Trainer Chad Brown’s leading Kentucky Derby hopeful Flexibility may have disappointed when fourth in the Withers Stakes (gr. III) on Saturday, but Brown still found success last weekend with Shagaf and My Man Sam, a pair of promising winners that are bound for stakes company in the near future.
Shagaf, a son of Bernardini out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Muhaawara, was the first colt in action. After winning his debut in impressive fashion at Aqueduct last November (click here for a recap), Shagaf took things easy during December, but posted four half-mile workouts at Palm Meadows in January before entering a one-mile allowance race on January 29th at Gulfstream Park. Facing a quality field that included Todd Pletcher’s promising maiden winner Rally Cry, Shagaf’s task was made easier when Rally Cry checked hard in traffic and lost all chance at victory, but take nothing away from Shagaf, who capitalized on his advantage to post an impressive victory. After tracking the pace in third through solid fractions of :23.62 and :46.82, Shagaf easily took command through six furlongs in 1:10.67 and then opened up a four-length lead under little urging and cruised home in front by two lengths in the time of 1:37.21 seconds, good for a Beyer speed figure of 78.
Chad Brown voiced similar thoughts. “[Ortiz] said basically from the quarter pole home he had absolutely nobody around him to keep him focused. It’s only his second career start. He started to maybe let up a little bit before the wire and he had to get after him a little bit,” Brown said. “He said on the gallop out when he heard the horses coming behind him and tried to pull him up, he tried to break again.”
Two days later, Chad Brown sent out the second-time starter My Man Sam in a one-mile maiden special weight at Aqueduct. Coming off of a fifth-place finish in his debut on December 19th, My Man Sam was overlooked on Sunday and sent off at 5.60-1, but the way he ran suggested that we won’t be seeing odds like that again in the near future. Reserved near the back of the pack early on, 15 1/2 lengths behind through a half-mile in :48.19, My Man Sam began to rally on the far turn, but still trailed by 7 1/2 lengths with just 2 1/2 furlongs remaining.
Then My Man Sam turned on the afterburners and swallowed up the field.
Up front, the heavy favorite Big Gillette had a three-length lead and seemed to be on his way to an easy victory. But My Man Sam kept coming and coming, faster and faster, and had nearly caught Big Gillette by the time they passed the eighth pole. With this kind of momentum, there was no stopping My Man Sam, who roared past Big Gillette and pulled away to win by eight lengths–yes, eight lengths!–in the time of 1:46.43 for 8.5 furlongs.
At first glance, his time isn’t stellar, but it translated to a respectable Beyer of 84, a number that My Man Sam can definitely build on in the future. We should get a chance to see how Shagaf and My Man Sam stack up against each other when they run in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct on March 5th, which is expected to mark the next start for both colts. I’m looking forward to it!
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