If you were doing what I was doing on New Year’s Eve, (watching a little bit of thoroughbred action) you likely witnessed the best performance of the holiday weekend take place in the afternoon’s feature at Laurel Park. Looking every bit as impressive as he did in his big win in November’s Grade 3 Discovery Handicap, Called To Serve manhandled a group of older horses in yesterday’s $125,000 Broad Brush Stakes.
Ridden by Joel Rosario like he knew he was sitting on the equine version of a powder keg, the three-year-old (make that four as of this morning) son of Afleet Alex bided his time behind the leaders in the early stages, before moving to the outside on the turn to make his move. From there the big, strong, gelding toyed with the six-time Laurel Park stakes winning speedster, Eighttofasttocatch, on his way to an overpowering 5 ¾ length score. Adding to the visual impressiveness of the victory was the 106 Beyer speed figure he earned, which was the third highest number awarded in all of December.
The winning jockey jumped off his mount and was full of praise for the Marc Farrell owned gelding. “This horse is doing real good right now,” Rosario said. “I just wanted to keep him out of trouble. He was doing it really easy. I passed the horse inside me really quick and got the job done. I think he is a nice horse. This is the third time I have ridden him and he has been better each time.”
Better each time, and also undefeated in three starts under the native of the Dominican Republic. I could not agree with his rider any more, as I also believe this is a very nice horse. When I wrote about him this summer, I referred to him as Called To Serve 2.0 in honor of his pronounced improvement after being gelded. What I have seen in his last two starts has taken things to the 3.0 stage, as he seems much more mature now. Called To Serve has grown into his impressive body, and he seems completely focused on the task at hand. A member of the Nick Canani barn since October, you can tell his new trainer is a bit smitten with his new star. “He’s really only getting better. He’s really growing up and he’s learning how to be a real racehorse,” added Canani. “He is a very versatile horse and the longer they go the better he is. He is becoming a really nice horse.”
I like him, Rosario likes him, and Canani likes him, but is he really ready to compete with the big boys? We should not have to wait for long to have an answer. Canani said his star would run next in one of three races, and all of them are big: the Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park, the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) or the Strub Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.
Geldings had a big year in 2012, and with Called To Serve coming on strong late in his three-year-old season, I would suspect to see more of the same in 2013. Happy New Year!
Photo courtesy of Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club