Saturday was a banner day here, there and yonder for Terry Finley’s West Point Thoroughbreds, who enjoyed victories with promising horses at three racetracks.
The prominent racing syndicate kicked off Saturday’s early daily double at Belmont Park with highly-regarded First Captain winning on debut in the opener, followed by Classic Colors defeating New York-bred winners going 1 1/16 miles over the Widener turf course.
“It really drives the fact that horseracing is a team effort,” Finley said. “We think about all the people that have played a part of these magical horses. It’s just an overall great experience for the partners.”
Owned in partnership with Bobby Flay, Siena Farm and Woodford Racing, First Captain utilized a prominent trip going seven furlongs on debut for Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey.
The Curlin sophomore registered a 93 Beyer Speed Figure, tracking along the rail in third position early on, saved ground around the far turn, and found a new gear in the final sixteenth of a mile when surging past favorite Mahaamel under a hand ride by jockey Jose Ortiz
Bred by Flay, who also campaigned the horse’s graded stakes-winning dam America, First Captain was a $1.5 million purchase from Arthur Hancock III’s Stone Farm consignment at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale.
“He’s just a really cool horse. Bobby Flay owned and bred the dam and he stayed in on the horse when we bought him,” said Finley. “He has a commercial operation, so when he’s willing to stay in it gives us some confidence. We put together a great partnership. [Bloodstock agent] David Ingordo is our man when it comes to buying horses and he’s tied in with Lane’s End and they have a partnership in Woodford Racing. I’ve always admired Shug, so when he was in position and the opportunity came up to give him some horses, we took it. Everything just fell into place.”
Finley said he is unsure where the promising First Captain would race next, but said he is already starting to dream big.
“A debut like that makes a lot of people happy and that’s the power of the partnership,” Finley said. “Shug’s the captain of the ship and he’s faced these situations before. I’m sure he’s just as excited as we are. We know the targets during the second half of the year, but it’s just figuring out how to get there.”
While First Captain utilized a stalk-and-pounce approach, fellow West Point color-bearer Classic Colors came from eight lengths off a leisurely pace to secure a first-level allowance triumph for trainer Christophe Clement and co-owners Harrell Ventures, Kenneth G. Beitz and Gail P. Beitz.
Bred in the Empire State by John Lauriello, the daughter of Street Sense handled her first start in seven months with aplomb. Placed at the rear of the field by Ortiz down the backstretch, Classic Colors made one big run in mid-stretch to win by 1 ½ lengths. The win registered a career-best 74 Beyer.
“Going down the backside, Jose had plenty of horse,” said Finley. “Christophe and [assistant and son] Miguel [Clement] liked the way she was coming off her winter break. With a good filly like this, we decided to let her catch her breath a bit.”
While restricted New York-bred stakes are an option for Classic Colors, Finley said open company stakes are very much within the realm of possibility.
“The New York-bred stakes are always an option,” Finley said. “But with this filly, there’s enough quality that we could go hunting for a bigger race.”
A winner at third asking at Belmont Park, Classic Colors previously faced open company when finishing third to subsequent Grade 1-placed Seasons in her second start. She backed up her heavy favoritism in her September 24 maiden victory coming from well off the pace to win by a half-length.
Classic Colors was purchased by Clement for $170,000 from the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred Yearling Sale, where she was consigned by Indian Creek. She is out of the unraced Tale of the Cat mare Flaunted and is a direct descendant of the prolific matriarch broodmare La Troienne.
West Point’s winning ways kept rolling with a stakes triumph from Jaxon Traveler, who captured the six-furlong Bachelor at Oaklawn Park in gate-to-wire fashion.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, the Maryland-bred son of Munnings made his first trio of starts in the Old Line State winning his first two starts by open lengths at Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park, respectively. In his third start, he defeated his state-bred counterparts in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity on December 5 at Laurel Park before shipping to Oaklawn, where he suffered his lone defeat finishing a head shy of victory in the Gazebo at the Arkansas oval.
“He’s a good gate horse as a lot of Steve’s horses are, which helped him,” Finley said. “Every time he runs he puts in that surge on the turn. The ability to really separate himself in the race has helped him a lot.”
Finley mentioned the Grade 3, $200,000 Chick Lang on May 15 at Pimlico Race Course and the Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens on June 5 at Belmont Park as possible next targets.
“I think he’s in the spot where he deserves to try the big dogs,” Finley said.
West Point owns Jaxon Traveler in partnership with Marvin Delfiner.
“He’s been in the business for 60 years and he’s having a ball. I couldn’t get him off the phone last night he was so excited,” said Finley.
West Point’s most exciting performance was saved for last when Flightline put on a paid workout like performance in his career debut at Santa Anita going six furlongs. The son of Tapit, out of graded stakes winner Feathered, was never asked by jockey Flavien Prat, cruising home a gate-to-wire winner by 13 ¼ lengths, garnering a 105 Beyer.
Flightline is trained by John Sadler and owned in partnership with Hronis Racing, Siena Farm and Summer Wind Equine.
“We always have liked this horse,” Finley said. “He was broke at Mayberry Farm in Ocala, who David Ingordo has used for a training center for a while. They tout a little bit, but they really touted this one coming off the farm. We were expecting a good performance, but not quite what we saw yesterday.”
The Grade 3, $100,000 Lazaro Barerra on May 15 at Santa Anita going 6 ½ furlongs is a possible next target.
“That race would only give us three weeks, but he wasn’t really taxed in yesterday’s race,” Finley said. “He cooled out pretty quickly so it would be a matter of if we want to run back that quickly. I think he wants to go further.”
Flightline is a direct descendant of prominent Phipps broodmare Blitey and comes from the same family as accomplished runners Finder’s Fee, Furlough, Heavenly Prize, Dancing Forever, Good Reward and Pure Prize. All were campaigned by the Phipps family.
“He comes from a very productive family and he has us already thinking about big races later on. Saratoga has a great program for 3-year-olds so he could end up shipping there this summer,” Finley said.
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