Bango FLEW to the finish in the St. Matthews Overnight taking victory by 5 lengths. (Coady Photography)
By Maribeth Kalinich
Saturday at Churchill Downs Tamaroak Stable’s homebred Bango will contend for his third consecutive Aristides Stakes win, an accomplishment in and of itself. But the 6-year-old Congrats son will mark another milestone with a victory in the race named for the great sprinter Aristides.
With his thirteenth career victory for trainer Greg Foley, Bango will collect his eleventh win at Churchill Downs and tie the record for winningest horse at the historic racetrack. (I could not find the name of the other horse!)
“He’s a well-made, muscular colt,” said Foley told WLKY’s Fred Cowgill. “He’s a nice horse. We’ve been lucky, good enough to run in these races, winning that many races at Churchill, allowance, stakes races and more to be proud of.”
The first of Bango’s 30 career starts took place at Ellis Park August 18, 2019, with a fourth-place result.
The son of Smart Strike mare Josaka would make two more attempts this time at Churchill Downs with second and third place results. Bango’s maiden win and first Churchill Downs win happened Nov. 2 beating a field of 13 at six furlongs under James Graham. Stalking in third with an opening quarter of 21.85 and taking control just after the half mile, he also garnered a pretty nice Equibase Speed Figure of 93.
Bango’s next “win” would be somewhat controversial and comes with an asterisk.
Another 3-year-old colt would start in an Allowance Optional Claiming race at Churchill with Bango Nov. 30 and actually win the race by 7-1/2 lengths. But promising Bernardini son Art Collector was denied his second career victory and what would have been his first of five straight wins due to a disqualification.
Per ruling from the Kentucky Racing Commission, Art Collector was disqualified for positive test.
Sadly, Nearly one year after trainer Joe Sharp appealed a 30-day suspension for a series of positive tests for levamisole, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission issued a one-sentence ruling on Jan. 14, 2022, vacating all sanctions against him.
The ruling read: “Due to the de-classification in August 2015 by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, all penalties previously assessed to Owner/Trainer Joe Sharp in Stewards’ Rulings #21-0006, #21-0008, #21-0010, #21-0011 and #21-0012 are hereby vacated. By Order of the Stewards.”
The five horses who tested positive for levamisole were disqualified and purse monies redistributed, according to 2020 rulings. They are: Zero Gravity (Nov. 14, 2019); Chitto (Nov. 19, 2019); Street Dazzle (Nov. 23, 2019); Blackberry Wine (Nov. 30, 2019); and, Art Collector (Nov. 30, 2019). The reversal of sanctions against Sharp did not affect those disqualifications.
So, this Allowance stands in the *win column for Bango.
The dark bay would win his first stakes earning Black Type at Turfway Park in the Animal Kingdom March 14, 2020. Then he would lose, then win Allowances at Churchill Downs sandwiching an unimpressive performance in the Tom Ridge at Presque Isle Downs.
After a fourth place in the Perryville at Keeneland Bango racked up another Allowance win at Churchill Downs in late November 2020 to close out his campaign.
Bango started his 4-year-old season with a slate of stakes at various tracks—Forego at Turfway at 6-1/2 furlongs, Colonel Power at the Fair Grounds at 7 furlongs, and also at 7 furlongs, the Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland stepping up. Then bigger step up May 1 into Grade 1 territory in the Churchill Downs Stakes at his favorite track. But it was not his day with a sixth-place finish.
Exactly four weeks later things would start to change.
May 29, 2021, against a field of ten including notables Long Range Toddy and Tap It To Win, Bango would find the winner’s circle for the first time in the Astrides Stakes. But it would come with a dramatic flourish.
Piloted by Marcelino Pedoza, Jr., Bango broke from gate 3 almost into last place right in front of Long Range Toddy under Jon Court. Taking the lead from Sir Alfred James with Colby Hernandez up, Edgemont Road and Ricardo Santana Jr., would set a 21.53 quarter as Bango was still in eighth position at the half mile. But at the top of the stretch the colt would rally to first with Long Range Toddy passing Sir Alfred James steadfast in third but missing the victory by 1/2 a length, the latter 3/4 back.
The encore to the Aristides was success in the Kelly’s Landing Overnight at Churchill Downs in June with a curtain call at Ellis Park in the Good Lord Stakes in July again beating Sir Alfred James.
Bango was stakes placed in his last two races of 2021, both at Churchill. He would earn fourth place in his 5-year-old debut at Churchill in the St. Matthews Overnight in May after a few months off.
One month later, although the defender in the race, Bango would go off at 11-1 odds in the Aristides.
In his come-from-behind style, this time under Tyler Gaffalione, Bango would have to sprint in the final few furlongs for the 2-1/2 length victory over Necker Island. Bango’s usual rival, Long Range Toddy, would finish fourth that year under Luis Saez.
Bango has had four more starts at Churchill Downs with three victories, the latest of which was the St. Matthews Overnight Stakes May 4.
“Of all the horses that have ran here over all the years here, for him to win Saturday, tie the record, great. Mention one more and break it, a lot of good horses here over the years, sure it’d be special,” said Foley.
If Bango wins Saturday, that bandwagon figures to get heavier as he may have a chance to then break the Churchill Downs all-time wins record during the final days of the spring meet.
Regardless, Foley says Bango is doing so well he may race again in 2024 at age seven.
“To have a horse of this quality to shoot for these Saturday races makes it more fun,” said Foley. “A lot of people rooting for you. He’s got a big rooting section.”