Masochistic holds the edge in the TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita Park for three simple reasons - he's fast, right at home and Lord Nelson scratched Thursday - but anyone wanting a glimpse of what Saturday's 6-furlong dash would look like should have paid attention to the 2016 Saratoga meet.
Six of the nine horses entered in the $1.5 million Sprint raced at Saratoga, including 4-1 third choice A. P. Indian, winner of two Grade 1s in upstate New York; Grade 1 King's Bishop winner Drefong and Grade 2 winner Mind Your Biscuits.
The remaining member of the Sprint field - Charlton Baker's Joking - won the Grade 2 True North and Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont in his last two starts and is expected to be a scratch from the race after spiking a fever in California.
The Saratoga Special covered the victories by the above-mentioned trio, along with runs by Delta Bluesman and Limousine Liberal in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt and Noholdingback Bear in the King's Bishop.
Drefong's victory in the King's Bishop appeared in the Aug. 28 Travers Stakes results issue, which also featured top Breeders' Cup contenders Arrogate, Flintshire, Lady Eli and others. Check out the coverage, and all 33 of our issues from 2016, below.
Speed from the West
Baffert's Drefong cruises in sprint
By Tom Law
Drefong started to resemble Lord Nelson shortly after an eye-popping victory that elicited some early whispers of potential for the son of Gio Ponti who cost a hefty price as a yearling.
Some of the resemblance was good, Lord Nelson owns two Grade 1 and one Grade 2 sprint stakes victories in his career, so he's not a bad one to measure up against.
Other parts of the resemblance were, well, not so good. Like Lord Nelson, Drefong is blessed with plenty of speed, but like most speed-burning sprinters it comes with a price. Drefong blew away a field of maidens in mid-November at Del Mar, winning by 9 1/2 lengths and earning the right to land in some lucrative stakes spots at the end of the year or at the start of his 3-year-old season this year.
"He just wasn't moving well," Baffert said of Drefong's more than six-month stretch away from the races. "I ran him at Del Mar and he came out of there a little off. He didn't have any surgery or anything I just didn't like the way he was moving. I didn't even kick him out, kept him there at the barn and gave him like 60 days."
"My other sprinter was the same way, Lord Nelson. Just not moving right and (Drefong) needed me to start over and bring him back easy. It worked. It worked with the other one, too. They're two nice horses."
Drefong, making his third start off that layoff and first on the East Coast, showed just how nice with a front-running victory in Saturday's Grade 1 King's Bishop on the Travers undercard.
Drefong's 3 1/4-length win under Mike Smith in the 7-furlong King's Bishop came about two hours before Baffert sent out the Travers exacta with Arrogate and American Freedom.
Drefong's victory was also one of Baffert's four Grade 1 wins in three months, with two by none other than Lord Nelson in the Triple Bend at Santa Anita June 25 and the Bing Crosby at Del Mar July 31.
"He's got a great mind and I always thought he was cut out to be this kind of horse, but he had to prove it today," Baffert said. "That was a tough field. If you can do it on a day like the Travers, it's even more important. We're trying to win these big races.
"I was trying to get him to the Breeders' Cup Sprint and I thought this was my only chance. I didn't want to run him in the Bing Crosby, I had the other horse in there (and this was) the last chance to run against 3-year-olds."
Drefong didn't earn an automatic spot in the Sprint like Lord Nelson did winning the Bing Crosby, a Win And You're In race, but his victory essentially locked up one of the up-for-grabs spots in the Nov. 5 race at Santa Anita. Lord Nelson won three of his first five starts before losing three in a row in the winter and spring to earn nearly eight months off. He returned to finish third to Runhappy and Marking in the Grade 1 Malibu then won three straight.
Drefong won his fourth straight, adding the Saratoga meet's premier 3-year-old sprint stakes to victories in allowance races in May and July at Santa Anita. He showed similar brilliance in those races, winning in 1:08.50 for 6 furlongs and 1:14.65 for 6 1/2 furlongs. He won Saturday in 1:21.25, beating the late-running Economic Model by with Canadian shipper Noholdingback Bear a half-length back in third.
"If you watch his last couple races they're pretty incredible there at Santa Anita," Baffert said. "He's been working pretty well. He's been working with American Freedom. They've been working heads up, just cruising together. That's a good sign for American Freedom. One thing about Del Mar, I know we can train from there and ship here and do well. But you need a good horse to win here."
Drefong showed promise well before he made it to the races, selling for $450,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale. That price far exceeded the 57 other Gio Ponti yearlings that sold in the sale - the next most expensive was $200,000 - and nearly four times as much as the most expensive for a yearling by that sire at the 2015 September sale.
Tanma Corp. purchased Drefong, the second foal out of the Ghostzapper mare Eltimaas, a half-sister to champion and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Action This Day, and he races for Charles Chu. Despite his pedigree - by a multiple champion on the grass who excelled from eight to 10 furlongs out of a half sister to a colt who won going two turns - and Chu paying the early fee to nominate to the Triple Crown, Baffert never seriously thought Drefong was a classics candidate.
"The way he's made he looks pretty fast," Baffert said. "I wasn't sure, I really don't think about that until I send him long. When we realized how fast he was coming off that layoff I said, 'I better not stretch him out, this is what he wants to do.' Maybe down the road he can be that kind of horse."
NY-bred Mind Your Biscuits gets 1st stakes win for co-owner
By Brandon Valvo
Scott Summers only spent about five minutes in the Saratoga Room after the colt he co-owns, Mind Your Biscuits, won Saturday's Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes. Enough time to watch the replay a handful of times, enjoy one glass of bubbly and celebrate the moment with his son Dan and daughter-in-law Hope, two of his partners. Then he was off to the barn to see his horse. That's the kind of owner he is.
"You get such a euphoric feeling," he said as he weaved through the large Saturday crowd on his way to trainer Robert Falcone Jr.'s barn on the corner of Union and East Avenues. "At this point, I could walk for five miles to go see him, I don't care."
Although Summers' passion for racing spans four decades and he's been in ownership groups for years, he'd never won a stakes, let alone a graded stakes. Even though this is the dream owners chase, he never imagined it would happen to him.
"I've been coming here for so many years, and to have this experience, never, never would have thought about it," Summers said. "Biscuits is the only horse I've had that's performed at this level. The others, we had bad luck, they never made it to the track or they ended up running in claiming races. It's just an extraordinary experience."
Mind Your Biscuits broke evenly from his outside post, but was soon outpaced in the 6 1/2-furlong sprint. Last of seven up the backstretch, the 3-year-old Posse colt raced 6 lengths from leader Maniacal. After a quarter in :22.36, Mind Your Biscuits hugged the rail and began to advance. However, at the midway point of the turn, rival Quijote stumbled and nearly fell, causing Mind Your Biscuits to check.
"I was on the inside," Mind Your Biscuits' rider Joel Rosario said. "It looked like when I passed the three-eighths pole, the horse clipped a heel in front of me and I had to stop him a little bit and get inside. It scared me for a second, but I'm glad nothing happened."
Recovering quickly, Rosario rode the rail all the way around the turn past a :45.41 half. In the blink of an eye, Mind Your Biscuits passed three horses at the top of the lane and was third, only 1 1/2 lengths from the lead. Staring down a large opening along the fence, Rosario pushed on Mind Your Biscuits passing the furlong pole. He quickly surged to the lead and powered away to win by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:15.25. Pacesetter Maniacal held second while pace-presser Its All Relevant finished third.
Mind Your Biscuits is owned by J. Stables and Scott, Hope and Dan Summers, although it wasn't planned that way. The group intended to sell the $47,000 yearling purchase as a 2-year-old.
"We were going to pinhook him and nobody wanted him," Summers said. "We said, 'alright, nobody wants him, we'll race him,' and that's when we went to J. Stables for the partnership and it worked out great. It's one of those deals. You say, 'should we keep him,' and nobody else wants him, so you've got to, in a sense."
Summers' other son, Chad, manages J. Stables.
"Both my boys. It's the family along with J. Stables, who my son is the racing manager," he said. "It's a great relationship and it's just been an incredible ride. I can't explain the feeling. I try to explain to people, there is no better experience than watching your horse cross the finish line first. Add to that a Grade 2 stakes at Saratoga, you just can't beat the feeling."
Mind Your Biscuits is one of only two horses owned by the partnership, the other being an unraced 2-year-old. He's also the first horse the group has given to Falcone. Scott Summers couldn't be happier with how the relationship has turned out.
"For me, it's been tremendous because I love being with the horses and if you take some of the high-brow trainers, you can't hang out with your horse," he said. "With a trainer like Robert Falcone Jr., you can. It's very fulfilling. Saying, 'thank you.' "
Walking up to the barn, Summers was there to greet Mind Your Biscuits as son Chad led the horse into the stable area. Handing the horse off to an assistant, the father-son team embraced and took it all in.
Mind Your Biscuits' victory also represents a big moment in Falcone's career. In only his third season at Saratoga, the 22-year-old nabbed his first graded stakes win.
"This is my biggest win by far," he said. "It feels good. This is one of the toughest meets. Trainers come from all over the place, jockeys come from all over the place, the best horses come here. To get a win up here, it feels great, but especially to win my first graded stakes up here is really special."
Mind Your Biscuits' Amsterdam win came in the chestnut's first attempt in open company. He had faced New York-breds in his eight starts and never won a stakes. The decision to step up into graded stakes company came after the addition of blinkers led to a 9 1/4-length romp in an allowance July 4 at Belmont Park.
"Ever since he came into the barn, he showed he would be a real nice horse," Falcone said. "The blinkers really turned him around and stepped him up a lot. The way he won his last race, even though it was against New York-breds and it was a non winners of one, he won relatively easy and Joel never even asked him. Every race, he comes back, he just got better and better. We decided to take a shot and it worked out well.
"We were pretty confident. He's got the racehorse attitude, he's fun to be around. Up on the track, he likes to play around and stuff, so he's got that attitude, so you always love to see that. He loves his job and he knows what he's doing and he loves doing it."
The Amsterdam was Mind Your Biscuits' third win and boosted his earnings to $285,366. Although Falcone is unsure about Mind Your Biscuits' next start, Summers is optimistic his new star can continue to compete on the big stage.
"I guess the theory is that if he comes back healthy and this experience was good, we're probably going to end up going in the King's Bishop, which is going to be an incredibly tough race," he said. "We know that, we know that up front. But you know what? He just won a Grade 2 at Saratoga, we'll take a shot."
Green Lantern's A. P. Indian delivers G1 milestone for trainer
By Joe Clancy
Back home in Maryland, Leigh and Arnaud Delacour's kitchen is in disarray, relatives are coming to visit, their young sons Luca and Julien no doubt need something and the racing stable takes all the attention the couple can give it.
But then there are moments like Saturday, when everything stops for a race and an achievement.
Trainer Arnaud Delacour - his name is in the program but it's very much a team - won his first race at Saratoga Race Course and his first Grade 1 stakes with a fast fireplug of a horse in A. P. Indian, who scorched seven others in the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt for jockey Joe Bravo. The 6-year-old son of Indian Charlie, bred and raced by the Masson family's Green Lantern Stable, defeated Holy Boss by 1 1/4 lengths with Catalina Red third in 1:08.25 for 6 furlongs and made the Delacours take stock.
"It means a lot," said Arnaud while standing in the winner's circle. "I don't quite realize it yet, but I'm sure I'm going to realize it when I'm going to look at my phone because it keeps beeping. Of course it's a big deal. It's not only for me, it's for all the team, including my wife Leigh who is really 50/50 with me in the training. It means a lot for everybody."
Leigh was at home, and she was also one of those telephone beeps. Her husband would have loved to have shared Saturday's moment with her.
"We are re-doing the kitchen, they destroyed all the floor," he said. "And my mom is coming tonight. I told Leigh 'I wish you were in Saratoga with me' but I am sure she probably watched the race and then went right back to taking care of the boys, my mom, all of it."
A. P. Indian helped pay off that kitchen overhaul and more with a powerhouse performance. Breaking from post four, he followed Chublicious to the front, then backed off to a stalking second. The first quarter-mile went by in :22.26, but Chublicous soon had company as Holy Boss ranged up three wide for John Velazquez and the early leader came under pressure.
Between them, A. P. Indian held his ground and matched Holy Boss' move. Through a half-mile in :44.63, Holy Boss and A. P. Indian turned for home on even terms. Bravo threw four crosses and asked for speed. Velazquez shook up his horse, but A. P. Indian took a small lead at the eighth pole (after :56.17) and built it to the sixteenth pole. From there it was easy as the winner flicked his ears and cruised to the line. The final time was just .25 off the track record shared by Speightstown and Spanish Riddle.
"He's got a lot of tactical speed but as Joe said you always need to send him a little bit leaving the gate to put him in the race," said Delacour. "Then after that you give him the rein and he will relax and breathe. That's what he does. You can see his ears at the quarter pole, they were up and he was going pretty easily. He's really professional and I think that's a key in that type of race. It's not only the speed. You have to keep a little something for the end because those horses are that good. He loves the competition. When you have a horse next to him, that's what he likes. For some reason, he just gets brave doing that."
A.P. Indian has been brave from the start. Patrick Masson delivered the future Grade 1 winner at Green Lantern, his family's farm in Versailles, Ky., and recalled a foal with plenty of energy.
"He was a very fun foal he was feisty," said Masson, who also works at Dixiana Farms. "You saw him in the winner's circle he was acting a bit fidgety and he was like that as a foal, he was playful, had a lot of spirit and he wanted to show you he was boss and he obviously did that to the horses today."
The Vanderbilt winner is a second-generation homebred, as his dam Ender's Sister also raced for Green Lantern. The daughter of A.P. Indy won three stakes and placed in five graded stakes. As a producer, she's outdone herself with A. P. Indian,
Delacour took over A. P. Indian, It's All Relevant (who was third in Saturday's Amsterdam) and Indiana Derby winner Tiz Shea D among her six foals.
"It's a feeling like no other, there is literally no comparison to it," said Masson. "My parents' operation has only won one other Grade 1 race and that was at Keeneland with our other homebred Karelian and this is on par or better than that. It is a feeling of almost total enlightenment for 10 minutes after the race, it's awesome and it will keep me pumped up for another decade in racing."
Delacour, a former assistant to Christophe Clement, took over A. P. Indian's training last winter at Tampa but has seen the horse improve this year with more familiarity. The trainer also credited Bravo (now 3-for-3 on the horse) with the new dimension of rating just off the early pace over A. P. Indian's last two starts.
"He was riding a sprinter years ago for Christophe named Varsity and Varsity was the same kind of horse," Delacour said. "You had to send him from the gate because he was not a very, very sharp horse, but he had a lot of speed and you had to put him in the race. Then he would find his momentum and run well. The first time I put Joe on the horse, I said 'Do you remember Varsity? Do the same thing.' I think it has worked out OK."
"He's a cool horse, the way he does it," the jockey said. "He made me feel really comfortable, I knew the two horses are fast away from there, Johnny was making a move on the turn, but if you watch closely, my horse turning for home, he puts his ears up and he's breathing. Those guys are riding, he's running and they're not slouches next to him, A. P.'s able to breath and relax and that's what gives him such a good kick turning for home. When he switched leads, it would have had to been a really good horse to run him down." - Additional reporting by Michael Smith and Sean Clancy.
A. P. Indian blazes to another Gr. 1 score
By Brandon Valvo
If you looked at A. P. Indian as he made laps around the path outside the paddock stalls Saturday, you might not think he was a multiple stakes winner and one of the fastest Thoroughbreds in the world.
He's short, wide, burly, powerful like a linebacker, yet he walks along calm and composed. He's not high strung as he surveys the crowd and shakes his neck back and forth, letting his ears flop. His black hooves lead to black legs that give way to a bay coat at the knees.
"That's kind of what the mare throws," said owner/breeder Richard Masson of Green Lantern Stable. "Not big, sort of normal size, Quarter Horse-looking."
And that's just fine.
The 6-year-old Indian Charlie gelding, whose half-brothers Tiz Shea D and Its All Relevant, also ran on the Travers Day card, won his second Grade 1 sprint of the meet - adding the 7-furlong Forego to his score in the 6-furlong Alfred Vanderbilt July 30.
A. P. Indian is out of the A. P. Indy mare Ender's Sister, who won five races and earned $525,048 before joining the Green Lantern breeding program.
"She's one of those mares that, like clockwork, gets in foal every time, has a nice normal pregnancy and is good to her foals," Masson said. "She was with Rusty Arnold. She won a number of stakes and she was multiple graded stakes placed. She never won a graded stakes, but was clearly of that caliber. She's done everything we've asked of her in the breeding shed and on the track."
While Ender's Sister's five starters are all winners, A. P. Indian is by far her most prolific with 10 wins and four seconds, plus $1,112,434, from 16 starts. Breaking from the outside in a field of 11, A. P. Indian responded to Joe Bravo's urging to find a stalking spot behind Chief Lion, who rushed up to take the lead in the opening furlong.
"He's always a little tardy the first couple jumps, but it was pretty much over when I got him in stride and he was where he was," Bravo said. "It makes my job so easy."
A. P. Indian galloped along up the backstretch, each stride appearing as effortless as the last as Chief Lion set fractions of :22.83 and :45.35. Coming to the top of the stretch, A. P. Indian drew alongside Chief Indian as Bravo looked under his elbow for competition.
Soon, A. P. Indian was 3 1/2 lengths clear. His ears flicked back and forth as he crossed the line while Bravo celebrated with a fist pump. A. P. Indian romped by 2 1/2 in 1:20.99, .59 seconds off the track record.
"It's pretty eye-opening. The way he does it, it's really chilling. Across the wire, his ears came up and he was so relaxed. He knew how good that was. It's really a pleasure to be on a horse that does everything with such control," Bravo said. "He knew he beat those horses. His confidence level is at a 10 right now."
Trainer Arnaud Delacour could see what Bravo felt building since winning the Grade 3 Belmont Sprint Championship July 9.
"He came back so much more confident for some reason," the trainer said. "I just looked like he understood something there and ever since he's been improving and very confident."
Delacour trains A. P. Indian at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. Exactly like his preparation for the Vanderbilt, he worked 5 furlongs in a bullet 1:00.60 a week ago. Although he breezes on the track, trail rides aren't out of the ordinary.
"We've got options. The horse loves it," said Delacour. "He's really relaxed over there and kept pretty fit anyway. He's pretty aggressive in the morning and it's great to have the option to switch him up a little bit."
Prior to this season, Delacour had never won a race at Saratoga. He'd also never won a Grade 1 stakes.
"It's pretty cool. All the credit to A. P. Indian. When you have that kind of horse, they bring you places and here we are. Saratoga, Belmont, it's been a tremendous year and we're very thankful."
Green Lantern Stables is enjoying the stakes success as well.
"Five or six years ago, we had 10 horses in training and we won four Grade 1s," Masson said. "We thought, 'oh this is easy.' And I swear, we didn't win four races over the next couple of years and we promised ourselves that if we ever had another good one we'd make the most of it. We'd go to the races, because we don't ever go to the races, we watch on TV. But boy, he came along, so here we are. We're going to let him drag us along as far as he can take us."
Masson became an owner after trying his hand as a gambler. Green Lantern Stable continues to grow as it buys fresh yearlings to add to its program of 20 to 25 mares.
"I'm a reformed horseplayer and we got involved in the racing game in the mid '90s in California," Masson explained. "We had some success and if you own a horse, you own two horses, and if you own a filly, you own a mare, and if you breed, you need a farm, so eventually we found ourselves owning a farm over in Lexington and over time we just decided to make this more of a full-time thing."
A. P. Indian earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup Sprint by virtue of his Forego win. Although Masson is determined to enjoy this ride as long as it lasts, he's looking forward to more from Ender's Sister.
"She has some great foals coming up. We have a 2-year-old filly by Giant's Causeway named Dragon Army that Arnaud is training and she's got a Distorted Humor yearling, a Noble Mission colt, and she's in foal to Pioneerof The Nile."