Anne Poulson asked the question. Barclay Tagg answered. Then Summer Patriot backed it up.
Poulson asked Tagg how he thought Summer Patriot was going to run in the John’s Call, Sunday’s 1 5/8-mile turf stakes. The big gray 4-year-old was walking around the paddock and Tagg didn’t hesitate.
“He’ll win,” the trainer said.
About 15 minutes later, Summer Patriot rallied from last in the field of eight to roll home by 7 3/4 lengths. Win? He galloped.
Announcer Tom Durkin narrarated it for Tagg, Poulson and the rest of the 18,000 fans.
“Summer Patriot, fourth, third, second . . . Summer Patriot has vaulted to the lead . . . 5-length lead now . . . Summer Patriot . . . run all day . . . he won the John’s Call by 7 lengths . . . ”
Eibar Coa allowed the long-striding ridgling to lag in last while Biggerbadderbetter and Crown Point posted a half-mile in 51.48 seconds. The favorite Just As Well, coming out of a tough trip in an allowance race earlier in the meet, pulled jockey John Velazquez and eventually won that battle. Just As Well took the field down the backside while Summer Patriot took Coa for a joy ride.
“The last time I had to rush him just to make sure I got a position, then he was tough the whole way around,” Coa said. “So, today, I said I’ll let him break and try to get him to settle. He sucked back a little more than I wanted but I wasn’t worried. It was fine. They were going a little slow for him, down the backside I let him be himself and he started to make up ground.”
Like a backhoe through an anthill.
By the turn, Summer Patriot galloped his way around the breathless frontrunners. He went from being 2 lengths down in fourth to in front by 6 lengths. Coa kept after Summer Patriot with a left-hand whip and the son of Unbridled’s Song put on a galloping-in-motion diagram. He finished the 1 5/8 miles in 2:42.50. Venezuelan-bred Taconeo finished second in his best stateside performance to date. Codeword held off Mid-Atlantic shipper Luckman for third.
Poulson bought Grade I stakes-placed Rose Diamond, Summer Patriot’s dam, in the Rokeby Stable dispersal at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale in 1992. She paid $150,000 for the daughter of Diamond Shoal, who finished third in the 1989 Coaching Club American Oaks for Rokeby owner Paul Mellon. Rose Diamond is out of Summer Guest, winner of the CCA Oaks, Monmouth Oaks, Alabama and Spinster.
“The dam was stakes-placed going a mile and a half, the whole Mellon family wanted to go forever, so we always thought he’d want to go a little bit longer and we always thought he’d be turf just because he’s such a beautiful mover,” Poulson said. “He’s got an enormous stride, I didn’t think he’d like the tight turns because he’s such a rangy horse, but he’s very tidy about it. He’s been really immature, when Barclay had him in Florida, one minute he’d be brilliant, the next minute . . . we always called him the bad teenager.”
Summer Patriot made his long-awaited career debut in February at Gulfstream Park.
The race came off the grass and he finished second. Six weeks later, Tagg tried again and the maiden race came off the grass again, he finished fourth. Finally hitting the turf, he closed ground to finish third at Aqueduct. He won a maiden going 1 1/4 miles in May, then finished second against allowance foes before walloping seven rivals in an allowance earlier in the meet.
“Each time, he’s stepped up and hopefully we’ll have a little fun with him,” said Poulson, who owns Hare Forest Farm in Orange, Va., with her husband Richard. “The mare’s getting old but she’s been good to us. This horse is a great guy and done the mare well.”
The Poulsons own Rose Diamond’s 2-year-old colt by Empire Maker, who’s in training with Tagg at Delaware Park. The mare has a yearling filly by Dynaformer. Summer Patriot’s older sister Flawless Treasure won the Sabin Stakes earlier in the year but broke down in the Sheepshead Bay in May.
“It was horrible. She was the same thing, late developer, loved the turf,” Poulson said. “We wanted to continue the line. She was really special to me, a homebred we just adored. She won a stakes, we brought her back and it was a bad step.”
Summer Patriot is doing his best to continue the racing line while Poulson awaits the Dynaformer filly to continue the breeding line.
After the race, Tagg signaled the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic as his next target for Summer Patriot.
“It’s an invitational,” Tagg said. “I think we just got invited.”
Coa has already RSVP’d for the Grade I turf stakes going 12 furlongs this fall at Belmont Park.
“He showed me today he’s improving a lot and growing mentally a lot,” Coa said. “Barclay has done a great job taking him step by step, he wasn’t ready for a big step today, this is what he needed today and he’ll be OK. Distance is what he wants. The more the better.”