Pender Sends Jeranimo Back to Polytrack

Why would trainer Mike Pender send his million-dollar-plus earner Jeranimo, who has produced numerous feats of turf magic over the past three years, back to Polytrack for Sunday’s 23rd running of the Grade 1 $1-million TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar? Because the trainer thinks a second shot at the Pacific Classic is well within the range, as well as within reason, for his 7-year-old iron horse. Besides, there’s a certain sense of Jeranimo not getting the credit the trainer thinks he’s earned. “The jury still seems to be out on just what Jeranimo can or cannot do,” Pender said, implying a Rodney Dangerfield complex. Jeranimo, who has run 14 straight races on turf and has won five of them, returns to Polytrack for the first time since August of 2011 when he finished eighth of nine in the Pacific Classic. The son of Congaree, whom Pender says “is no one-trick pony,” has won three times on synthetic surfaces but never at Del Mar.

Despite the bay horse’s success on both turf and synthetic where he’s won $1.4 million, Pender has no qualms about considering the “what if” of Jeranimo’s career. For that, the trainer thinks back to April 2009 when Jeranimo was a 3-year-old and on racing’s Triple Crown trail. After finishing third in Santa Anita’s San Felipe Stakes on its synthetic surface, Jeranimo headed to Keeneland for the running of the Coolmore Lexington Stakes on Polytrack. He finished sixth there and went off the TC trail.

“If he had finished 1 or 2 at Keeneland, we would have gone on to the Kentucky Derby,” Pender said. “And who knows if he had run well there, he might never have seen grass. It’s funny how fate can play such a big part in life.” As it is, Jeranimo has never run on dirt.

On his turf travels, Jeranimo has encountered such major runners as Horse of the Year Wise Dan, Obviously, Data Link and Acclamation. While not winning against them, he almost always has acquitted himself well. In his most recent outing, Jeranimo used his remarkable turn of foot to sprint past rivals down the stretch to win Del Mar’s Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes on July 20 at 1 1/8 miles.

As for the 2011 Pacific Classic performance, Pender said the horse had a lot of trouble throughout the race, adding, “You can draw a line through that one.” He is quite confident Jeranimo will give a much better showing this year.

If dirt racing could have been a factor early in Jeranimo’s career, why not give him a try as time went on? “He became so overwhelming on turf, we never thought about going on the dirt with him,” Pender said. Explaining his propensity for top performances on grass, Pender said, “He has that nice grass daisycutter clip to him. He hardly raises his feet as he rolls along. You might say he’s a lawnmower type.”

His style varies when it comes to running on turf or on a synthetic surface, Pender said. “He can be close to the lead on synthetics or he can come from way back with that great speed on the turf,” he said. “So it’s easy to see that he has little trouble adapting to each surface.”

So just where does Pender place Jeranimo on his “best of” scale? “He’s by far the best horse I’ve ever trained,” the trainer said enthusiastically. “He’s like cast iron; very tough, very eager to be a racehorse. When you start thinking about what goes into making a great horse, you check every box for him.”

Heading into his 36th career start, Jeranimo’s record is a symphony of consistency and a reflection of fine handling by Pender and co-owner B.J. Wright, who was joined in ownership in January by Robert LaPenta. “We give the horse a break most often in the middle of the year, so as not to over-race him,” Pender said, adding, “Most of the time we have to force him to accept the break. He just doesn’t want to quit training. He has an amazing work ethic; he’s like the energizer bunny.

“He’s kind of a working-class kind of horse, the epitome of what you want in a good horse. His work ethic is second to none, and he’s thriving at 7 years old.” Though he shows no signs of wearing out, Jeranimo is heading for the breeding shed in 2014. No site has been decided on yet.

Though Jeranimo stands out among Pender’s runners over the years, there have been others that have made their marks, too. Among his top performers are Boat Trip, Polonius and Ultimate Eagle. The last named evokes this from Pender: “He perhaps is more athletic and maybe has more natural ability, but he doesn’t outdo Jeranimo. Jeranimo has all the tools and he has made his money by showing up every time.”



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