Top Billing Set for Much Anticipated Return
February 20, 2015 10:04am

Exactly a year to the day since his last start, W. S. Farish and E. J. Hudson’s Top Billing will make his highly anticipated return to the races Sunday at Gulfstream Park, his first race since undergoing surgery to repair a fractured cannon bone in his right front leg.

The 4-year-old son of Curlin, a prime contender on the 2014 Triple Crown Trail before suffering the injury in a March workout, has been entered for Sunday’s tenth race, a 1 1/16-mile allowance for older horses. The Shug McGaughey trainee has not run since finishing third in last year’s Fountain of Youth (G2).

“He’s doing well,” McGaughey said. “He’s been training at Payson Park all winter. I’ve probably been up there every time he’s breezed.”

Top Billing had a record of 4-2-1-1 and earnings just shy of $100,000 before going to the shelf. Similarly to the late developing nature of his sire, the chestnut did not start until December of his 2-year-old season. He won his career debut, romping by 5 ¼ lengths over a sloppy track at Laurel in a six-furlong maiden special weight. In his first outing as a sophomore, the colt made his Gulfstream Park debut in an allowance and finished second by a neck to Commissioner, who would go on to finish second in the Belmont Stakes (G1). Top Billing would follow up that effort with a 2 ¼-length victory in another allowance at Gulfstream, putting him on target for the Fountain of Youth.

In the Fountain of Youth, Top Billing, breaking from the disadvantageous 12-post, was the only horse able to close on dueling frontrunners Wildcat Red and General a Rod. The two pacesetters separated themselves from the field and finished one-two, heads apart, but Top Billing ended up just two lengths behind them. He earned a 97 Beyer for the effort.

Since returning to training last summer, Top Billing has trained forwardly for his return and has breezed on both dirt and turf. As the colt’s comeback race neared, McGaughey began to spread out his works. The Kentucky-bred most recently worked in company with maiden Hereditary on Feb. 14, breezing 4 furlongs in 0:50 seconds flat. Hereditary would go on to break his maiden when winning Thursday’s eighth race at Gulfstream.

“He got ready to run and I backed off of him a little,” McGaughey said. “I didn’t breeze him the weekend before last. I breezed him back with [Hereditary] the other day, so it’s a start back. It’s been a year. He’s been injured. We’re tickled to have him back in, and we just hope we can get started and go from there.”

McGaughey also said that distance will not be a concern for his colt coming back from so much time off. In fact, he’d prefer the colt to go even longer.

“If I had my preferences, it’d be a 1 1/8-mile to farther, but I don’t, so I’m just glad he’s back in and back to the races, and I’m looking forward to Sunday,” he said.

McGaughey said Top Billing has been a good patient but was definitely full of himself when working his way back from injury. He hopes that maturity is something that the colt will develop as he gets back on track with his racing career.

“It’s funny. When I got him as a 2-year-old, he came with a bit of a reputation of being a big, good-feeling horse that would rear up and that kind of stuff, and we never had any kind of problem with him,” McGaughey recalled. “Then we started him back this summer at Fair Hill, and they were telling me that he was being a bit of a handful. I was there one day when he did something and I had to change his routine a little bit, and he’s been fine since then. I maybe would have liked him to mature just a little bit more, but being injured, maybe he was kind of taking care of himself a little bit and that kept him from it. Hopefully, that’ll come with time.”

McGaughey also noted that Honor Code, who himself returned from an eight-month layoff to win an allowance at Aqueduct on Nov. 11, will run next in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) on March 7.

“He’s doing good,” McGaughey said. “He’s going to run here on March 7 in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. It’ll be another way to get him started, but he’s doing good.”

Source: Gulfstream Park Press Release


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