Da Big Hoss makes light of top weight in American St Leger

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August 13th, 2016

Skychai Racing’s Da Big Hoss was the class of the field as the 4-5 favorite in Saturday’s $300,000 American St Leger (G3), and even his top impost of 126 pounds wasn’t enough to drag him down over the marathon 1 11/16-mile trip. Confidently handled by Florent Geroux, the Mike Maker charge powered home a 1 3/4-length winner and prompted connections to think about the Melbourne Cup (G1).

Da Big Hoss stays two miles well, as illustrated last time out in the June 10 Belmont Gold Cup, where he beat French Group 2 veteran Now We Can. He faced a trio of internationals on Saturday, and again dispatched them convincingly. He’d fit from a class perspective in the Melbourne Cup, with the overarching question being how much weight he’d have to lug around Flemington. At least it wouldn’t be as much as the leading European stayers in the discussion.

Irish dual-purpose performer Clondaw Warrior, whose best pieces of form have come over even longer trips, may have raised his official rating enough to mull the Melbourne Cup himself. Despite being outpaced on the final turn, the Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old produced a rousing late rally to collar Germany’s Wasir for runner-up honors.

Wasir showed his usual early foot, but he wasn’t fast enough to go with the hustling O’Prado Ole early. One of a trio of Maker entrants, O’Prado Ole had his front-running coup made easier by the scratch of stablemate Rocket Professor. He gunned it from the outside post 11, cleared the field, and crossed over to establish splits of :50.96, 1:16.26, 1:42.51 and 2:06.52 on the firm course. Meanwhile, Geroux had Da Big Hoss rating comfortably back in fifth.

After traveling sweetly in second, Wasir headed O’Prado Ole turning for home, but Da Big Hoss was already improving into a contending position. The odds-on favorite rolled past Wasir down the stretch and posted a final time of 2:49.47.

Wasir, hitherto a need-the-lead type, showed a valuable new dimension here and nearly salvaged second. The Andreas Wohler pupil is still only a four-year-old, and he can continue to progress.

The top three were well clear of the remainder. Montclair rounded out the superfecta in fourth, while Moroccan-bred, French-based Billabong tired to fifth. O’Prado Ole faded to last and was vanned off.

Da Big Hoss’ third straight stakes victory, and sixth overall, advanced his line to 20-11-1-3, $1,198,536. Since being claimed for $50,000 at Churchill last summer, the chestnut has developed into a classy long-distance turf performer with victories in the John’s Call, Kentucky Turf Cup (G3), John B. Connally (G3) in course-record time at Sam Houston, and the April 23 Elkhorn (G2) prior to the Belmont Gold Cup. His resume also includes a respectable sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) and a third in the W.L. McKnight (G3) over a Gulfstream course he didn’t love.

Bred by Gary and Mary West Stables, Da Big Hoss is by Lemon Drop Kid (also responsible for Saturday’s Secretariat [G1] hero Beach Patrol) and out of the winning Touch Gold mare Lady Struck Gold. Thus his sire and broodmare sire are both Belmont (G1) winners. Da Big Hoss counts as his second dam Grade 2 victress Lady Blessington, and he descends from the family of dual French classic winner and sire Lope de Vega.

Quotes from Arlington

Winning rider Florent Geroux on Da Big Hoss: “He just loves to win. He always finds a way to find the wire and it doesn’t matter where he is, when you ask him to go, he goes.”

Winning trainer Mike Maker: “His pedigree and his looks gave me the impression [he would like marathon races].”

Jockey Seamie Heffernan on runner-up Clondaw Warrior: “He ran a lovely race. He was a bit slow from the gate, but the American horses are usually quicker than us, but he’s a very sweet horse and he ran a lovely race.”

Jockey William Buick on third-placer Wasir: “I was really pleased with him, he had a very good run. Maybe even a career best. We found a horse to pace, the pace was fine. We rode a sensible race up front, and he stayed all the way to the line. It was a very great race, as simple as that.”

Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith on fourth-placer Montclair: “We had a really good trip, no excuse at all. Ran very well.”

Jockey Flavien Prat on fifth-placer Billabong: “I got a good race, he just doesn’t have the turn of foot quick enough. He ran fine, like I said he just didn’t have the turn of foot.”

Photo courtesy Four Footed Fotos