Joseph continues climbing in class with 3-year-old Math Wizard

By Anthony Jaskulski, Special to HRN
June 25, 2019 11:39am
Joseph continues climbing in class with 3-year-old Math Wizard
Photo: Lauren King/Gulfstream Park

Edgard Zayas never doubted his mount last Saturday at JACK Thistledown. 

“I thought we had him there. I really did. That was a close race,” the jockey said after Math Wizard’s runner-up finish to Owendale in the Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby.

“We got the trip we wanted. Couldn’t ask for a lot more.”

But there will be more attempts at this level later in the summer after a half-length defeat. Trainer Saffie Joseph, who claimed Math Wizard for $25,000 out of an 18 1/2-length victory Jan. 31 at Gulfstream Park, said the July 13 Indiana Derby (G3) is under consideration, but the Aug. 3 West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer is more likely next.

“Then maybe if he was to win that, we could take a shot at the Travers,” Joseph said.

Connections are climbing the ladder because “this horse is going to continue to get better,” the trainer added. “Each race is a progression with him.”

Campaigned by John Fanelli, Math Wizard, a son of Algorithms,
  hasn’t yet won for his new barn. But in addition to the Ohio Derby result, he was fourth in the Wood Memorial (G2) and Oaklawn Invitational — both races that produced starters in the Triple Crown series.

“I think we learned that he doesn’t want to be pushed early in the race,” Joseph said. “He wants to find his stride, and he has a really good turn of foot.”

Blinkers came off for the 1 1/8-mile Ohio Derby, and a new strategy arrived: sit back and be patient.

“I think that was our mistake at Oaklawn,” Joseph said. “He was too close to the pace there.”

Math Wizard sat fifth of sixth early in the Ohio Derby as longshot Dare Day set a speedy pace, with the opening fractions going in 22.66 and 47.62. The colt moved up the rail, shifted out to go by Dare Day in the far turn, put a head in front at the top of the stretch and battled to the wire with Owendale.

“He’s a May foal, and there’s still things to learn,” said Joseph. “If you watch that race, when he makes the lead, his ears go up – they flip straight up – and then it’s like, what do I do now?

“But if we can keep him off the pace a little more, I think that can make all the difference later.”

Coincidentally, Brad Cox, who trains Owendale, is also Math Wizard’s first trainer of record. The chestnut colt went into claiming company in his second of 10 career starts and passed through other barns on his way to the Gulfstream Park-based Joseph’s care.

Should Math Wizard break through in one of these lucrative summer spots, it would mark the first graded stakes win for Joseph, who has sent out just short of 1,100 starters.

“It’s a process, but we’re getting somewhere,” the trainer said. “The Wood Memorial, he ran a big race there, and from there we knew that he was legit. He’s maturing and he’s going to get better as time goes on.”


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