Three Diamonds Farm’s Bigger Picture successfully defended his title in Sunday’s $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3), capping a Sam Houston stakes double for trainer Mike Maker and jockey Jose Ortiz. Two races earlier, evergreen Hogy justified 3-5 favoritism in the $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint.
Bigger Picture was almost as heavy a favorite, going off at 4-5 in the Connally. Since his victory here last January, the Badge of Silver gelding proved himself at the top level when capturing the United Nations (G1) in course-record time at Monmouth. He also finished a near-miss second in the Bowling Green (G2), third in the Sword Dancer Invitational (G1) and Elkhorn (G2), and a half-length fourth in the Mac Diarmida (G2). His only poor performance was a 12th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) last out, and this was just the right spot to get him back on track – and onto millionaires’ row.
Settled just off the contested pace set by Roman Approval through splits of :24.21, :49.94, 1:15.64, and 1:41.50 on the good course, Bigger Picture pounced in the stretch. The lead had already changed by then, first with Harlan Strong taking over followed by Some in Tieme picking up the baton. But Bigger Picture mowed him down by a length in a final time of 2:31.13 for 1 1/2 miles.
Aside from his own repeat, Bigger Picture was handing Maker his fifth straight Connally, and sixth in the last seven years. His previous winners were Papaw Bodie (2012), Admiral Kitten (2014), Coalport (2015) and Da Big Hoss (2016).
Some in Tieme just salvaged second by a head from the fast-finishing Chicago Style, who raced far back early and swung wide for the drive. Camelot Kitten, also given a lot to do, rallied from last for fourth in his debut for Maker. Harlan Strong weakened to sixth, and Roman Approval faded to 11th. He thereby split his early pace foes, Big Bend (10th) and West Road (last of 12).
Bigger Picture spent time in the claiming ranks, where Maker snapped him up for $32,000 at Aqueduct in November 2015. By the next fall, he converted him into a graded stakes competitor. Bigger Picture came up a nose shy in the 2016 Sycamore (G3) and broke through next time in the Red Smith (G3). With this fourth career stakes on his resume, Bigger Picture sports a 29-11-5-3 mark and earnings of $1,101,135.
Bred by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the seven-year-old chestnut is out of the Honour and Glory mare Glory Dancer, making him a half-brother to Grade 1-placed stakes scorer Gung Ho (by Kitten’s Joy). His second dam, Dancing All Night, is a Grade 2-winning full sister to multiple Grade 1 star Dancing Spree. His third dam is prolific broodmare Blitey, responsible for Fantastic Find (herself the dam of Finder’s Fee) and Furlough and ancestress of Heavenly Prize’s tribe.
Hogy is another profitable claim, although of a different sort. He was already an accomplished Grade 3 veteran, with a lengthy stakes resume, by the time Maker haltered him for $80,000 at Saratoga last summer. Then eight years old, Hogy furnished an immediate windfall by scoring in the lucrative Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint (G3) in his first start in Michael Hui’s colors. Subsequently second in the Woodford (G2) for the second straight year, Hogy was 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1). But he celebrated his official ninth birthday with a solid runner-up effort in the Janus at Gulfstream on New Year’s Day, and set himself up for a return trip to Sam Houston.
In last year’s Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint, Hogy was a furiously closing second, beaten a scant head, for trainer Scott Becker. On Sunday, it wasn’t even close. Confidently handled by Ortiz, the odds-on favorite was unhurried early, scythed through the inside on the turn, and blew by American Sailor in deep stretch.
Hogy was much the best, crossing the wire a handy 2 1/4 lengths clear while clocking five furlongs in :58.20. The Offlee Wild gelding has bankrolled $1,231,627 from his 49-18-13-6 record, reflecting wins or placings in 20 stakes dating back to his juvenile season.
Bred by Dr. John E. Little in Kentucky, Hogy sold for $17,000 as a yearling at Keeneland January. While his dam, the Petionville mare Floy, doesn’t have any significant relatives up close, her further family is impressive. Hogy’s fifth dam is Broodmare of the Year Too Bald, who produced the likes of Exceller and Capote, Baldski and American Standard. This is the branch descending from Too Bald’s daughter Bald Facts, ancestress of Charitable Man and Code West.