Bango Looks to Rebound in the Jeff Hall Memorial Stakes

July 22, 2022

There are times when a racehorse puts in a less than stellar outing and, in absence of any obvious excuse, a trainer is left shaking their head wondering what piece of circumstance might have gone awry.

In the case of Bango’s most recent start, Greg Foley can at least take solace in the fact there is tangible evidence to explain away what on paper looked to be a lackluster end result from his veteran charge.

From being bumped after the break to bouncing off the rail in the stretch, there wasn’t a whole lot that went right for Bango during his fourth-place finish in the July 2 Kelly’s Landing Overnight Stakes at Churchill Downs. Having emerged none the worse for wear after that eventful run, the 5-year-old son of Congrats will try and shift the winds of fortune back in his favor on July 24 when he faces 11 challengers in the $75,000 Jeff Hall Memorial Stakes on the main track at Ellis Park.

The 6 1/2-furlong Jeff Hall Memorial drew an overflow field of 13 that is as deep in quality as it is entrants with stakes winner and former Breeders’ Cup starter Manny Wah relegated to the also-eligible list.

With multiple stakes victories on his past performance lines and nearly $700,000 in career earnings, Bango has no shortage of class from which to pull from. Prior to his hiccup in the Kelly’s Landing, the dark bay horse rewarded those who backed him at odds of 10-1 when he captured the six-furlong Aristides Stakes at Churchill Downs for a second straight year.

Owned and bred by Tamaroak Partners, Bango won three stakes during his 2021 campaign including a 5 1/2-length romp in the 6 1/2-furlong Good Lord Stakes at Ellis Park last July.

“He’s a really good-looking colt and, knock on wood he’s always been sound, a horse you can run and train,” Foley said. “We had a tough trip in the last race at Churchill (the Kelly’s Landing). We thought we had a big chance to win and ended up kind of a dull-looking fourth the way it looked on paper. But he got banged around on both sides leaving the gate and just was never in a good spot.

“The rail opened up turning for home and I don’t who, what, or why he did what he did but he bounced off the rail pretty bad. (Jockey) Tyler (Gaffalione) was on him and said he might have broke his toe he hit it so hard. After that, he didn’t stop but he just kind of flattened out. But he came out of it fine. We went over everything and everything looked good. He ran big winning he race at Ellis last year so….it looked like a good little spot.”

A winner of nine of 24 career starts, Bango has been a honest runner even when he’s not having his best day. The last time he finished worse than fourth came when he was sixth in the 2021 Churchill Downs Stakes (G1), a race where he was beaten just 2 1/2 lengths by winner Flagstaff.

Sunday’s Jeff Hall will also mark the latest meeting between Bango and former Kentucky Derby (G1) starter Necker Island with the latter taking the Bet on Sunshine Stakes at Churchill last November and Bango getting the best of his foe during his 2 1/2-length victory in the Aristides.

“If he runs his best race, he’s the horse to beat,” Foley said of Bango. “He’s beaten a lot of these horses before – Necker island has beat us once and we’ve beaten him a couple times. We’re going to give him another try.”

Bango will break from post No. 5 on Sunday with Marcelino Pedroza, Jr. in the saddle.

Finishing ahead of Bango in the Kelly’s Landing was 6-year-old Kneedeepinsnow, who has posted two promising efforts since being claimed by Ten Strike Racing and Jeremy Sussman for $80,000 out of his victory going 6 1/2 furlongs at Keeneland on April 29.

Now trained by Matt Shirer, the gelded son of Flat Out ran second in the June 11 Work All Week Stakes at Hawthorne in his first start for his new connections and did well to hold third behind 2021 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) hero Aloha West after setting the pace in the Kelly’s Landing.

“He’s got a really high cruising speed I think,” Shirer said of Kneedeepinsnow. “He’s not a need the lead horse but…the biggest thing I have learned is when he gets to a certain speed he just keeps going. In the Kelly’s Landing, he went 44 and change for the half and that’s racehorse time. And it took a Grade 3 winner (Miles Ahead) and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion to run him down. I honestly don’t think my horse slowed down that much. He just didn’t have that closing kick the way they did because they got the set up. But I thought our horse ran a massive race to still stay on for third.”

While Kneedeepinsnow doesn’t have to be on the front end, he looks to be the main speed on paper in the Jeff Hall – and Shirer isn’t about to take away his runner’s best weapon when the chestnut gelding breaks from post No. 4 Sunday under jockey Gabriel Saez.

“Handicapping it, I didn’t see a whole lot of speed,” Shirer said. “I thought he was the speed of the race and we’re not going to take him back. If he runs that race again (like he did in the Kelly’s Landing), he should be right here at the end in this race. I’m not going to take anything away from him.”

Ellis Park Press Release

Photo: Bango winning his 2nd Aristides last month at Churchill Downs (Coady Photography)

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