ELMONT, N.Y. – Rick Sacco of Red Oak Stable, who owns Mind Control in partnership with Madaket Stables, said the multiple Grade 1-winner was bright eyed and happy on Monday following a redemption victory in Sunday’s Grade 2, $250,000 John A. Nerud at Belmont Park, where he denied horse-for-course Firenze Fire an eighth victory over Big Sandy.
Making his first start for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, the Stay Thirsty bay ended an 0-for-6 slump, battling to the outside of Firenze Fire down the backstretch, ultimately getting the better of his foe by a head. Mind Control, who was reunited with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, replicated a career-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure garnered in his previous victory in the Grade 3 Tom Fool in March 2020 at Aqueduct.
Mind Control arrived at the Nerud, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November at Del Mar, off a close seventh in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs on May 1 for his former conditioner Gregg Sacco. Mind Control finished second to Mischevious Alex in his 2021 bow in the Grade 1 Carter on April 3 at the Big A.
Sacco said the seven-furlong Grade 1, $600,000 Forego on August 28 at Saratoga Race Course would likely be the next target. Both of Mind Control’s previous Grade 1 scores came in seven-furlong events at the Spa, capturing the 2018 Hopeful and 2019 H. Allen Jerkens.
“The Forego is our plan,” Sacco said. “When the horse was turned over to Todd, I told him that we wanted to point to yesterday’s race. I knew that would give him enough time to acclimate to Todd’s program.
“He came out of it awesome,” Sacco added. “He jogged super this morning and he was bright eyed, so now he’ll ship up to Saratoga, get freshened and they’ll get him ready for the Forego.”
Mind Control, bred in Kentucky by Red Oak Stable, is out of the Lightnin N Thunder mare Feel That Fire.
“The win means so much to Red Oak because we own the mare Feel That Fire, and we own her mother [Ubetwereven] as well,” said Sacco. “We have such nice foals out of these two mares in the pipeline, so when Mind Control wins, it means a lot to the operation.”
Sacco said Mind Control encountered considerable barriers during his 2020 campaign, including a couple of sloppy tracks. He was a distant sixth and eighth over off going in the Grade 1 Runhappy Carter and last year’s Forego, respectively.
“For him to win after so many losses in a row was great. It was a tough campaign last year,” Sacco said. “You train for so long and hit a couple of sloppy tracks. After the first time he ran in the slop, he disliked it. At Saratoga, it was slop again. Two times in his career, he had really sloppy tracks, but you’re always working around the weather and working around getting them in the best possible condition. Last year was very tough. We didn’t have the type of campaign we wanted to have.”
Sacco said the post-position draw may have played in favor of Mind Control, who exited post 2 Sunday to the outside of Firenze Fire.
“Todd, John and myself knew that Firenze Fire was going to go from the rail,” said Sacco. “There were others that showed good speed, but not of our quality. Johnny said he wasn’t going to let the horse get away from him, and that if we got away clean, we were going to apply the pressure. He’s a fighter and he doesn’t lose those dog-fight type of races.”
Mind Control has a 2-year-old half-sister by Mineshaft named Goddess of Fire, who also will be trained by Pletcher.
“She breezed this morning at Saratoga in what was her second breeze for Todd,” Sacco said. “She has a good foundation underneath her and is a beautiful filly. Mind Control is a medium sized horse and will make a good stallion prospect. He is very correct and well-balanced. She’s a great big filly, so I’m sure Todd will take his time with her.”
Despite the differences in conformation, Sacco said Mind Control and Goddess of Fire both display the same professional demeanor.
“Mind Control is very straight forward. You tack him up, he wants to go do his business and not be fooled around with,” Sacco said. “The family is straightforward in the same manner. The whole time we had her on the farm, she just wanted to train and do her business. Both are very businesslike.”
NYRA Press Office
Photo: Mind Control, (NYRA/Coglianese)