Features

As the rain began to drizzle late Wednesday morning, Horacio De Paz walked the shedrow and inspected his horses after training. Tucked between  Christophe Clement and Shug McGaughey on the Oklahoma side, De Paz’s shedrow is immaculate, with Sagamore Racing’s red diamonds dancing over black stall guards at each stall. 

 Before becoming Sagamore’s private trainer in 2015, De Paz worked for John Servis, Ralph Nicks, D. Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher. The multiple stakes winning trainer announced last week that he will be making his stable public and is accepting outside clients for the first time.

“It’s been my privilege to work for a farm with such a rich history and success as Sagamore,” said De Paz of the Maryland-based operation owned by Under Armour’s Kevin Plank. “Sagamore’s been supportive with whatever horses they can and are now helping me create new relationships with other clients and people.

“I’m still building on it. Hopefully with our reputation and our stats, people will be encouraged to help me out to take on outside horses.“

De Paz stabled Sagamore horses at Saratoga for the first time last summer, closing the meet with four winners and one second from 15 starts. His summer was highlighted with Ginger N Rye’s victory in the Smart N Fancy Stakes, nearly two years after she earned him his first win.

“Last year we were really thrilled with how we did,” said De Paz. “Everybody ran well and ran to the expectations of what we thought they would do. We’re a bit quieter with our 2-year-olds but the horses we’ve brought up we think have a good shot at competing and showcasing themselves well.”

De Paz has 10 Sagamore horses to the track this summer, with 30 others spread between the owner’s private training farm in Maryland, Pimlico and Churchill Downs.

“For the number of horses we have, we have some pretty good ones,” De Paz said. “We try to bring the best horses we have.”

De Paz took some time to walk the shedrow with The Special’s Shayna Tiller Wednesday morning. (Editor’s note: Originally published in the August 2 issue of The Saratoga Special)

Quiet Company: The 2-year-old homebred daughter of Temple City stuck her head over the stall guard, ears pricked and begging for attention. The dark bay filly finished third in an off-the-turf debut here July 26. “We’ll bring her out in a maiden on the turf. It was her first time out, she drew the one hole and she showed a lot of class. She needed the race. We think she’ll move forward. She’s done really good here, she’s settled in good. She’s a big filly too.”

Smile More: The 3-year-old daughter of Tiznow made her debut here Wednesday, and finished third going 6 furlongs on the dirt. “She’s a nice filly. I think highly of her, she’s done everything right coming into it. She had a few setbacks here and there and was just immature. She’s a little quirky, but now she’s just really matured and the light bulb’s clicked off in the right way. She’s really come together well. She’s had some really good works here.”

Chase Greatness: The big chestnut colt sports a big blaze, and nipped at his groom sitting beside the stall. The 2-year-old son of More Than Ready finished seventh in the Grade 3 Sanford Stakes on Opening Weekend. “We were going to scratch but the allowance we wanted didn’t go. We opted to go ahead and run just because there’s not anything else soon. He missed the break, I don’t think he really showcased himself like what we think of him. Once we get him on the turf he’ll be able to show himself much better. He’s got a lot of personality, lots of it. He’s not necessarily a hard horse, just gets a little happy. He’s a pretty solid 2-year-old, he still has a lot of development to do because he’s a heavy horse but he’s doing well. He’s a good doer. If anything, you have to watch the weight on him because he’s a big colt. We have the option to work him here on the turf so hopefully he likes it and he’ll end up in a stakes race on the turf going short, maybe the Skidmore (Aug. 17).”

Chubby Star: A half-sister to Chase Greatness, the daughter of Malibu Moon finished fourth in the Grade 3 Lake George and the Riskaverse Stakes here last summer. She finished eighth in the Grade 3 Commonwealth Oaks at Laurel to close out her 3-year-old campaign and has run twice this year. “She’s in Maryland, but she’s doing well. We brought her back this year and she didn’t come back to form like we’d like her to. She’s still eligible for the two-other-than so we’re just trying to get her back. She’s a hard-knocker, a hard-trier. She was just there against graded company. The year might have caught up on her, so hopefully by the end of the year she’ll show more. We’re hopeful, at least.”

Barry Lee: The dark bay son of Violence was sprawled out in the stall, enjoying his morning nap. Eighth in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special last summer, he closed out the year with a second in the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont and a third in the James F.  Lewis III Stakes at Laurel in the fall. He placed third in the Grade 3 Amsterdam Saturday. “He missed the break and got taken back and they were really fast at the beginning. He basically just picked up the pieces at the end and showed some run. Joel (Rosario) did really well with him and kept him in his rhythm and going into the lane he asked him a few times and let him finish up with what he had. The horse came out of it well, it was basically like a workout for him. I was really happy with his effort. He’s always been a consistent horse, he always hits the board and he always tries. With time, he’ll mature and maybe step it up there against those caliber horses.”

We Should Talk: A $65,000 purchase as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky’s July sale two years ago, the son of Gemologist was fourth in the Notebook Stakes at Aqueduct in November.He’s worked twice at Saratoga in preparation for his first start of 2018. “He’s probably going to come back in a New York-bred allowance. I’m not sure if I’m going to do dirt or turf. In his first start at Belmont last fall, he ended up beating Audible. He ran a good number and after that he came back in a stake going long. It’s always difficult when you win just one race and go into a stake and the other horses have run two or three times. He finished mid-pack and then he tailed off, lost some weight on us. We gave him the winter off, he got gelded and now he’s back here. I like him, he’s training really well. He’s a big horse, he’s a bit awkward-looking but he’s coming back and has been working well.”

Happy Farm: The petite bay stood in the corner, more concerned with licking his feed tub than the people standing in front of his stall. The lightly raced 4-year-old won three of five starts last year, including a Saratoga score, and opened 2018 with a win at Laurel in April. Fourth last time at Pimlico, the son of Ghostzapper has worked twice here. “He’s back, I’m just trying to pick out a spot for him. He likes it up here. Happy Farm is the mantra of the farm. Happy people make happy horses. He’s a trying little horse. We love him. He has a lot of heart, he’s going to try. He’s a small horse but he races and really tries. It’s almost like he knows he’s carrying the weight of the farm on his back.”

Pancho: The small chestnut roan Quarter Horse stood confidently at his stall guard. Ears pricked, he surveyed the shedrow. “Our pony. You could pull him out and put tack on him right now and he’ll go to work. He’s small, but you can’t get enough work out of him. He was actually a ranch horse and the guy we bought him off of said, ‘If you’re going to go pick up some bulls, they could run over the top of him and he’s never going to sell you out.’ He’s a hearty little horse.”