Mucciolo’s Sophomore Spotlight Recap
I tabbed ROYAL MO as a horse to watch entering this race and the John Shirreffs pupil did not disappoint, rolling home a clear winner and stamping himself as a fine prospect who could be nearly any kind this winter and spring. The son of Uncle Mo did not defeat the strongest field ever put together for this race, but he passes the eye test and continues to grow moving to a perfect two-for-two since stretching out to two turns. Bay cot has improved his BRIS Speed number with every lifetime run and any horse from this barn that shows speed early on in their career intrigues me, as Shirreffs teaches his runners how to finish for sure. The next test will tell me how serious of a Triple Crown player Royal Mo might be, but he moves like a classy one and should be up to the task.
EL AREEB romped home to a fourth straight easy win, the second in succession on the inner dirt at Aqueduct in a Grade 3 field, winning from just off the pace in this endeavor. The $340,000 son of Exchange Rate is obviously too good for this kind at this stage of his development, and the stout 119 BRIS Late Pace figure that he registered gives a lot of reason for optimism that the Cathal Lynch trainee will run longer. The gray still has a lot to prove to me when he starts facing the “big boys” this spring but at the same time, it is hard to knock El Areeb for his dominant ways.
I didn’t see much outside of the winner to take note of in the Withers field.
IRISH WAR CRY kept his perfect mark intact with a wire-to-wire victory for conditioner Graham Motion, upsetting the champion two-year-old along the way. The speedy son of Curlin passed his initial route test with flying colors, as I expected, and clearly put himself in the conversation of top Derby threats, too. New Jersey-bred colt is cut out to run all day with a fine pedigree that screams stamina and one has to love how Irish War Cry has earned triple-digit BRIS Late Pace numbers in every career run. Chestnut made easy work of a pair of accomplished sophomores and is in expert hands going forward.
CLASSIC EMPIRE finished a lackluster third launching his 3-year-old campaign but the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner gets a pass and should be much improved next time. As I mentioned leading up to the race, it seemed like a good time to try to upset the ultra-talented sophomore as he surely would not be fully cranked for this race and Classic Empire proved to be agitated after shipping in the morning of the race from Palm Meadows. I have ultimate faith in Mark Casse and his crew to prepare him better for his next prep and they’ll avoid Gulfstream for upcoming preps, arriving early at the chosen venue to be acclimated. And recommend not giving up hope yet on the son of Pioneerof the Nile!
The Chad Brown-trained FAVORABLE OUTCOME closed with a head of steam to capture his 2017 debut over a rival who was previously unbeaten on the Gulfstream Park main oval. $300,000 son of Flatter is a bit of a question mark going a classic distance as both of his best races came at one turn while running fresh, though he is one who looks good to the naked eye when he moves and a 100 BRIS Late Pace figure going seven-eighths hints he may handle more ground as he develops. But Brown said he plans to keep Favorable Outcome in one-turn dirt races going forward.
THREE RULES is obviously a very nice horse and finished a strong second in his seasonal bow for Jose Pinchin, but I simply don’t see this one as a player on the Triple Crown trail at longer distances against deeper competition.