I don’t know about you, but some horses immediately stand out for me. They grab my attention the first time I see them, and I know right then that I will be a fan for as long as they race. Yawanna Twist is just such a horse. I happened to see his first race on television the day after Christmas on 2009, and I was hooked. The New York bred son of Yonaguska was making his juvenile debut late in the year, in a restricted race on the inner track at Aqueduct, so I was not expecting to see any monsters, but watching him that day was like finding a pearl in an oyster. When I saw that he was owned by an outfit calling themselves Steel Your Face Stable, I knew that our connection was meant to me. Fellow fans of the Grateful Dead know what I am talking about. I have followed his career closely ever since and he has never disappointed me.
After another easy winning performance sprinting against state breds, on the inner track, his connections decided to throw caution to the wind and throw young Yawanna to the wolves. A strong rally on the outside in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes suddenly placed him on the Kentucky Derby trail after only three starts. I was happy to learn that next would be a date in the Illinois Derby. Only a twenty minute drive away, it would mark my first opportunity to see him in person. My affection grew as I saw the good looking bay close-up. I witnessed his fourth strong performance in as many tries, but he could not get by the speedy American Lion that day at Hawthorne. The track was favoring speed all day and Yawanna Twist was out of his element as he had to try to stay close to the winner right from the outset. Only second best, he did finish more than 11 lengths ahead of the rest of the field. My belief in him was not lessened. Nor would it be in his next race.
I was once again lucky enough to be there in person for Yawanna’s fifth lifetime start, and it was a big one. Sent off as a 16-1 longshot in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, he ran a huge race. As the field hit the eighth pole in the Preakness, I felt really good about my Looking at Lucky-Yawanna Twist exacta box. Lucky had forged to the lead, and who was bearing down on the field from the outside? None other than the colt that I saw win in his debut against state breds six months before. Unfortunately my ticket was not cashed, as the Steel Your Face runner hung just a bit in the 1 3/16 mile classic and finished fourth, beaten only two lengths. Not bad for a horse with sprinty breeding in only his fifth lifetime start. I envisioned a big Summer in New York for him. Maybe I would see him in a big race at Saratoga. No. Setbacks kept him away the second half of 2010, but when his name appeared on the worktab late last Fall, I noticed.
And now, at long last, the Twist is back. Today, in his first start in nearly nine months, the Rick Dutrow trainee sat chilly on the inside under rider Ramon Dominguez, before swinging to the attack on the outside as the allowance field turned for home. A sharp sprinter named Ask Joe still had plenty left for the challenge, but you could tell that Yawanna was too good to be denied. As the two left the rest of the pack behind, it was Yawanna Twist who powered to the wire 1 ½ lengths clear in the seven furlong affair. Final time over the fast Gulfstream Park was an impressive 1:21.92. It was the perfect return to the races for one of my favorite horses. He again has me envisioning big things this year. Yawanna Twist’s yet to win a stakes race, but in this horse, I believe. Say, when’s the last time a New York bred won the Met Mile?