(Breeders’ Cup trophy at Keeneland / Coady Photography)
From the Breeders’ Cup Media Team /
By Ren Carothers
Of all the horses lining up for Future Stars Friday, there may be no other juvenile carrying as much expectation on their back than Juvenile Turf Sprint contender Golden Pal, trained by Wesley Ward, who won this event last year with Four Wheel Drive. Even with other two-year-olds coming into the day with undefeated records and black type, like stablemate Outadore, winner of the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint last out, and Phil Gleaves’ Second of July, who won the G3 Futurity over Ward’s After Five and Christophe Clement’s Momos, the hype around Golden Pal is compelling, even if his own record of one for-three isn’t at first glance.
Consider that he originally debuted back in April, sprinting 4.5 furlongs on the dirt in a maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park and came up just ¾ short of holding off a horse named Gatsby. A surface and continent switch was in store for start two, which came in the Gr2 Norfolk at Royal Ascot, but while hopes were high, the ground had give and The Lir Jet managed to get up just in time. Still, there was little tarnish to Golden Pal’s reputation. The word was out and, despite being a maiden, the bar of expectation was raised further, with the team considering starting him next in the Gr1 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, even though it would mean facing older, including champion sprinter Battaash.
Sounds crazy? Perhaps. Take in mind, however, that champion jockey Kieren Fallon, who was looking after Ward’s Royal Ascot contingent, was quoted in a Horse Racing Planet article written by Jon Lees, that the two-year-old colt, “…would definitely win the Nunthorpe if he ran.” Ultimately, Golden Pal did not run in the Nunthorpe, but with that kind of endorsement, it was no surprise that he would put in a commanding performance against his peers at Saratoga, breaking his maiden in the Skidmore Stakes in gate-to-wire style and by 3-1/2 lengths – with ease. What makes the story behind this horse all the more special is that, in addition to being by Breeders’ Cup Juvenile/Eclipse champion two-year-old male of 2010, he is the first foal out of a mare by another Breeders’ Cup champion – 2008’s Juvenile winner Midshipman – and she was nearly a Breeders’ Cup winner herself: Lady Shipman. A winner of 13-of-21 starts, Lady Shipman, who was also bred and campaigned by Randall Lowe and ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., is an 11-time stakes winner, and came within a neck of becoming a G1W in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. She set track records on turf and all-weather, notably clocking 1:00.46 in the 5.5f Coronation Cup Stakes at Saratoga, and earned triple digit Beyer Speed Figures in seven consecutive races. Her career best came in the Klassy Briefcase at Monmouth, in which she received a 108. As a broodmare, what makes her all the more exciting is that, in combination with her own ability, she is tail-female to the prolific Blue Hen mare La Troienne.
With all of this in focus, and despite what projects to be an internationally contentious field with Sirenia Stakes (Gr3) winner Mighty Gurkha (IRE), Ubettabelieveit (IRE), winner of the Gr2 Flying Childers over Sacred (who was 2nd to Ward’s Campanelle in the Gr2 Queen Mary), and Aiden O’Brien’s Lipizzaner, coming off a win in the Doncaster Stakes, in the mix… it’s still hard not to believe in the alchemy of Golden Pal.