Trainer Todd Fincher remains convinced that Señor Buscador belongs on the Kentucky Derby trail, and he is eagerly anticipating the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes on March 13 at Oaklawn Park as his proving ground.
The Mineshaft colt appeared to be a force when he dominated his first two career starts at Remington Park, including a dramatic last-to-first, 5 3/4-length score in the Dec. 18 Remington Springboard Mile. His 3-year-old debut for breeder and owner Joey Peacock Jr. fell well short of expectations, however, when he ran fifth in the Feb. 13 Risen Star (G2) at the Fair Grounds.
“It was a little disappointing, but I’m not discouraged, because the horse came out of it really good,” Fincher said. “We know he’ll move forward from here.”
There are many potential explanations as to why Señor Buscador finished 7 1/2 lengths behind victorious Mandaloun in the Risen Star. Fincher, with an eye toward the long haul, had conditioned the May 6 foal relatively lightly. Then the youngster encountered a speed-favoring surface that clearly worked against his late-charging style. It did not help, either, that he endured a wide trip with regular rider Luis Quiñónez aboard.
According to Equibase, Señor Buscador had worked only four times ahead of the Risen Star, all of them at his home base of Sam Houston Race Park. The first three drills were at three furlongs before a four-furlong move in 48.2 seconds.
“It’s still a young horse. We aren’t ones to max down on him,” Fincher said. “We want him to get better as we go.”
The connections sensed trouble before their colt entered the starting gate. Horses racing on or close to the lead had consistently fared well.
“The racetrack got a bunch of rain a couple of days before that. The racetrack was playing for speed, and obviously he was far back and wide,” Fincher noted. “It was just not conducive to his running style, but I thought he made a good move around the turn, and maybe he got a little flat the last part.”
Lost ground played another huge factor. The chart indicates that Señor Buscador was four to five wide around both turns. He entered the stretch run seven wide, not exactly a formula for success. Still, Fincher expects to stay the course with Quiñónez.
“I don’t think it was Luis’s fault, and he’s riding at Oaklawn, so we’ll probably give him another chance. It really wasn’t his fault, if you put all of the elements together,” the veteran conditioner said. “Maybe he could have done a little something different here or there, but it really wasn’t his fault.”
Whatever the assessment of the 1 1/8-mile Risen Star, Señor Buscador will have little margin for error in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel. As part of the Kentucky Derby championship series, the $1 million race virtually ensures that the winner will go on to the May 1 Derb, because it awards 50 qualifying points to the top horse. The next three positions are worth 20, 10 and 5 points.
Señor Buscador does not have any qualifying points. The Remington Springboard Mile victor typically accrues 10 points, but the sophomore came away empty because he raced with Lasix.
Fincher expects a much more formidable horse to compete in the Rebel. “He was fit and ready,” Fincher said of the Risen Star, “but he probably didn’t have the screws tightened down like we hope to for this next race.”