out was very strong. I like to think there’s plenty left in the tank.”

WORKOUTS SINCE JANUARY 1

Jan. 5, War of Will 59.60 Breezing 2/77 at FG
Feb. 2, War of Will 52:40 Breezing 157/169 at FG
Jan. 12, War of Will 48.00 Breezing 3/145 at FG
Feb. 9, War of Will 47:20 Breezing 2/135 at FG

 

 

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