As a debut winner going six furlongs at Saratoga, Endorsed was always well regarded by his connections. But having missed the spring of his 3-year-old season, the Medaglia d’Oro colt went largely overlooked last season in racing’s glamour division.
Now, “He’s rising to the top again in our operation,” said Jimmy Bell, head of Godolphin’s U.S. operations.
Owned and bred by Godolphin, Endorsed is eyeing a step up in class off a winning allowance return on Jan. 11 at Gulfstream Park, where he prevailed by two lengths in a 1 1/16-mile flight. Bell said the March 7 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) is a possibility next.
It would mark Endorsed’s second try at a Grade 1 event. Last year, he returned from a layoff to win an allowance race, placed second in Saratoga’s Curlin Stakes and ran fourth in the Travers (G1) before sidelined again.
“The race he ran off the time off was a huge number — both Beyer number and (Ragozin) Sheet number — so his development from 3 to 4 has been good,” Bell said. “We obviously liked the mile and a quarter in the Travers, and we certainly feel like the distance is no problem for him.
“He’s a horse we always had high expectations for, breaking his maiden first time out. His race in the Curlin was very good, and he came from way back in the Travers to only be beaten four lengths or so.”
Worth $600,000 this season. the 10-furlong Santa Anita Handicap has its west coast headliners in a pair of last-out Grade 2 winners.
Gift Box took the Dec. 28 San Antonio Stakes (G2) with relative ease. Midcourt, defeated in that spot, returned to win the Feb. 1 San Pasqual (G2).
Going back to last year’s Big ‘Cap, Gift Box defeated McKinzie in a close decision.