Major Fed, Federer, getting better with age

Profile Picture: Rowan Ward

July 1st, 2021

If one person has been synonymous with Wimbledon for almost two decades, it's Roger Federer.

The Swiss tennis star has won every major at least once — one French Open, six U.S. Opens, seven Australian Opens. But Federer has won Wimbledon more than any.

His first major title came at the All England Club in 2003, when he defeated Mark Philippoussis in straight sets. His most recent Wimbledon victory came in 2017, when he defeated Marin Cilic.

Though Federer was already a tennis great, his 2017 victory etched his name in the record book in a few more places. It was his record eighth Wimbledon title, which broke a tie he held with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw. As Federer marched through Wimbledon in 2017, he won every match in straight sets. It was the first time he won at Wimbledon without a single set loss, and only the second time in the Open era any male player did it, after Bjorn Borg in 1976.

It only fits that, as Federer tries to win his ninth Wimbledon title, a horse named after him is returning to the racetrack.

Major Fed, owned and bred by Lloyd Madison Farms IV and trained by Greg Foley, was one of the promising three-year-olds of 2020. A second-out maiden winner at Fair Grounds, the son of Ghostzapper finished second to Modernist in the Risen Star S. (G2) and kept on for second, behind Shared Sense, in the Indiana Derby (G3). 

Off of that performance in Shelbyville, Major Fed was Churchill Downs mainstay Foley's first starter in the Kentucky Derby (G1). In range of the pace early, Major Fed flattened out in the lane and crossed the wire 10th. Major Fed bounced back well, though. He held his own against older horses for the first time in an allowance Sept. 27, when he chased the talented Coastal Defense home.

After that allowance, Major Fed got a long winter break. It was longer than originally expected, as he was cast in his stall over the winter and needed a few extra months to recover from that injury. He returned to the work tab in April and made his four-year-old debut June 25 at Churchill Downs.

Despite the lengthy break, the son of Ghostzapper was a 4-5 favorite in the field of seven, a first-level allowance going a 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. Drawn on the fence, he settled kindly inside, as the pace horses sorted themselves out ahead. From mid-backstretch through the far turn, Major Fed was boxed in — the rail to his left, a contracting pack of horses in front of him, and another foe to his right side.

As he passed the quarter pole, Major Fed was last, but jockey Florent Geroux didn't panic. He guided Major Fed to the outside at the head of the stretch, and he started to pick off horses past the three-sixteenths. He found his best kick past the furlong mark and passed longshots Motagally and Surly Furious in time to win by three-quarters of a length. 

Whether Major Fed returns in another allowance or a stakes remains to be seen, but don't count out his chances to keep getting better at age four and beyond. Ghostzapper was very good at three but top-class at four and five. His dam, the Smart Strike mare Bobby's Babe, has produced some good older horses — May Lily (Broken Vow) won her only stakes at age five, and Zapperini (Ghostzapper) was Grade 3-placed at six. As much promise as Major Fed showed at three, there is plenty of room for him to get better with age.

With his namesake's most impressive win at Wimbledon being his eighth, perhaps that is the best reason Major Fed's name fits.