May 26, 2024

Pee Wee Reese too fast for them in Joe Hernandez

Pee Wee Reese rang in the new year by dominating a hot renewal of the Joe Hernandez at Santa Anita © BENOIT PHOTO

Nick Alexander’s homebred Pee Wee Reese turned in an exhibition of speed in the $98,375 Joe Hernandez, the New Year’s Day feature at Santa Anita, to remain perfect from two starts sprinting down the hill.

Trained by Phil D’Amato, the 2-1 favorite scampered to overtake Richard’s Boy through an opening quarter in :21.96 and settled into his comfort zone the rest of the way. Jockey Joe Talamo had the proverbial armchair ride as Pee Wee Reese began to open up at the half in :44.64 and held sway down the lane. The California-bred crossed the wire 2 3/4 lengths clear while finishing about 6 1/2 firm-turf furlongs in 1:12.37.

Next Shares rallied from last for a most promising second in his Southern California debut for Richard Baltas. Richard’s Boy, who gave game chase throughout, held third from the belated Om, thus prevailing in the private match between the last two Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) runners-up. Next came Tribalist, Mr. Roary, Cimpl Man, Krsto Skye, Law Abidin Citizen, and Gold Rush Dancer. The also-eligibles – Conquest Daddyo, Smokey Image, and Sycamore Lane – all stayed in the barn.

Pee Wee Reese was cutting back in trip from a third in the November 26 Seabiscuit (G2) at Del Mar, which also marked his return from a nearly five-month vacation. A coast-to-coast winner of the July 4 American (G3) over a mile on this course two back, he’d previously placed in the May 20 Crystal Water in his stakes bow. The lightly-raced five-year-old now sports a mark of 11-6-2-1, $345,490.

By Tribal Rule and out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Bluegrass Belle, Pee Wee Reese hails from the family of Brazilian champion Juno as well as multiple Group 3 hero Cool Cowboy.

D’Amato mentioned the March 10 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) at his main objective, with perhaps the January 27 Cal Cup Turf Classic along the way.

Quotes from Santa Anita

Trainer Phil D’Amato on Pee Wee Reese: “The game plan was to just go out there and if they wanted to catch us, they’d have to try. This horse just keeps getting better and better. His weight, his confidence, the way Joe rides him with a lot of confidence – I think that’s all making a big difference.

“I think the ultimate plan is the Kilroe and we’ll see how we get there with him. But he’s definitely worthy of that race now.

“The Cal Cup (Unusual Heat Turf Classic going 1 1/8 miles) is tentatively what I’m thinking of for how I’ll get him to the Kilroe – not set in stone but the plan I had.

“I just don’t know how much of today was that he’s that fast or just that he makes everything look so easy when does it. When he won first time out going down the hill it looked like he was absolutely galloping and he was six in front. The way he does things on the turf makes it look so easy.”

Winning rider Joe Talamo: “Compliments go to Phil, he’s done such a great job with this horse, keeping him fresh. I just try to be a good pilot when I’m on him. Whether it’s 6 1/2 or a mile, he always runs his race.”

Owner/breeder Nick Alexander: “You know, he was life and death to break his maiden on the dirt. In his next start we ran five furlongs down at Del Mar and I think he win by five or six, just as easy as you can win.

“This felt pretty good. He’s been a real super horse for us. I loved the mare and she unfortunately she died during foaling the next year. And Tribal Rule, he’s gone, so he’s the only one left. His mom and dad are gone so hopefully he’ll be a stallion for us.

On naming Pee Wee Reese in honor of the baseball Hall of Famer: “I’ve been a Dodgers fan since before they came to Los Angeles and if you recall, Pee Wee was a guy who befriended Jackie Robinson, when he was getting a hard time. I think it was in Philadelphia, and he went up and put his arm around Robinson. I’ve just been a Dodgers fan my whole life. Pee Wee was a captain, he wasn’t the biggest guy in the world but he had a big heart, just like this horse.”