Sleepy Eyes Todd: A road warrior on his way to the Pegasus

Sleepy Eyes Todd: A road warrior on his way to the Pegasus
Photo: Ryan Thompson/Gulfstream Park

Have horse, will travel.

Owner David Cobb of Thumbs Up Racing and trainer Miguel Silva have plenty of horse in expected Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) starter Sleepy Eyes Todd — and he is a road warrior.

His barnstorming 2020 campaign took him to Sam Houston, Fair Grounds, Fonner Park, Lone Star, Charles Town, Santa Anita, Keeneland and Gulfstream Park as a 4-year-old. The gray son of Paddy O’Prado has responded to nine riders in his last nine starts.

What’s up with all of the mileage?

As Silva views it, the constant movement is part of finding optimal races for a horse that seemingly handles whatever comes his way.

“Management is always hard when you have a good horse, but with this guy it’s been amazing,” said Silva, 45. “We’re able to pick races where we can win. We’re able to make the best decisions not for the owner, not for the trainer, but for the horse.”

Of course, when Sleepy Eyes Todd excels, everyone wins. Helped by Cobb’s extensive research to identify the best opportunities, the former $9,000 purchase at the 2016 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale is providing an extraordinary return on investment.

Sleepy Eyes Todd won half his eight starts last year and had one runner-up effort for earnings of $540,760. In all, he has eight victories in 15 starts with a pair of second-place finishes and has banked $744,825.

He registered his first victory last year with an easy front-running effort for jockey Quincy Hamilton in the April 29 Gus Fonner Stakes at Nebraska’s Fonner Park. He ruled by 6 1/2 lengths in the 1 1/16-mile race.

Apparently, not many agents were impressed by the colt’s dominance in that race. When Sleepy Eyes Todd arrived at Charles Town and was entered in the Aug. 28 Charles Town Classic (G2), he was the only starter without a jockey despite a $600,000 purse.

Carlos Delgado eventually took the assignment — and was ecstatic that he did. His mount rolled on the front end and drew off by 7 1/2 lengths for the 1 1/8-mile distance. Delgado’s 10 percent of the winner’s $336,000 share of the hefty purse had to rank among the easiest money he ever made. According to the chart provided by Equibase, Sleepy Eyes Todd “widened at the rail on the far turn then drew away under steady handling.”

As Sleepy Eyes Todd prepares for his sternest test in the $3 million Pegasus, to be run at 1 1/8 miles on Jan. 23 at Gulfstream Park, he comes off two very impressive performances.

Under a patient, confident ride from Joel Rosario, he rallied from last to capture the Nov. 7 Lafayette Stakes as part of the Breeders’ Cup undercard at Keeneland. Even an accident in front of him did not prevent the eventual winner from picking off one rival after another until he made a decisive charge up the rail.

In the Dec. 19 Mr. Prospector (G3), run at seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park, Sleepy Eyes Todd patiently stalked Winds of Change before receiving his cue from Tyler Gaffalione and storming to the front. He held off Firenze Fire by a half-length. The win gained luster since Firenze Fire had come in third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in his previous start.

The horse that ships so well also is remarkably versatile.

“He can come from behind. He can be on the lead. He can be mid-pack,” Silva noted. “He can run six furlongs. He can run a mile-and-an-eighth. It’s just amazing what he can do.”

The trainer learned to give Sleepy Eyes Todd at least two weeks to acclimate to a new setting and at least one work over the surface. He also makes sure that groom Rafael Martinez and exercise rider Jose Sandoval are part of the traveling show.

So is Go Speed Racer Go, an unraced 2-year-old also owned by Thumbs Up Racing.

“They are good friends," Silva said. "They like each other. They play a lot."

Hey, whatever works. 

2021 Pegasus World Cup (G1)

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