FRANKLIN, Ky.— Somewhere, Bill Parcells was watching. Trainer Robbie Medina had no doubt about that.
And, wherever he was, Parcells had to have been pleased after his 3-year-old colt Play Action Pass won the $400,000 Pepsi Gun Runner Stakes at Kentucky Downs.
Parcells is a member of the pro football Hall of Fame and is a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach of the New York Giants. With his football days behind him, Parcells has turned his full athletic attention to thoroughbred racing.
Play Action Pass, aptly named for a horse owned by Parcells – his official owner’s name is August Dawn Farm – won the mile over firm turf by 1 3/4 lengths over Fuerteventura.
Medina, 49, who has been out on his own for the last 2 1/2 years after spending 25 years as an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, won his first career race at Kentucky Downs in his fifth start.
“Anytime you win, no matter where it is, it’s really good,” Medina said. “It’s obviously a stakes, this is a fun place to be. It’s nice to have a win here.”
Play Action Pass, sent off at odds of 4-1, attended the early pace in second while 15-1 Dowagiac Chief set the early pace of 22.53 seconds for the first quarter and 45.79 for the half. Play Action Pass and jockey Jose Lezcano took over in mid-stretch and powered to the win.
“The trainer told me to let him break and do whatever he wanted to do,” Lezcano, who was riding the son of Cairo Prince for the first time, said. “It worked out the way he told me, He kept going and going and won the race.”
Lezcano, a regular on the New York circuit, rode the last three days of the Kentucky Downs meet. He also won the $500,000 Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey Music City Stakes on Tuesday aboard Freedom Speaks.
Medina said he was confident that Play Action Pass would run well after watching him train the last two weeks.
“He had been training better than at any point in his life,” Medina said. “He was touting himself that he was getting ready to do something.”
Play Action Pass has now won four of 11 career starts, all on the grass. In his last start, he won an allowance at Ellis Park going 1 1/16 miles. That was his first start since June.
He has been training at the Blackwood Training Center in Versailles, which is owned by Guinness McFadden, who co-owned Country House, who was awarded the 2019 Kentucky Derby win when Maximum Security was disqualified.
“Robbie gets his first stakes win with a horse he bought and trained for coach,” McFadden said. “The horse never left Kentucky and only trained at Blackwood. So awesome.”
Play Action Pass was purchased by Parcells for $150,000 at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Select Sale.
The Pepsi Gun Runner was the sixth win for Parcells this year in 21 starts. Medina said he has four horses in his care owned by Parcells.
“He has been a mentor to me and we get along great,” Medina said. “I am more happy for him than anything. He deserves to win a race like this. He gives the horse every chance and stays out of the way.”
When asked if Parcells gets into coach mode when discussing his horses with him, Medina said that is not the case.
“He gives more life advice than anything else,” he said. “Getting life advice from him … I should pay him with all the good advice he has given me.”
Play Action Pass completed the mile in a time of 1:34.27. American Mayhem finished third and was followed by St. Anthony, Fort Washington, Castle Leoch, Dowagiac Chief, Ice Blast, Credibility, Rome and Camp David.
Kentucky Downs Press Release
Main photo: Play Action Pass wins the Gun Runner (Coady Photography)