Hallandale Beach, Fla.
Winning is not everything. Just ask Ed Moger Jr., who trains Stilleto Boy, and his younger brother, Steve, who owns him. The 5-year-old gelding has shown that he is good enough to compete in premier races but not to win them.
“The experience has been tremendous, more than the money,” Steve said. “Even though he’s made a lot of money.”
Stilleto Boy owns just one victory in 12 starts since Steve purchased him as a 3-year-old for $425,000 at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton July horses of racing age sale. He has kept the very best company, though, and solid finishes add up in graded stakes. The son of 2011 Preakness winner Shackleton will look to pad his $1,131,675 in career earnings when he returns to the Grade 1, $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
The Moger brothers were content when Stilleto Boy ran third in last year’s Pegasus because they recognized the quality of the top two finishers, Life Is Good and 2021 Pegasus winner Knicks Go. They did not very much mind when they were among those dusted by high-flying Flightline when they finished sixth in the Sept. 3 Pacific Classic (G1). They were encouraged by a second-place effort off a layoff against 4 1/2-length winner Country Grammer in the Dec. 26 San Antonio Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. Country Grammer, of course, is the reigning Dubai World Cup (G1) champion.
“We go into these big races like David and Goliath,” said Steve, who is seven years younger than his brother at 59.
Ed owns one Grade 1 win since he began training on the West Coast in 1976, prevailing with Stormy Lucy in the Matriarch at Del Mar in 2015. Steve owned Stormy Lucy and delights in giving his sibling more opportunities with Stilleto Boy.
“It’s been great for my brother to have a horse in these races,” Steve said. “It’s been a blast, such a great time. Winning races is always fun, obviously, but we’ve been running against such good horses.”
They will have that David-and-Goliath mentality again when Stilleto Boy enters the starting gate for the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus. He is part of a 12-horse field that offers depth but lacks star quality. They are fortunate to have Hall of Famer Mike Smith in the irons; they are unfortunate to have drawn post 11.
Still, Steve does not understand why his horse is rated as the longest of the long shots at 30-1. “I think they’ll bet him down. I can’t believe he will be the longest shot on the board,” he said. “No respect for the West Coast, I guess.”
Stilleto Boy outperformed 26-1 odds in last year’s Pegasus. The case certainly can be made for him to hit the board again and sweeten payoffs to exotics players. Ed is convinced the gelding greatly benefitted from an eight-week vacation at Sunny Creek Farm in California last autumn.
“When we turned him out, he was tired. He didn’t have the punch that he had,” he noted. “He got happier pretty quickly on the farm. He was pretty fresh when he came in.”
Stilleto Boy won only once in seven starts in 2022, capturing the April 30 Californian Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita, with a second and three third-place results for earnings of $591,090.
“He was tired after the Pegasus,” Ed recalled. “But he was running good, so we kept running him.”
Stilleto Boy has worked three times on the all-weather track at Golden Gate, his home base, in preparation for the Pegasus. Two maintenance drills were sandwiched around a five-furlong move clocked in 1:01.60 on Jan. 15, ranking fourth of 52 at the distance.
The brothers want to enjoy their hard-trying gelding as long as possible. “He’s 5, and this could be his best year,” Ed said hopefully.
The Mogers agree they will look to run Stilletto Boy less often in the new season. It seems there is very little, if anything, that they disagree on.
“We’ve been best friends always,” Ed said.