Photo: Keeneland/Coady Photography
“Green Mask has the kind of stride you often imagine but rarely experience.” ~Kent Desormeaux
Heady stuff for a horse who just yesterday made his lifetime debut, but anyone who saw the seventh race at Keeneland on Thursday can understand the veteran jockey’s excitement.
Bet down to 2-1 favoritism in a field of 12 maidens, Green Mask, by Mizzen Mast, out of the Forestry mare, Bonsai Beauty, broke forwardly from his outside post position. Quickly contending for the lead with Ionic Silver, the dark bay colt, trained by Wesley Ward, cruised along on the outside under a snug hold by his confident rider. As his early competition dropped away, Desormeaux and Green Mask continued on the lead with seemingly only a modicum of effort. As the field came spinning out of the far turn, it was striking to see how confidently the Abdullah Saeed Almaddah owned colt was still being ridden as half the field closed in on him.
Set down for the stretch run, Desormeaux barely moved a muscle as Green Mask exploded away from the field. Lengthening his advantage with each smooth stride, Green Mask hit the wire 5 1/4 lengths ahead of the second place finisher, Clovelly. The final time for the six furlongs was a racy 1:09.92, despite no urging at all from his experienced pilot. It’s easy to imagine what the winning margin could have been if Green Mask had been pushed at all. Credit Ward for developing another big talent.
Desormeaux appreciates his connection with the former successful rider, turned successful trainer.
“I don’t take anything for granted and work every day to meet expectations,” said Desormeaux. “I am thankful for the opportunities with Wesley.”
Opportunities with Ward seem to be greater than ever of late, the 45-year-old trainer, perhaps best known for unveiling two-year-olds ready to run at Keeneland, or his ability to ship and win overseas, has a barn full of horses running well.
He’ll send out Judy the Beauty as one of the ones to beat in next week’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, and now, as of yesterday, has unveiled a trio of juvenile colts this year with serious talent. No Nay Never has already proven a star on both sides of the Atlantic, and Pablo Del Monte has looked great in both starts so far. Also ridden by Desormeaux, the latter won impressively at Keeneland recently, but Green Mask could be even better, and something truly special.
Credit should also extend to Desormeaux for understanding what he had underneath him, and letting this young colt just cruise to victory.
Lest we forget, the 43-year-old Louisiana native knows a thing or two about talented horseflesh. Aboard countless quality horses over the years, Desormeaux is a three-time Kentucky Derby winner, having shared the roses with Real Quiet, Fusaichi Pegasus, and Big Brown. Twice on the verge of Triple Crown glory, who can ever forget how close Real Quiet came in 1998. Now it appears Desormeaux has a new horse of which to be excited.
“It was the kind of performance you only imagine,” said Desormeaux. “It’s like we read each other’s minds whenever we are together and today it happened again during his first race. A special performance by a special horse, orchestrated by an outstanding trainer.”
If his debut is any indication, Ward has something very good in Green Mask, and a top rider ready and willing to take him as far as he can ride him. It would appear that the sky’s the limit for this talented colt.