Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese
On a holiday weekend chock-full of big races, one lightly raced colt’s breakthrough performance stood above all the rest, earning him the distinction of being named ZATT’s Star of the Week. Before Saturday, the 2012 male sprint division had no clear leader, as a handful of talented horses have taken turns winning this year’s major stakes races around one-turn. While that may not have changed after the ninth race at Saratoga, we now have a horse that looks ready and capable of moving right to the head of the sprint division. After a dominating 4 ½ length romp in the Grade 1 Forego, I not only award Emcee with the week’s top honor, but I also move him to a very short list of horses to beat in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Demonstrating an impressive ability to sit off the early pace, the four-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song tracked one of the quickest horses in the nation, Pacific Ocean through strong early splits under rider Alan Garcia. Just when it looked like Emcee was ready to pounce and strike to the lead, he was carried out by the pacesetter opening up a golden path on the rail, and to the lead, for grade 1 winner, Jersey Town. A lesser horse may have buckled under the poor turn of luck, but Emcee was not about to be denied. Rolling down the Saratoga lane like so many future champions have before him, the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee overpowered Jersey Town, Pacific Ocean, and everyone else in the solid field of sprinters.
Long thought of as a colt with major potential since a big debut win last September, Emcee has seemed like a star stuck in neutral in stakes competition. Going 0 for 3, in his first trio of graded stakes, he looked close to breaking through, but each time he was turned away. Those losses now seem like as a somewhat distant memory, though, as clearly now with seven races under his belt, Emcee is a colt still getting better for the Godolphin Stable.
Further proof of the quality of Saturday’s performance can be found in the final time of 1:21.00 for the seven furlongs. That clocking is the fastest Forego ever run at the distance, and it also tied his career high Beyer Speed Figure of 108, while collecting his fourth lifetime victory.
As far as what’s next for this week’s star, his trainer said that he will either run in the Grade 1 Vosburgh on Super Saturday (September 29) at Belmont or train up to the Breeders’ Cup on November 3 at Santa Anita. While not committing to the BC Sprint over the Dirt Mile, McLaughlin did say that the Sprint was the more likely race for Emcee.
He also seemed to be thrilled with his colt’s ability to relax off the lead early. Going to the Breeders’ Cup, if we go in the Sprint, they’re most likely going to go 21 and 43 anyway, so we’ll be laying off of them,” said McLaughlin. Sounds like a plan to me, and after the Forego, I have to say I like his chances.