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Top Billing Headed to Stakes Ranks

mcgaughey main
Photo: NYRA
Top Billing stamped himself as a star in the making in the fourth race at Gulfstream today. Bet down to even-money in an 8 ½-furlong allowance test, the chestnut dropped way out of it early, but circled the field four wide on the far turn and finished up under his own courage to score by 2 ¾ lengths.           

“That was pretty impressive,” trainer Shug McGaughey offered. “I was watching on the TV and all I could see was his number; the 2 was back there where I didn’t want him to be. He’s learning. I thought this was a powerful race today. He ate the dirt today even though Joel (Rosario) took him out away from it. He told me that wasn’t going to be a problem in the future. I just thought he ran an awful good race today.”           

Bred and campaigned by the partnership of William S. Farish and E.J. Hudson Jr., the Curlin colt came from the clouds to win going away in a sprint at Laurel on December 6. He followed that debut by running a game second to Commissioner in his first two-turn test at Gulfstream on January 3, and looked ready to build on that performance this afternoon.           

Second-choice Surfing U S A was pressed on the front end through an opening half-mile in 47.23 seconds, while Top Billing was indeed off the screen. The chestnut began to pick it up under Joel Rosario and ranged up on the outside turning for home. Surfing U S A dug in gamely on the rail, but there was no denying the favorite in the final furlong.           

“He was the best horse in the race,” Rosario said. “He always takes himself back a little bit, but when he’s ready to go, he goes. I was very happy with the move he made. He just has such a quick turn of foot and when he’s ready, he gives it to you. He’s an honest horse.”           

Top Billing will likely head to stakes competition next, and McGaughey will attempt to keep his other highly regarded sophomores—Honor Code and Mr Speaker—apart for as long as possible.           

“I’d like to keep them separated,” the Hall of Famer said. “You know there’s not going to be another allowance race for him, so somewhere along the line we’re going to have to put our heads together, see how he comes out of this.            

“The one thing we’re not going to do is overcook him early—that’s not going to happen. We’ll just have to wait and see how he comes out of this. I was a little nervous about running him back in three weeks. But he trained well and came out of it well, but it does show he can do it. This horse has an unbelievably good mind. When he schooled the other day, he was perfect, and he was perfect again today. If we do have to send him somewhere, that won’t be a problem.”    

From the second crop of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, Top Billing is out of Parade Queen, a multiple graded stakes winner on the grass during her racing career for Farish and Hudson. He is a half-brother to Untouched Talent, a juvenile stakes winner that became the dam of Bodemeister. That colt won the Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2012 before running second in both the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1).


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