Photo: Four Footed Fotos
To steal a phrase from a national pizza chain, the chant of “Pizza! Pizza!” will be heard in the Keeneland grandstand during the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).
The reason is because a big-time fan-favorite – The Pizza Man – will be running in the race, and while he has a morning line of 15-1 odds, look for that to move much lower as race time gets closer.
The Pizza Man, who is a six-year-old by English Channel-I Can Fan, by Lear Fan, comes into the race with a hot hand…er, hoof.
In his last four races, he’s won three and finished second once, all under regular jockey Florent Geroux.
His second-place finish came in his last race, which took place at Keeneland during its 2015 Fall Meet on Oct. 3, in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1). He came from deep in the pack but fell short by a head to Grand Arch, who will be running in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).
Prior to that, The Pizza Man had a three-race win streak going. On Aug. 15, he won the Arlington Million by a neck over Big Blue Kitten at Arlington Park; on July 15, he won his second consecutive Stars and Stripes Stakes (G3) by a neck over Roman Approval at Arlington Park; and on May 30, he won the Opening Verse Stakes at Churchill Downs by 2-1/2 lengths over Frac Daddy.
All told in his career, The Pizza Man has had 24 starts and won 15 times, with two seconds, two thirds with $1,658,537 earnings. A number of those wins have come at, what seems to be, his favorite track – Arlington Park.
In addition to the two wins at the track mentioned previously, The Pizza Man scored three wins at Arlington Park in 2014.
The first of the three in 2014 came on June 21, in the Black Tie Affair Handicap, the second in the Stars and Stripes Stakes (G3) on July 13, and the third in the American St. Ledger Stakes on Aug. 16.
Jockey Sheldon Russell rode him in the Black Tie Affair, and Geroux was aboard for the other two.)
The Pizza Man also won two smaller races at Arlington in 2013, one on March 13 and one on Sept. 21.
In 2012, he had three other scores at Arlington in allowance races on May 12, June 22, and Aug. 11; all under jockey Seth B. Martinez.
No question, Arlington Park is his favorite. Now the question is, with one race at Keeneland under his belt, er… cinch, can Keeneland become his second favorite home? Has he figured out the track enough to get a good run in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and get the win?
In addition to The Pizza Man’s knowledge of the track, Geroux, his jockey also learned a lot during the just-completed Fall Meet. In his 92 starts during the meet, he had 10 wins, nine seconds, and 16 thirds for a 38 percent win percentage. On the turf, he had 25 starts, with two wins – an eight percent win percentage.
How much did Geroux learn about his horse and the track in the Shadwell? A comment he made after the race could be telling about how The Pizza Man might do in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
“Tough beat,” said Geroux of the come from behind head loss in the race. “He (The Pizza Man) couldn’t keep up early, so I let him settle. When I asked him to run, it took him a little bit longer than usual because the race is shorter, but the last quarter of a mile he was flying. At the eighth pole he was moving so fast. He’s not even a mile horse. This (performance) just shows how good he is.”
“…Last quarter of a mile he was flying…” That statement by Geroux might just be the key to what race fans might see on Saturday in the race.
Owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds, and trained by Roger Brueggemann, if The Pizza Man wins the race, the chant of “Pizza! Pizza!” will be heard around the track as he heads to the winner’s circle, for what, no doubt, will be one great Pizza party.
The Breeders’ Cup Turf is the next to the last race in the Breeders’ Cup. Post time is scheduled for approximately 4:50 p.m.