Mo Tom, Stageplay take overland route in Churchill juvenile stakes
Trained by Chris Richard for G M B Racing, the 5-1 chance was reserved off the contentious pace of :22.70 and :46.06. The early duelists -- Junkers, Shogood and Pinnacle Peak -- were tiring turning for home, by which point Mo Tom was gaining momentum with a circling move for Corey Lanerie. Despite the ground loss, he kept on strongly down the stretch and had a length to spare over Tom's Ready at the wire. Mo Tom negotiated the one-turn mile on a fast track in 1:36.78.
Tom's Ready, a Breeders' Cup Juvenile also-eligible who didn't draw in at Keeneland, easily fared best of any chasing the pace. The Dallas Stewart pupil finished 5 1/2 lengths clear of Uncle Brennie, with 3-1 Discreetness, who appeared rank behind horses early, in fourth. The three pacesetters faded to the last three home.
Mo Tom was originally trained by Tom Amoss, for whom he broke his maiden at first asking at Ellis Park. In his debut for Richard, the dark bay was a closing third in a second-level Keeneland allowance October 8. The Street Sense marked his first attempt beyond six furlongs, and he improved his mark to 3-2-0-1, $73,126.
“We’ve thought very highly of this horse," Richard said. "He just needed a little bit of seasoning and needed more distance. It wasn’t really a surprise to see him go out and run as well as he did. So I give him a lot of credit, it’s more him than it is me, that’s for sure. We’ll discuss it with the owners but that (Kentucky Jockey Club) is a distinct possibility. The Uncle Mo babies are running all over the place and I don’t think you could ask for a better start for your freshman season. I think two turns is definitely within his capability. He’s got this big long cruising stride to him and I have always thought that the further he would go, the better he would get.”
A May 6 foal, Mo Tom went to his current connections for $150,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. He was produced by the Rubiano mare Caroni, making him a half-brother to multiple Grade 1-placed stakes scorer Beautician.
In the companion $84,400 Rags to Riches for juvenile fillies, Mike Rutherford's homebred Stageplay overcame a bump at the start, and an outside trip from post 12, to justify 3-5 favoritism. Ironically, the strapping gray is a daughter of Curlin, who was just denied by race honoree Rags to Riches in the 2007 Belmont S. (G1).
Under Ricardo Santana Jr., the Steve Asmussen trainee raced just a couple of lengths off the pace of :22.48 and :45.89 set by 79-1 shot Covey Trace. Stageplay began to assert on the far outside, putting her head in front of new leader Put Da Blame on Me at the six-furlong mark in 1:11.49, and forged ahead in the stretch.
Onetime Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) prospect Dream Dance, second in the Pocahontas (G2) and fifth in the Alcibiades (G1) in her last two, closed from near the tail of the field for second. But she could not get within 1 1/2 lengths of Stageplay, who covered the mile in 1:36.58 (.20 faster than Mo Tom in the Street Sense). Family Tree, coming off a fifth in the grassy Jessamine (G3), checked in third.
Stageplay now looms as a top contender for the Golden Rod (G2), on Stars of Tomorrow II. She was stepping up off a smart debut victory at Keeneland October 10. The runner-up that day, Carina Mia, came back to trounce maiden foes there October 29, setting a 6 1/2-furlong track record in 1:15.18.
A half-sister to classic-placed Mylute as well as Grade 3-winning juvenile She Digs Me, Stageplay is out of stakes heroine Stage Stop, a Valid Expectations mare.
"I think both of her races were very impressive," Asmussen said. "I think she’s been very mature. She came from GoldMark (Farm); they touted her and told us what a nice filly she was and how nice she acts and how her ability was. She came into the barn at Keeneland this spring and got a little break during the early summer and has had a really nice fall. I think out of a nice mare, and with her being a half-sister to Mylute, stretching out shouldn’t be a problem. She’s been thought very highly of since she hit the ground. We ran her back pretty quickly off her maiden race, but I did want to use this as a branch to the Golden Rod as opposed to just training up to it.”
Photos courtesy of Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography.