And there was another, probably more persuasive reason for the meet’s top handicap race for older horses--and one of this country’s most compelling race for older horses—the lack of star power.
But that won’t be the case the next time Graydar steps onto a racetrack. Over a main track that admittedly was kind to inside speed all afternoon, the big gray son of Unbridled’s Song simply overpowered the assembled group.
Since the Donn was Graydar’s entrée into stakes company, filling in more than ably for stablemate El Padrino, originally scheduled for the nine furlong event until trainer Todd Pletcher called an audible.
The Donn was only the big gray’s fourth lifetime start and first around two turns. Edgar Prado, having a resurgent 2013 after his business hadn’t fallen off markedly the last two years, quarter-horsed him into the first turn for a clear lead, essentially ending the drama.
The horse was brilliant no doubt, but he was brilliantly rated, too. Every time a challenger attempted to cut into the advantage, Prado let out another notch on the reins and the colt spurted away.
It appeared momentarily approaching midstretch that the ralliers might have a chance but, once again, Graydar spurted away for a three length advantage at the line in 1:48.25, the final furlong in a worthy-enough :12.89.
“He ran an enormous race,” said Pletcher of the winner. “We weren’t really sure what the pace scenario was. The last thing I said [to Prado] leaving the paddock was ‘If [the early lead] works out and you’re there...don’t take it away.
“He was laying down serious racehorse fractions. It wasn’t like he was walking the dog. He got into a nice comfortable rhythm.
“You see horses win Grade 1s early in their careers, like 2-year-olds, with not very many starts. But I’d say it’s extremely rare for a horse in his fourth lifetime start against seasoned horses like this to be able to do it. It’s a real tribute to the horse.”
“He broke nice and was very relaxed and happy in the front,” said Prado. “He was moving along, but that's the way he runs. We didn't need to go head to head with anyone…I asked him to pick it up he gave me more, I was very happy with him.” I was just hoping he'd be able to hold on to the lead."
Runnerup Bourbon Courage ran huge as well. Racing in midpack throughout, he rallied three wide on the final turn showing an electric turn of foot that loomed him a threat as the field straightened away before the winner-re-broke and opened out the advantage once again. He finished five lengths clear of show finisher Take Charge Indy, winner of last year’s Florida Derby.
“We thought the speed might come back to us a little but Graydar kept on going,” said trainer Kellyn Gorder. “We are very happy with how he performed.”
Indeed, the connections should be happy enough to take another crack at Graydar, or whichever horse is lined up to face him. His top effort in the Grade 1 Clark behind Shackleford apparently was a hint of what was to come.
It was another eight lengths back to race favorite Flat Out. “Joel Rosario] tried to put him in race but he wasn’t taking the rider there,” said trainer Bill Mott.
Pletcher said had no idea where and when Graydar will race next. Given the colt’s spotty past performance charts, why not just wait for the Breeders’ Cup Classic?