June 21, 2024

Colonel Liam makes it three straight in Muniz Memorial Classic

Colonel Liam
Colonel Liam, with Irad Ortiz Jr. up, wins the Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) (Jamie Newell/TwinSpires)

The class of the field coming off a victory in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1), Colonel Liam had no trouble toting top weight of 124 pounds in Saturday’s $300,000 Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) at Fair Grounds. Todd Pletcher’s 7-10 favorite enjoyed a textbook, ground-saving trip courtesy of Irad Ortiz, who was winning his third race on the Louisiana Derby Day card.

Muniz Memorial Classic

After the scratch of defending champion and likely pacesetter Factor This (due to a foot bruise according to Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh), Two Emmys seized the early lead under an enterprising James Graham. Colonel Liam was reserved a few lengths astern through fractions of :23.79, :49.08, and 1:14.51 on the good course, but crept closer until angling out to strike turning for home.

Although Two Emmys tried hard to make it a tussle, and take advantage of his six-pound weight break, he was outgunned by the favorite. Colonel Liam asserted by 1 1/2 lengths while completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.33.

“When Irad and I talked about it,” Pletcher said, “we weren’t sure how much pace there was going to be. But the great thing about a horse like this is, he is so versatile that if they go fast early, he can settle back and if they go slow, he can put himself in a good stalking position.

“He was on the bridle; he hadn’t run in a little while so he was maybe a touch fresh. He kind of pulled his way up there, but I think that was more a product of the slower second quarter. He always looked like he was in a good position. The horse who was second (Two Emmys), he kicked on a bit and (Colonel Liam) had to work to get past him, but I like the way he finished up and they looked like they were well clear of the third horse.”

Another 3 1/2 lengths back came Logical Myth, who got up for third in a blanket finish with Pixelate, Ninety One Assault, and Captivating Moon. Early stalker Peace Achieved faded to seventh, followed by slow-starting Conviction Trade, Spooky Channel, and Olympic Runner. Cross Border was the other withdrawal aside from Factor This.

Robert and Lawana Low’s Colonel Liam has now won three straight, his Dec. 26 Tropical Park Derby breakthrough setting him up for the Jan. 23 Pegasus. Previously a close fourth in his stakes debut in the Aug. 15 Saratoga Derby, the gray has earned $870,965 from a 7-5-0-1 line.

Colonel Liam, a $1.2 million OBS April juvenile, is expected to aim for the May 1 Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) on Kentucky Derby Day. The other runner to sweep the Pegasus Turf, Muniz, and Old Forester is 2019 Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar, and Colonel Liam is likewise threatening to dominate the turf division.

“The way he galloped out around the turn gives us encouragement that he’ll handle longer distances,” Pletcher said. “The way he continues to go out after the wire, I think that next start scheduled (the Old Forester) is going to be 1 1/8 miles and then we can look at the Manhattan (G1) after that at 1 1/4 miles (June 5).

“If he were to handle that, I think that puts everything else in play up to 1 1/2 miles. He’s got such a lovely disposition; a great mind and he’s willing to relax and settle. It gives us a lot of opportunities.”

Bred by Phillips Racing Partnership in Kentucky, Colonel Liam is by Liam’s Map and out of Amazement, an unraced daughter of Bernardini and multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Wonder Again.

Tom Benson Memorial

Ortiz had to do more maneuvering in traffic aboard the 9-1 Summer in Saratoga in the $150,000 Tom Benson Memorial S. on the turf. Trained by Joe Sharp for Highland Training Center, the Hard Spun filly rallied from well off the pace to deny Dominga by a neck. Winning Envelope checked in third, with Joy Epifora tiring to fourth. Dalika, the 5-2 favorite, retreated to ninth in the 12-distaffer field.

Summer in Saratoga negotiated 1 1/16 grassy miles in 1:42.15 to earn her first stakes score. Last seen landing a Sept. 10 allowance at Kentucky Downs, the five-year-old mare sports a mark of 11-4-1-2, $270,092.

Out of the Grade 1-winning Arch mare Love Theway Youare, and descended from multiple Grade 1 star and millionaire Sabin, Summer in Saratoga was bred in Kentucky by My Meadowview. The bay initially brought $200,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. After going winless in two starts for Chad Brown, she sold for $165,000 at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Summer Horses of Racing Age Sale and joined Sharp.