Photo: Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club
It’s been 31 long years since a winner of the local prep came back to become the hero of racing’s Middle Jewel. Maybe we are due. In this year’s winner of the Federico Tesio Stakes, Kid Cruz, I see at the very least a live longshot for the 2014 Preakness Stakes.
With plenty of early speed like Social Inclusion, Bayern, and Pablo Del Monte lining up to take a shot at Pimlico, the 1 3/16 Classic may set up well for the Linda Rice trained son of Lemon Drop Kid. A confirmed late runner, Kid Cruz has won three of five lifetime, but has developed quickly since being claimed for $50,000 out of his second start, and first win, last fall at Aqueduct, by Rice on behalf of Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds.
Kid Cruz has been on a sharp upward ascent since his six-length romp in that maiden claimer. In his initial start for his new connections he ran a sharp second in an Aqueduct allowance race in January, and followed that up with a pair of dominant stakes wins in Maryland. Ridden by Maryland regular Julian Pimentel, Kid Cruz rolled to victories in both the Private Terms on March 8 at Laurel, and the Federico Tesio on April 19 at Pimlico. Best known as the rider of local star Ben’s Cat, Pimentel not only knows the Pimlico oval well, but he has proven effective letting the son of the 1999 Belmont Stakes winner, relax early, and close with a powerful punch.
In his first stakes attempt, Kid Cruz won the Private Terms Stakes in fashion you don’t see too often by a colt only making his fourth lifetime start. Dropping to the back of the pack early on, Kid Cruz exploded down the Laurel Park lane to win going away after falling some 20 lengths back of the early leader.
After that impressive victory, Rice intended to bring Kid Cruz up to the big leagues with a run in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. Things did not work out, though, and an alternate plan needed to be used.
“I put him in the Wood with the idea that if he did run well it still kept the door open for the Derby because he did not have any points to get into the Derby,” she said. “But he has had a bit of an issue with his right front shoulder with what I believe is a pinched nerve at the base of his neck. So we were treating him for that. He came up a little sore after his breeze into the Wood and I decided to wait and give it some time, so I wasn’t able to run him in the Wood.”
With the Wood Memorial a no-go, and Kentucky Derby dreams completely faded away, Rice set her sights on the Federico Tesio for a fully recovered Kid Cruz, and the result put him right back onto the Triple Crown trail. In the Tesio, he was not nearly as far back as he was in the Private Terms, but when Pimentel asked for his best run on the far turn, the answer was equally impressive. Kid Cruz came four-wide, rallying off slow early fractions, to make his first start at Old Hilltop a winning one, with a very easy 3 ½-length score.
“He did get a race over the course down there, handled it well,” Rice said. “It’s going to be a big step up in company to run against the Derby horses, particularly California Chrome. It’s a big jump up in competition, but we are hopeful.”
Based at Belmont Park, Kid Cruz was bred by Machmer Hall, and was produced by the Tale of the Cat mare, Layreebelle, making him a half-brother to the nice California filly, Spellbound.
Kid Cruz is scheduled to ship to the site of his Tesio win on Monday, after getting in his final workout for the Preakness this weekend at Belmont.
Those highly concerned with final times, will be quick to dismiss Kid Cruz as a horse too slow to compete with the Preakness runners. I believe that would be a mistake. Both of the tracks on his stakes wins days were very slow, and he won both races quite easily. He is a colt developing at the right time, and should be ready to make a very good account of himself over a familiar track.
And just in case you were wondering about that Federico Tesio winner to go on and win the Preakness three decades ago … It was Deputed Testamony from the Billy Boniface barn in 1983. Since then, four Tesio winners Broad Brush (1986), Rock Point (1989), Oliver's Twist (1995), and Icabad Crane (2008), and one Tesio bridesmaid Magic Weisner (2002), returned to finish in the money in the Preakness, and another Tesio runner-up Ruler on Ice (2011) won the Belmont.