Dear Thoroughbred breeders, owners, trainers, buyers and breakers who worry about the mindset of the progeny of a certain leading sire . . . we give you Mutasaawy and trainer Neil Morris. “You hear it from people about Tapits being a little bit difficult, but that’s not him,” trainer Neil Morris said of the 7-year-old gelding he trains for Pathfinder Racing. “He’s like a Labrador to travel with, to do anything with.”
Bred in Kentucky by Pretty Proud Syndicate, Mutasaawy is no dog and is the 7-2 second choice in Thursday’s $75,000 William Entenmann Memorial hurdle stakes at Belmont Park. He’s also not your typical Tapit. First, Mutasaawy is a gelding. Second, he’s not gray. Third, he’s not a future graded stakes horse on the flat.
He is a budding star over jumps however.
Morris’ horse eyes his third consecutive win as part of a field of eight going 2 1/4 miles on the inner turf for Thursday’s first race. He’ll have to beat another rising star on the jump circuit, English-bred Moscato from the barn of leading trainer Jack Fisher.
The M&M showdown is the key plot line to the Entenmann, run in memory of the owner/breeder whose horses raced as Timber Bay Farm. Entenmann, whose grandfather founded the New York bakery, died on New Year’s Day 2011 after a business career that took from cleaning ovens and decorating cakes to steering the company as executive vice president for more than 20 years until it was sold in 1978. Among other successes, Timber Bay campaigned steeplechase standouts Romantic and Yaw and also partnered with daughter Denise (Entenmann) Walsh on graded stakes winners Artie Schiller and Sir Greeley on the flat. Timber Bay also bred Belmont Stakes winner Sarava.
Run for the sixth time, the Entenmann helps launch the autumn NSA season and serves as a bridge to the $125,000 Foxbrook Novice at Far Hills, N.J. Oct. 21. Thursday’s card at Belmont gets started at 1:30 p.m. The Grade 1 Lonesome Glory hurdle stakes, which also drew eight led by Modem, Swansea Mile, Mr. Hot Stuff, Hinterland and All The Way Jose, completes the early double.
Mutasaawy (Darren Nagle to ride) and 2-1 favorite Moscato (Sean McDermott) will have to contend with Saratoga allowance winner No Wunder (Jack Doyle) from the Elizabeth Voss barn, spring novice stakes winner Surprising Soul (Ross Geraghty) for Ricky Hendriks, the Fisher-trained New Member (Danny Mullins) off a third behind Moscato at Saratoga, New York-bred Zio Elio (Bernie Dalton) for Kate Dalton and front-running Kensington Court (Mark Watts) for Julie Gomena.
Jacqueline Ohrstrom and trainer Richard Valentine unveil recent Irish import Lachares for his American debut. The 4-year-old has won three of 10 over hurdles including a win at Kilbeggan June 26. Shane Crimin rides the son of Manduro.
Morris bought Mutasaawy as a hurdle prospect in 2015, after a flat career for Shadwell Stable among others, but kept him on the flat for a dozen starts including three wins (and a fifth in Woodbine’s Grade 3 Valedictory Stakes) through last year. He was always going to go jumping in 2017, and he prepped with two flat wins before finishing second at Fair Hill May 27. He dominated maidens at Parx July 11 and then handled allowance foes next time at Saratoga Aug. 16.
Like everybody else, Morris was impressed.
“Any horse that runs through their conditions this quickly is a good horse,” said the trainer. “He was always screaming for farther on the flat. I ran him a mile-and-five-eighths at Woodbine and he was fifth coming on late.”
Two miles plus have suited just fine over hurdles, though Thursday will be a stiffer test.
“Each time he wins a race it gets a little tougher, but he gets a little more experience too,” said Morris. “He still only has three races under his belt. It’s fun to win, but it gets tougher. Then you win again and it gets tougher. Darren likes him. We both think Belmont will suit him.”
Moscato, who races for the Bruton Street-US partnership, has been first or second in eight of nine hurdle starts including three wins and two seconds in five American tries (all this year). The son of Hernando broke his maiden at Charlotte in April, dominated an allowance in May and was second in the Saratoga steeplechase opener before blasting away by 9 3/4 lengths in the M.G. Walsh novice Aug. 23. The success complete a turnaround of sorts for the flash gray.
“It was like he didn’t know how to jump,” Fisher said of his first impression of the horse. “We had to start over. I thought he was just a horse honestly. His works weren’t that impressive. Now his jumping has gotten so much better, he’s won races, he’s a pretty nice horse.”