Trainer Jack Sisterson already scheduled nearly 10 horses to van from his Keeneland base to Arlington Park this weekend. And Patch, the one-eyed fan favorite horse, has multiple times been shut out of races closer to home that were oversubscribed.
So it only made sense to book a trip, too, for the 5-year-old son of Union Rags, who’s entered Saturday in what amounts to both his 2019 and turf debuts.
“You always worry going back, especially into this race with Patch, how’s he going to perform coming off the best trainer in America?” said Sisterson, who took over conditioning of the Calumet Farm runner this season for Todd Pletcher. “I’m anxious to get him going and see where he is at the moment.
“He’s got a huge fan following, and I think rightly so, because he’s such a cool horse. He deserves all the support he can get with the circumstances of having just one eye.”
Patch raced six times last season as a 4-year-old, winning his return in allowance company before a series of defeats led him to a layoff and change of scenery. Sisterson, the former Doug O’Neill assistant who traveled with the Triple Crown hopefuls I’ll Have Another (2012) and Nyquist (2016), has trained for Calumet more than a year now.
Saturday’s return spot is an allowance optional claiming opener to Arlington Park’s Million Preview Day card going a mile on the grass. Patch, who breaks from post 10, is not among those in the field offered for a $50,000 claiming tag.
“He’s put in some breezes here at Keeneland where we’re very optimistic,” Sisterson said. “He’s had the break and he’s coming into this race fresh. We’d love him to put in a good effort. You’ll see in the paddock at Arlington — he looks like a million dollars.”
That includes entering about 50 pounds overweight, which Sisterson prefers to the alternative.
“We’ll sort of treat this race as a steppingstone to bigger and better things,” Sisterson said. “Whatever he does on Saturday, he will improve because we haven’t been hard on him. Conditioning-wise, he might need one or two races to get 100%.”
Overall, Patch has won two of 12 starts, with his biggest performances coming in finishes of second in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and third in the Belmont Stakes in 2017.
Sisterson said the turf race represented “perfect timing” more than the ideal surface. From here, Patch is likely to return to the main track to continue a 2019 campaign.
Saturday's post time is 1:25 p.m. CT.