Next Sets Sights on $150K Birdstone

June 11, 2023

Next wins the Brooklyn in frontrunning fashion under Luan Machado (NYRA/Coglianese)

NYRA Press Office

ELMONT, N.Y.— Michael A. Foster’s Next posted a powerful frontrunning performance under Luan Machado to capture Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Brooklyn, a 12-furlong marathon for older horses over Big Sandy.

Trained by William ‘Doug’ Cowans, the 5-year-old Not This Time gelding led through splits of 24.37 seconds, 50.02, 1:16.12 and 1:41.62, opening up by six lengths at the stretch call and stayed on strong down the lane to win by 2 1/4-lengths over Calibrate in a final time of 2:31.01. The prominent effort earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure.

The 48-year-old Cowans credited Machado, who has piloted Next to three wins in his last four starts, for metering out Next’s speed.

“He’s very good with that and that reflects in the morning too when he’s breezing horses. He knows right where the horse is at and how quick they’re going,” Cowans said. “The horse has an uncanny amount of stamina. I think it’s why he enjoys these longer races. He really likes to get into a rhythm with everything that he does, not just racing – even galloping or walking in the shed row. Once he gets in that rhythm, he gets really focused. The longer races helped that with the tempo a little bit slower and once he’s in that rhythm, he keeps on motoring.”

Next made his first 10 starts for trainer Wesley Ward, launching his career in June 2020 with an off-the-board effort in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight over the Woodbine Tapeta. He broke through at third asking in an off-the-turf route at Keeneland later that year, but found his best stride on the lawn where he captured the one-mile War Chant at Churchill Downs.

Cowans haltered the three-time grass winner for $62,500 from an off-the-board effort in a one-mile optional-claimer last March over the Turfway Park synthetic.

While Ward trainees are arguably best known for their success in sprint races, Cowans said he had other plans for Next once he got to know the grey gelding.

“The horse does have speed, it’s just the way you use it with him,” Cowans said. “I had watched him all last winter here and I loved the way the horse moved. When I claimed him, I did not have this idea of running him in marathon races – that came after spending a little time with the horse. But he’s a horse I really liked and when I saw him in for a tag, I wanted to go after him.”

Next heads to the winner’s circle after the Brookyn (Susie Raisher)

Cowans entered Next in a nine-furlong turf route last May at Churchill first off the claim and he responded with a frontrunning score under Brian Hernandez, Jr. while racing for a $50,000 tag.

“He’d shown his better races on the grass, but he ran so bad the day I claimed him. He got in a speed duel that,” Cowans said. “So, I thought let’s stretch him out and put him back on the grass and go from there. The day he won, I though this horse might go a little bit further knowing what I did about his works.”

Cowans and Hernandez, Jr. were convinced that Next, who is out of the multiple stakes-placed Awesome Again mare Bahia Beach, moved equally well on both turf and dirt and came to the conclusion that entering in turf races might benefit the horse.

“We thought that might be a good angle that any time it rained, it would come off and he’d run against a bunch of turf horses on the dirt,” Cowans said.

On September 8 at Delaware Park, the 12-furlong Cape Henelopen was taken off-the-turf and Next romped to an 18 1/4-length score that garnered a 100 Beyer – his first triple-digit figure.

He followed with a frontrunning romp in the 1 5/8-mile Grade 2 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance on November 4 at Keeneland while competing on the Breeders’ Cup Friday undercard. That effort, which garnered a 105 Beyer, cemented Next’s status as a marathoner and will see the horse continue on a path towards the $150,000 Birdstone, a 1 3/4-mile test on July 27 at Saratoga Race Course.

“It’s been a good ride with the horse,” said Cowans, who oversees as many as 60 horses split evenly between Turfway Park and The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington. “The Birdstone is the plan and it’s been the plan since the horse won at the Breeders’ Cup last year.”

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