The mile workout is a dinosaur, a relic of the past and something that can only be read about nowadays in books chronicling legendary horses and horsemen of another era. Right? Well, yes and no.
There are exceptions and while the statement above is most certainly exaggerated, the fact remains that workouts of the four- and five-furlong flavor seem as common as Starbucks on an American street corner while the mile breeze sometimes seems as rare as Indonesian Kopi Luwak for sale in a shopping mall.
Samraat and Financial Mogul are two exceptions and those two colts, who just happen to be trained by the same man, come into Saturday's Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct with plenty of miles under their belts. Five 1-mile workouts collectively, just since the start of the year.
"It just works," trainer Rick Violette said Tuesday, hustling between checking on his horses at Palm Meadows, industry meetings elsewhere in South Florida and finalizing his travel plans to come back to New York later this week. "Not necessarily fast miles, but miles where you repeat 13 after 13, squeeze on them a little at the end and knock it out a little bit. When they can do that they usually can run a little bit."
Samraat, undefeated in four starts and the morning-line favorite for the Gotham; and Financial Mogul, second to the highly regarded Cairo Prince in last fall's Grade 2 Nashua Stakes, proved already they can run more than a little bit. Part of the reason is talent and another reason might just be those long workouts most trainers eschew for the shorter stuff.
Just how rare is the 1-mile breeze?
The 11 horses that make up the Gotham field show a total of 63 published workouts on their past performances, with the four- and five-furlong breezes frequently the flavor of choice. Only Samraat and Financial Mogul show breezes longer than 6 furlongs. An unscientific survey of seven tracks and training centers - Palm Meadows, Payson Park, Fair Hill, Gulfstream, Fair Grounds, Santa Anita and Belmont's training track - from Feb. 19-25 show hundreds of workouts and just 10 going a mile. Five of the 10 were at Santa Anita.
Samraat's 1-mile breeze in 1:45 last Saturday at Palm Meadows was one of the 10 and Violette's decision to use that type of training with the Noble Causeway colt goes back to late in his 2-year-old campaign.
"It's worked for him," Violette said. "We had some awful training conditions coming up to the Damon Runyon. We missed a lot of training. I had a foot issue where I missed some training and going into the race, I kind of thought it was going to be a disservice if I didn't get some serious air in his lungs, so a half mile in :49 wasn't going to quite make it. So he went a terrific mile, on what wasn't a very fast racetrack, but he got stronger as the work went on. Then he ran off the screen, so I said, 'If it ain't broke don't fix it.' "
Violette actually worked Samraat, a homebred who races for Leonard Reggio's My Meadowview Farm, twice going a mile as he prepared the colt for his first start against open company in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes Feb. 1 at Aqueduct. He won the 1 1/16-mile Withers, defeating fellow Gotham entrant Uncle Sigh by a length following a lengthy duel with that foe.
"Going into the Withers we prepped him with a nice steady mile," Violette said. "A bunch of 13s basically, let him finish a little the last eighth, quarter. It certainly worked in the Withers, so there's no reason to change it going into the Gotham."
The situation with Financial Mogul is a bit different, with the mile workouts used almost like prep races for the Street Boss colt who was off for about 30 days shortly after the Nov. 3 Nashua and was a "short horse" when sixth and 8 lengths behind Cairo Prince in the Jan. 25 Holy Bull at Gulfstream. Financial Mogul also came out of the Holy Bull with "a bunch of crud" in his lungs, so Violette sent him north to Fair Hill, where he's been under the care of Bob and Nancy Triola.
"Financial Mogul's breeze was a little different, still a mile, but was almost like a prep-race mile as opposed to a conditioning mile like we did with Samraat," Violette said of the breeze in 1:42 over Fair Hill's Tapeta Footings surface Feb. 15. "He needed to do something serious. The track was fairly slow that day, so that was probably like going a mile in 39 or so. It was a very serious work. That was kind of his prep race."
Financial Mogul is listed at 10-1 for the Gotham, which carries 50 points to the winner under the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system. Samraat, who races as an entry with My Meadowview's Noble Cornerstone, is 5-2. Uncle Sigh is next at 3-1 with Don Rickles and Miracle Wood winner Extrasexyhippzster at 4-1 and In Trouble at 6-1 in his first start since the Grade 2 Futurity in late September at Belmont.
The Gotham is one of three graded stakes on the card, along with the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap for older female sprinters and the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap for older sprinters.
Equibase entries for Saturday at Aqueduct.