Robert and Lawana Low’s Colonel Liam charged into the picture for the Jan. 23 Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) with a terrific performance in Saturday’s $75,000 Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream Park.
Tropical Park Derby
The $1.2 million purchase had not raced since his stakes debut in the Aug. 15 Saratoga Derby Invitational, where he was a tough-trip fourth to Domestic Spending and Gufo. That form has worked out well in the interim, and Colonel Liam was dispatched as the 6-5 favorite against a useful cast here.
Confidently handled by Irad Ortiz, the Todd Pletcher trainee was reserved in sixth as front-running Don Juan Kitten carved out moderate splits of :24.30 and :48.51 on the firm course. But when the leader reached 6 furlongs in 1:12.23, Colonel Liam was on the march. With an eye-catching move to circle the field on the far turn, the favorite stormed to the front swinging into the stretch and drew off to a commanding 3 1/4-length score.
Don Juan Kitten held second by a neck from Pletcher’s other runner, Summer to Remember, who was a head up on the troubled By Your Side. Fancy Liquor, the 2.90-1 second choice, tired to fifth after racing prominently from a wide post. Next came Sole Volante, lackluster in his first turf start since trying the Triple Crown trail; Angelus Warrior; Me and Mr. C; Fighting Seabee; and early stalker Dack Janiel’s.
Colonel Liam covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.95, upping his line to 5-3-0-1, $141,965. The gray started out on Gulfstream’s dirt, but didn’t set the world alight. Handed a debut win via disqualification Apr. 11, he was a distant third in a May 24 entry-level allowance in the slop.
Although those results might have given pause about his six-figure auction price at OBS April, Colonel Liam was a different horse on the switch to turf. That makes sense given his female line. The Liam’s Map colt is out of the Bernardini mare Amazement, but his second dam is multiple Grade 1-winning turfiste Wonder Again, herself a full sister to Japanese champion Grass Wonder.
Colonel Liam stamped his authority in an July 22 Saratoga allowance. If not for a troubled start in the Saratoga Derby that shuffled him back, he might have worked himself into the fray earlier. As it was, he was beaten only three-quarters of a length in just his second try on turf. The Tropical Park Derby suggests he’ll be a force to reckon with as a 4-year-old in 2021.
“He’s really taken to the turf,” Pletcher told Gulfstream publicity. “We saw that in his allowance at Saratoga. He got in a little trouble in the Saratoga Derby.
“He came back great. I thought it was an impressive race. He kind of made a little bit of an early move and kept on going.
“He’d been training exceptionally well leading to this. We’re happy to get him back. Hopefully, that earns him a spot in the Pegasus Turf.”
As his family attests, Colonel Liam was bred by the Phillips Racing Partnership. The Kentucky-bred first sold for $50,000 as a Keeneland September yearling before becoming a pinhook home run for Ron and Suzanne Fein’s Waves Bloodstock. Consigned by Wavertree Stables as agent, Colonel Liam topped his session and brought the second-highest price overall at OBS April.
Tropical Park Oaks
The $75,000 Tropical Park Oaks also marked a first stakes success for a blueblood, as the Phipps Stable’s homebred Vigilantes Way went wire to wire. The beaten favorite when placing in both the Hilltop at Pimlico and the Nov. 15 Winter Memories, the 5-2 second choice appreciated a return to on-pace tactics. New rider Julien Leparoux saved enough early, despite being pestered by 108-1 longshot Blue Mistress, for Vigilantes Way to kick away by 2 1/4 lengths in the lane. The Shug McGaughey pupil clocked 1 1/16 grassy miles in 1:40.61.
More Than Unusual prevailed in a photo with Speaktomeofsummer for the runner-up spot. Mo of the West lasted for fourth by a neck from 11-10 favorite Stunning Sky. Blue Mistress wound up a tailed-off last.
Vigilantes Way has bankrolled $148,452 from her 8-4-1-2 record. By Medaglia d’Oro, she is the fourth stakes performer produced by Salute, a daughter of Unbridled and unbeaten Hall of Famer Personal Ensign. Salute is also responsible for Grade 1 hero and sire Mr Speaker, Grade 3 winner Fire Away, and Grade 3-placed Snap Decision, later successful over hurdles.
“She’s a half-sister to Mr Speaker and he liked the grass, so we always had that in mind,” McGaughey said. “She’s been a pleasant surprise. As a yearling, she was a little bit of a small, immature filly, and she’s still small. But she’s matured out and her races have all been very good.”
“I was not expecting to be on the lead,” Leparoux said, “but she broke very sharp and she was doing it very nicely. She relaxed for me on the backside and from there she was very comfortable the whole time. When I asked her in the stretch, she won nicely.”
H. Allen Jerkens Stakes
Leparoux was capping a stakes double after springing a 28-1 upset aboard Sir Anthony in the $75,000 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes. With an unprepossessing 4-0-0-1 mark on turf, and winless since the 2019 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker (G3), Sir Anthony responded to the step up to 2 miles. The son of Mineshaft ran down Conviction Trade, who was trying to lead all the way, in a course-record 3:19.48. The 2.70-1 favorite, Focus Group, was a non-threatening seventh.
Trained by Anthony Mitchell, the Richard Otto Stables homebred has been an unlikely hero at this time of year before. In the 2018 Harlan’s Holiday (G3), the 25-1 Sir Anthony famously toppled 1-10 favorite Audible. His resume now reads 28-7-3-4, $493,550.
The Illinois-bred 5-year-old, out of the multiple stakes-placed Smart Strike mare Mourette, hails from the extended family of two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome.