(Fair Grounds / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the Fair Grounds Media Team:

The sight of a 3-year-old in January going two turns and drawing off in deep stretch will get any trainer thinking big. Shane Wilson is no different, and while Rightandjust might not be taking the most conventional path the to the local February 13 Risen Star (G2), he put everyone on notice after his dominant win in a strong January 16 optional-claimer at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Rightandjust isn’t your typical blueblooded Fair Grounds 3-year-old. He wasn’t a precocious 2-year-old who came to the backstretch this winter with stakes plans already penciled in at 3. Though he may still well get there, the route to any potential glory is more the road less traveled.

Wilson and owner Wayne T. Davis claimed Rightandjust from trainer Louie Roussel III for $50,000 out of his gate-to-wire 5 ½-length maiden claiming win here December 18. The son of Awesome Again had run a better-than-it-looked fourth sprinting in a local MSW on debut in November, but looked like a new horse stretching out. Wilson, who teamed with Davis to win a pair of graded stakes with Mocito Rojo—a horse they claimed for $10,000—had a gameplan in mind when the meet opened and Rightandjust, a son of Awesome Again, fit the bill.

“We thought coming to Fair Grounds there would be some young, good quality horses that we could get to stretch out,” Wilson said. “Obviously the owner claimed Mocito Rojo awhile back for 10k to win a couple of graded races so we wanted to try and do that again with a couple of young horses. With Rightandjust being an Awesome Again and the mare by Tiznow, we thought he was a young horse with a good race and he finished up strong and should get better going two turns so we took a shot.”

Based on pedigree and what he’s displayed in his races so far, Wilson might be right. Rightandjust’s dam Pussyfoot was winless from just one start, but her half sibling Morning Line earned $1.2 million in his career and he’s been a productive stallion in his second career. He is also a half-brother to the promising 4-year-old Tapit colt Guided Missile.

Rightandjust broke through in a big way in his MCL win but showed no ill effects from such a strong race. It was readily apparent that Wilson had a rapidly improving soon-to-be 3-year-old on his hands, who still had plenty of untapped potential.

“We got him back the night I claimed him and he cleaned up everything I fed him and he licked the bowl,” Wilson said. “He was on his hind legs when we hand-walked him down the shedrow the next morning. It seemed like he did what he did easily and we came back and worked him and he worked great and then he had a bullet best-of-100 work. (Jockey Jack Gilligan was the one breezing him and he said ‘Shane, this horse can really run and he has a bunch of gears he doesn’t even know he’s got yet.’”

Rightandjust entered the optional-claimer as a bit of a rank outsider, at least judging by the 22-1 price on the toteboard. In a race that saw entries from trainers named Asmussen, Cox, Stidham, and Walsh, and owners like Godolphin, Brereton C. Jones, and Three Chimneys Farm, it was no real surprise that Wilson, Davis, and Rightandjust were overlooked. Facing much tougher competition, he went to the front again, set a measured pace, and streaked home an easy 3-length winner. An unknown outsider before the race, Rightandjust had clearly arrived, which wasn’t a complete shock to his trainer.

“We were pretty confident but it came up tough,” Wilson said. “A few were stretching out for the first time but we knew he could run 1 1/16 miles over the Fair Grounds. I was really surprised he was such a big price even though the other horses were coming from Churchill Downs and Keeneland and had great connections.”

Rightandjust looks like a vintage 3-year-old that is getting better by the day and his blend of speed and stamina can take a horse a long way during the first half of their sophomore year. Wilson is taking the ‘If it’s not broke don’t fix it’ route to the 1 1/8-mile Risen Star, which could prove problematic to some of his more precocious rivals.

“He looks like when he gets up there (on the lead) he goes to flicking his ears around and he’s comfortable with that pace,” Wilson said. “It looks like he had plenty in the tank (in his win) and he’ll go another 1/16th of a mile. As long as everything is good—and he came back great and he’s galloping strong—we’re going to breeze him 14 days out and then 7 days out and if everything is like it is now that (the Risen Star) is where we’re going to go.”