BC Internationals: Turf Sprint contender Home of the Brave
Sire Starspangledbanner was running in the Turf Sprint (G1) when Home of the Brave was a weanling in 2012, having been put back in training when subfertile. Four years on, his speedy son looks to do better than Starspangledbanner, who set a scorching pace down the hill before retreating to 10th.
If Home of the Brave hasn’t compiled the resume of his dual hemisphere celebrity sire, at least he’s not trying to regain fitness after a spell at stud! Starspangledbanner just couldn’t regain his smashing pre-retirement form, when he won a Caulfield Guineas (G1) and Oakleigh Plate (G1) in his native Australia, a Golden Jubilee (G1) at Royal Ascot, and a July Cup (G1) at Newmarket. Thus his Turf Sprint rates as no more than an asterisk in a postscript.
Home of the Brave was part of Starspangledbanner’s small but tremendous first crop, featuring 2014 Coventry (G2) and Prix Morny (G1) winner The Wow Signal and Queen Mary (G2) victress Anthem Alexander. Although the parallel doesn’t hold too well, his exuberant speed is at times vaguely reminiscent of his sire.
After a troubled second on debut, Home of the Brave added to his sire’s stats during his juvenile campaign. The well-named chestnut wired a Newmarket maiden by four lengths as the odds-on favorite, and finished third when favored in the Sirenia (G3) over Kempton’s Polytrack.
Home of the Brave wasn’t seen again until his sophomore season in 2015. The Hugo Palmer trainee wielded speed as a lethal weapon in the European Free H., motoring seven furlongs in a quick 1:22.22 at Newmarket. Home of the Brave tried a mile in the 2000 Guineas (G1), but tired to sixth behind Gleneagles. Dropping down to six furlongs in Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup (G1), he again retreated from contention and wound up sixth behind Muhaarar and Mile (G1) threat Limato.
Returning to perhaps his best trip of seven furlongs, Home of the Brave rebounded in front-running style in the Minstrel (G3) over globetrotting veteran Gordon Lord Byron.
Unfortunately, Home of the Brave had to be disqualified for a positive test for the muscle relaxant hydroxydantrolene, as Racing Post reported. Palmer was blameless in the whole episode, since Home of the Brave had been treated for a strained muscle under appropriate veterinary guidance. Yet a trace amount of the medication still showed up in his system, so Home of the Brave was stripped of his victory. He raced only once more last year, flopping behind Limato in the Park (G2).
Home of the Brave resurfaced on April 23 with a wire job in the King Richard III at Leicester, where he pulled out extra when challenged and drew off. He made it two straight with a characteristically gutsy display on the front end in the John of Gaunt (G3) at Haydock, sticking his neck out (literally) to hold on.
Godolphin had purchased Home of the Brave prior to the May 28 John of Gaunt, at around the same time Sheikh Mohammed’s operation scooped up Mile contender Dutch Connection. Godolphin’s ambition was to add to its international arsenal with these new recruits, so it’s not too surprising that they’ve both ended up targeting the Breeders’ Cup.
Godolphin’s first item of business for Home of the Brave was an assault on the July Cup. But an infected joint on a hind leg put paid to that idea. Palmer reported that it didn’t respond to initial antibiotics, and Home of the Brave’s medical team had to switch his prescription.
Wanting more time and a somewhat easier spot than Newmarket’s sprint showpiece, Palmer opted for the July 26 Lennox (G2) at Glorious Goodwood. This was one of those rare occasions when Home of the Brave didn’t make the lead. Tracking stablemate Gifted Master, he took over, but was quickly dispatched by Dutch Connection.
Dutch Connection is a horse-for-the-course, and distance, at Goodwood, so there was no shame in defeat there. Still, I wonder if Home of the Brave was a little vulnerable in his first run back from his setback and antibiotics. Wheeling back for the Hungerford (G3) at Newbury, Home of the Brave was caught by Richard Pankhurst, but lived up to his name by soldiering on to go down by a length.
Home of the Brave was freshened with a view toward the Breeders’ Cup. The Mile was listed as his first preference, and he could get it at a place like Santa Anita if he were lone speed. Needless to say, that’s not the case in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and he’d have a fight on his hands that probably wouldn’t end well for him. As the second on the also-eligible list, he might not get in.
The Turf Sprint is his second preference, but he’s safely in the main body of the field with arguably a much better chance. [Update: Palmer just confirmed he's going in the Turf Sprint.] Of course, that depends upon how he copes with the other early heat and the unique downhill course. Given his speed and determination over seven-furlong courses in Europe, however, the slalom here would probably carry him further.
Palmer is already a classic-winning trainer in Europe, with his highest-profile wins coming courtesy of Covert Love in last year’s Irish Oaks (G1) and Galileo Gold in this spring’s 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace (G1). He nearly won his first U.S. Grade 1 in the October 15 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1), with Hawksmoor running too well to lose in a three-way finish, and we’ll be hearing a lot more from this yard on our side of the pond.
Photo shared by Hugo Palmer via Twitter