Never Surprised, Sweet Melania Breeze for Grass Races, Stewart Will Run if Title Ready Gets in Cup Field
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Tracy Farmer’s Sir Winston breezed an easy five furlongs Friday morning at Palm Meadows Training Center in preparation for the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Jan. 29 at Gulfstream Park.
The 2019 Belmont Stakes (G1) champion was timed in 1:02.30 for his fifth workout at Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County since concluding his resurgent 2021 campaign at Woodbine.
“He’s been training well. His breeze this morning was very good,” said trainer Mark Casse, who reported that he has yet to decide who will ride the 6-year-old son of Awesome Again in the Pegasus World Cup, which will be featured on a blockbuster program that will also include the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) and the $500,000 Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf Invitational (G3).
Sir Winston returned from a layoff of nearly a year to enjoy a solid four-race 2021 campaign, starting with an impressive Aug. 19 allowance win at Woodbine, where the Kentucky homebred finished a close second in both the Durham Cup (G3) and Autumn (G2) before winning the 1 ½-mile Valedictory (G3).
Channel Cat Training Forwardly for $1 Million Pegasus Turf (G1)
Calumet Farm’s Channel Cat, the durable Grade 1-winning millionaire homebred, continues to train forwardly as he prepares for his next and possibly final start in the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) Jan. 29 at Gulfstream Park.
Channel Cat, by late 2007 turf champion English Channel, has been working steadily since mid-December for trainer Jack Sisterson at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County. The 7-year-old went an easy half-mile in 53 seconds Friday morning.
“You might think, ‘What’s going on here?’ but this [was] the plan because he went a quick half last week,” trainer Jack Sisterson said. “We’re just going to step back this week and then he’ll have probably a half in company next week and be ready to go.”
In his previous three works, the Channel Cat went four furlongs in 47.05 seconds Jan. 9, the fastest of 37 horses; 48.95 Jan. 2; and 48.90 Dec. 24, ranking first of 46 horses.
“His [Jan. 9] work was his first one in company. I was debating whether to keep him at a half or go five-eighths. He’s been doing enough at a half-mile; he’s only going to do too much going five-eighths,” Sisterson said. “The work was not as planned.
“We worked another horse, [Grade 2-placed] In Effect, and he sort of got a little bit keen outside of [Channel Cat]. It was beautiful to see Channel Cat relax inside. He was always traveling well and had a ton of horse left. We don’t want to run his race in the morning. He’s had a lot of air left in the tank in his works.”
Channel Cat has run in the Pegasus Turf before, never getting in contention after being bumped at the start in 2019 and finishing 10th for his previous trainer, Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher. Last winter, Channel Cat ran on the Pegasus undercard in the 1 ½-mile W.L. McKnight (G3), finishing fifth.
Since joining Sisterson in mid-2020, Channel Cat has run eight times with one win, the Man o’War (G1) at Belmont Park last May. Most recently he was second by a neck in the 1 3/8-mile Red Smith (G2) Nov. 20 at Aqueduct.
Overall, Channel Cat owns six wins, four seconds and five thirds with $1,456,022 in purse earnings from 30 lifetime starts. He is 2-1-2 in 10 career tries over the Gulfstream turf, running second in his July 1, 2017, debut. His other graded win came in the 2019 Bowling Green (G2) at Saratoga.
Channel Cat is listed on Calumet Farm’s website as one of its 15 stallions for 2022, with an advertised fee of $7,500.
“He’s a cool horse. He came in great shape off Todd, and I just didn’t want to ruin what Todd had done with him, so I just didn’t get in his way,” Sisterson said. “He’s an older horse, he knows his job, and he loves to get out there and train. If he’s not out there by 5:30, he shouts the barn down. If he’s not the first walk in the afternoon, again he shouts. We just try to keep him happy and not get in his way.”
Pletcher sent out two of his Pegasus Day probables out for half-mile works Friday on the dirt at Palm Beach Downs. Repole Stable’s multiple graded stakes placed Never Surprised, last out winner of the Dec. 26 Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream, went in 51.40 seconds while Robert and Lawana Low’s Sweet Melania covered the distance in 50.43.
Sweet Melania, who earned her third career graded-stakes triumph in the Dec. 18 Suwannee River (G3) at Gulfstream, is being pointed to the inaugural $500,000 Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf. Never Surprised could join his stablemate and defending champion Colonel Liam in the Pegasus Turf.
Stewart Will Run if Title Ready Gets in Pegasus Cup (G1) Field
Title Ready needs defections from original list of 19 invitees to get into the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) field, but trainer Dallas Stewart said the 7-year-old will run if granted the opportunity.
Title Ready most recently finished sixth in Oaklawn Park’s $200,000 Tinsel Dec. 18, but Stewart says to throw that performance out because of the sloppy track.
“He’s doing well, he just didn’t have a good race in the mud,” Stewart said. “We’ll see how it plays out.”
Since winning the Louisiana (G3) last January, Title Ready has raced only two other times, finishing off the board in the Dubai World Cup (G1) and then a close third in a tough Churchill Downs allowance off a 7 1/2-month layoff.
Title Ready’s second dam is Hall of Famer Personal Ensign, an extraordinarily rare unbeaten champion whose produce record lived up to her racing career. Personal Ensign’s unraced daughter Title Seeker was sold to Charles Fipke, owner-breeder of Title Ready, for $1.7 million in 2006 and has been a very good broodmare.
Title Seeker’s daughter, Seeking the Title, won the Iowa Oaks (G3) and was Grade 1-placed. Then Seeking the Title subsequently produced $3.78 million-earner Seeking the Soul, second in the 2019 Pegasus World Cup and 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and winner of the Clark Handicap (G1) and Stephen Foster (G2).
Gulfstream Park Press ReleaseTop Photo: Under Joel Rosario Sir Winston was the surprise 2019 Belmont champ over favorite Tacitus. (Joe Labozzetta)