Kingsbarns Ready to Take Older Division Crown

July 2, 2024

Kingsbarns wears the crown in the Stephen Foster (Coady Media)

By Laura Pugh

The Older Male division has been in disarray through the entirety of the 2024 season. There have been horses that looked like they could assume the position at the top of the division, but no one horse had distinguished themselves.

The Stephen Foster Stakes, this past weekend, featured a star-studded field with several horses that could take control of the division with a solid victory. Chief among them was First Mission, a son of Street Sense, who was coming off two very dominating and impressive wins in the Essex and Alysheba Stakes. His lone blemish was a ninth place in the Pegasus World Cup, back in January, when receiving a much less than ideal trip…however it was not he who rose to the occasion, but the Todd Pletcher-trained Kingsbarns.

In 2023, the son of Uncle Mo flashed top talent on the road to the Kentucky Derby. He was victorious in his first three starts, including a dominant win in the Louisiana Derby. He failed to deliver in the Kentucky Derby, after being involved in a very quick early pace. After a puzzling second in Monmouth Park’s Pegasus Stakes he was put on the shelf until 2024, where he returned victorious at Gulfstream Park.

His return race was at a less-than-optimal distance of seven furlongs, and he also displayed a new tactic of tracking the pace rather than needing to be pressing or setting it. The tactics worked, as he was able to sit just off a torrid early pace and come closing down the lane for the win. He followed that effort up with another big win in the Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland, again, demonstrating that new stalking style.

A reversion to his old pace-setting/pressing tactics led to a speed duel between himself and Harlocap in Pimlico’s Pimlico Special on Preakness Saturday, resulting in his first defeat of the season. It was still a valiant effort, beaten less than a length to Pyrenees who had come into the race on a 3 race win streak.

In addition to Kingsbarns, Pyrenees, and First Mission, the Stephen Foster contained Skippylongstocking, who like First Mission, was coming into the race off two consecutive graded stakes wins. It was a loaded field, and with a return to stalking tactics, Kingsbarns proved completely and utterly dominant.

The pace in the Stephen Foster was anything but fast, in fact, First Mission saw much faster when he won the Alysheba Stakes. In the Stephen Foster, he had it all his own way, waltzing through early splits of 24.13 and 48.28 for the first half mile. Things picked up on the backside as Skippylongstocking pressed First Mission through a six-furlong split in 1:11.86. That is when Kingsbarns made his move, spinning up four wide to assume the lead at the top of the stretch, clocking the mile in 1:35.67. Pyrenees launched a bid in the stretch, but this time around, was no match For Kingsbarns, who drew off to win by 2 ½ lengths.

While some will likely still remain skeptical of Kingsbarns due to his Pimlico Special defeat, I feel like this is just the start for the Pletcher trainee. With this new stalking style, Kingsbarns is three for three in 2024, with the only defeat occurring when he was taken back to less patient race tactics.

Kingsbarns’ individual fourth quarter split was roughly 23.65, followed by a 12.42 final furlong. Those are racehorse splits, and top notch ones at that, which is why even with his strong closing kick, Pyrenees just couldn’t get up. Distance does not seem to be an issue for Kingsbarns, given the fact that he’s won at 1 3/16ths of a mile twice now, and looked very good doing so.

Should he continue using the stalking tactics, I see no reason that Kingsbarns cannot continue his ascension to the top of the Older Male division. He’s always been fast, but with maturity, he’s proving that he has little to no match, at least on the East Coast. The next target will likely be Saratoga’s Whitney Stakes, where he could face the Met Mile winner, National Treasure, in a match that would almost certainly decide the true leader of the division.

Contributing Authors

Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002. At that...

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