Hitherto a $1.2 million juvenile purchase finding his way in the world, Colonel Liam has officially arrived. The 5-2 favorite in Saturday’s $981,700 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) tackled stablemate Largent to give trainer Todd Pletcher the exacta at Gulfstream Park. Pletcher nearly had the trifecta, just denied by the Mike Maker-trained Cross Border who edged Social Paranoia for third.
Although Robert and Lawana Low’s Colonel Liam had yet to face older horses in a stakes, or compete in a graded event, he brought top form versus the sophomore turf class of 2020. A sneaky fourth to Domestic Spending and Gufo in his stakes debut in the Saratoga Derby Invitational, Colonel Liam put it all together with a devastating display in the Dec. 26 Tropical Park Derby. That garnered him not only an invitation to the Pegasus Turf, but the favorite’s mantle as well.
Irad Ortiz reserved Colonel Liam in a ground-saving spot in midpack, in the slipstream of Largent who was drafting just behind the leaders. Up front, Storm the Court doled out moderate fractions of :23.59, :48.69, and 1:12.85, prompted by fellow California shipper (and 3.70-1 second choice) Anothertwistafate. Social Paranoia was also forward early, with Luis Saez opting to be aggressive from the far outside post 12.
Turning for home, a gap opened on the rail for Largent, who darted through with the craftiness of his namesake. The 4.20-1 third choice took charge and made his bid for glory.
Meanwhile, Colonel Liam was angling out for the overland route. Once in the clear, the well-regarded gray overpowered Largent by a neck in 1:53.09 for 1 3/16 firm-turf miles.
If not for a tough trip out wide, Social Paranoia might have held his position down the lane. Collared by the closing Cross Border, Social Paranoia was relegated to fourth by a half-length. Next came Pixelate; Next Shares, who did well to snatch sixth after lagging near the tail early; Storm the Court; Aquaphobia; Breaking the Rules; North Dakota, off a beat slow; Say the Word; and Anothertwistafate.
From the first crop of Pletcher’s 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) hero Liam’s Map, Colonel Liam is out of the Bernardini mare Amazement. He’s following in the turfy hoofsteps of his second dam, multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Wonder Again, herself a sister to Japanese champion Grass Wonder.
Colonel Liam was bred by Phillips Racing Partnership in Kentucky. Sold for a bargain $50,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, he provided a pinhooking windfall for Ron and Suzanne Fein’s Waves Bloodstock at OBS April, when commanding $1.2 million from the Lows.
Initial hopes were for Colonel Liam to develop into a Kentucky Derby (G1) contender, but he didn’t do enough on the main track to join the trail. Unraced as a juvenile, he scored in his career debut on the Gulfstream dirt last April, but via disqualification. Colonel Liam next placed third in an allowance in the slop, and connections decided to regroup on turf. The surface switch was a revelation, as he steamrolled a Saratoga allowance en route to stakes company. The Pegasus Turf boosted his earnings to $690,965 from a 6-4-0-1 record.
Now the early leader of the 2021 turf male division, Colonel Liam could have international aspirations. Robert Low floated the idea of Royal Ascot in the postrace press conference, albeit adding that Pletcher might not be as keen on such a venture.