Mr. Misunderstood is not being taken for granted on turf. Saturday’s $75,000 Woodchopper at Fair Grounds marked his final start against exclusively 3-year-old competition and the up-and-coming gelding recorded his five consecutive stakes victory, easily scoring by 1 3/4 lengths as the 3-2 favorite.
Owned by Flurry Racing Stables LLC, Mr. Misunderstood is now unbeaten from eight turf attempts for trainer Brad Cox. Shaun Bridgmohan replaced regular rider Florent Geroux, who was in France for his father’s funeral.
“He ran really well today,” Cox said. “Shaun rode him well and put him in the right position. We backed him back up to a mile in this race and he handled it well. He’s very impressive on the turf. We’ll see how he comes out of it. We won’t come back in the Colonel E.R. Bradley (on January 13), but we may look at the ($150,000) Fair Grounds Handicap (G3) (on February 17) and go from there.”
“He’s professional,” Bridgmohan said. “He makes my job easy, I was just the passenger. He was impressive today.”
Mr. Misunderstood has come far in the last 12 months. Dropped into a $30,000 claiming event on December 29, 2016 at Fair Grounds, the son of Archarcharch sailed to an easy win in that spot and returned to win for a $50,000 tag two months later over the New Orleans turf.
After dropping a couple of dirt starts in the spring, Mr. Misunderstood’s career started to take off when switching back to turf in early August, scoring by open lengths in the Prelude at Louisiana Downs. He rolled to a three-length decision in the grassy Super Derby a month later and was exiting a pair of sharp performances at Churchill Downs, recording a 2 ¾-length triumph in the September 30 Jefferson Cup and a 1 ½-length tally in the November 11 Commonwealth Turf (G3).
Mr. Misunderstood has not been seriously tested winning every turf start in facile fashion and Thoroughbred racing fans are looking forward to his first attempt against older horses in 2018.
The dark bay stalked the pace in third down the backstretch, a couple of lengths back as pacesetter St. Louie Guy established fractions in :24.25 and :49.09. Mr. Misunderstood edged closer rounding the far turn and seized command in upper stretch, offering a commanding turn of foot to quickly stride clear, and he completed the about one-mile distance in 1:35.95 on the firm ground.
First Premio offered a nice rally for second while never a threat to the winner. Off as the 6-1 co-third choice, the runner-up wound up about a length better than third-placer Kitten’s Cat. Just Move On came next under the wire and was followed by Cowboy Culture, It’s Your Nickel, 4-1 second choice Caribou Club, Big Bend, Oxford Lane, Don’task Don’ttell and St. Louie Guy. Balandeen, Cedartown and Uncontested were scratched.
Bred in Kentucky by Athens Wood, Mr. Misunderstood sold for $47,000 as a yearling before being pinhooked for $130,000 at the 2016 OBS March 2-year-old sale. He’s the first stakes winner out of the multiple stakes-placed Afternoon Deelites mare Jodys Deelite.
Mr. Misunderstood has now earned $409,694 from a 13-9-1-0 ledger.
A couple of races earlier, turf sophomore fillies were featured in the $75,000 Pago Hop and Hallie Belle prevailed in her stakes debut by a neck. The Medaglia d’Oro filly stretched her win streak to three after breaking her maiden at Keeneland and taking an entry-level optional claimer at Fair Grounds on November 24.
Trained by Michael Stidham and ridden by Robby Albarado, the Godolphin homebred stopped the teletimer in 1:36.14. Hallie Belle closely stalked pacesetter Into Summer before overhauling her rival in upper stretch. She led by a length with a furlong remaining, but Into Summer proved game re-rallying along the rail to just miss.
Hallie Belle was off as the 7-2 third choice in the eight-horse field. Into Summer, the 5-1 fourth choice, wound up a half-length better than late-running 9-5 favorite Sensitive. Fault, Sully’s Dream, Hotshot Anna, Rum Go and Gentle Kitten completed the order of finish. Four-time Grade 2 vixen Farrell was among the eight scratches.
“She was jumping from the (entry-level allowance) condition to this,” Stidham said. “We always thought that if she was talented enough and as long as she stayed sound and mentally healthy that she could be a stakes winner. With this three-year-old race at the end of the year it was the right thing to do. It all worked out.”
The Kentucky-bred Hallie Belle is out of the Group 3-winning Empire Maker mare Charity Belle and counts multiple Grade 1 winner Banker’s Lady as her third maternal dam. Her line now reads 5-3-1-0, $119,300.