The Pizza Man readying for another big year

Profile Picture:

TwinSpires Staff

May 27th, 2016

Edited Press Release

Midwest Thoroughbreds’ The Pizza Man returned to the work tab last month after a short rest in preparation for a summer campaign that could include a prep at Arlington for his return to the Arlington Million (G1).

The 2015 Million winner made his most recent start in the Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1) on February 6 following a win in the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) last November at Del Mar to conclude his 2015 campaign. After his Gulfstream effort, the Illinois-bred was sent to his owner’s farm in Florida for some time off.

“After the Hollywood Turf Cup, he went to Fair Grounds to train, but for some reason just didn’t like it,” trainer Roger Brueggemann said. “I had a few horses like that. I probably should have just sent him to the farm then.

“He doesn’t work that well on the dirt, and that’s what the turf is like there in Florida, lots of sand and dirt. It wasn’t (jockey Javier Castellano’s) fault. The horse just didn’t have the usual kick. After Gulfstream, we thought he could use the break.”

Bred by his owners, Richard and Karen Papiese of Midwest Thoroughbreds, The Pizza Man pushed Illinois racing into the national spotlight last year.

After securing wins in the Opening Verse S. at Churchill Downs and Stars and Stripes S. (G3) at Arlington, the local favorite was ridden to victory by Florent Geroux in the 2015 Arlington Million, prevailing by a neck over eventual champion turf male Big Blue Kitten. The Pizza Man became the first Illinois-bred to ever win the state’s marquee race.

Now, at the age of seven, the English Channel gelding is aiming to become the first ever back-to-back winner of the Million.

The Pizza Man returned to training at Churchill Downs last month in preparation for an upcoming start in the $200,000 Wise Dan (G2) there on June 18. Formerly known as the Firecracker, the turf race was renamed in 2016 for the two-time Horse of the Year who won the race twice, and its distance extended to 1 1/16 miles.

A win in the Wise Dan would push The Pizza Man’s over the $2 million mark.

“He’s training great and coming back to his old self,” Brueggemann remarked. “I’ll keep him (at Churchill) until after the Wise Dan, and then probably bring him north with a string to train for the ($150,000) Arlington Handicap (G3) or ($100,000) Stars and Stripes Stakes ([G3] both on Million Preview day July 9).”

The end of the year goal for the Illinois star will be a return to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) in November at Santa Anita. The Pizza Man finished a tough fifth in last year’s running at Keeneland behind European filly Found and Golden Horn.

After the Million Brueggemann will look to prep the now seven-year-old gelding in a manner similar to the previous year, when he started in the Shadwell Mile (G1) at Keeneland four weeks before the Breeders’ Cup, possibly with a start over the course in California.

“We hope to find a race for him between the Million and Breeders’ Cup,” Brueggemann said. “If a race came up at Santa Anita I would send him – he loves to fly, it doesn’t bother him.”

The Pizza Man photo courtesy of Four Footed Fotos