“He was able to overcome all that and in the end came to the wire with his ears pricked. That’s exciting.”
So trainer Todd Pletcher summed up Triple Crown nominee Dr Post’s winning effort, despite a tough trip, in Saturday’s $75,000 Unbridled S. at Gulfstream Park. Normally this timeline would be too late for the Kentucky Derby (G1), but with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing its postponement to Sept. 5, the St Elias Stable runner is emerging as a contender after all.
Dr Post arguably would have been on the trail all along, if not for being sidelined after just one start at two. As a measure of his high regard, Dr Post was sent off as the 1-2 favorite in his debut at Belmont Park on July 4, where he bobbled at the start and wound up fourth.
That turned out to be a key maiden won by future Saratoga Special (G2) hero Green Light Go. The runner-up, Another Miracle, later captured the Skidmore S. on the Saratoga turf. Both also placed at a high level, as Green Light Go was second to Tiz the Law in the Champagne (G1), and Another Miracle was third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2).
Dr Post wasn’t ready to resume until March 29 at Gulfstream, but the well-bred son of Quality Road and Grade 2 victress Mary Delaney had maintained his reputation in the interim. Dispatched as the even-money favorite, he rallied in the 7-furlong maiden to earn a gaudy 104 Brisnet Speed rating.
An allowance was the next logical step in Pletcher’s plan, involving a trip to Oaklawn Park. But Dr Post was training so sharply that the multiple Eclipse Award-winning horseman called an audible and opted to pitch him into the Unbridled. The 1 1/16-mile test marked not only his stakes debut, but also his first try around two turns. It would give him more of an education than expected.
Dr Post eased just off the pace for Irad Ortiz, who was returning to action for the first time since March 19. Ortiz had taken a sabbatical due to personal concerns about the coronavirus, but was promptly back in business with a four-win day.
As front-running Americanus carved out splits of :24.07, :47.47, and 1:10.79, Dr Post found himself in a pocket in the bunched-up field. Luis Saez aboard Attachment Rate was doing a good job of keeping the 11-10 favorite hemmed in. Dr Post and Attachment Rate bumped entering the far turn and continued their scrimmaging while advancing in upper stretch. By that point, Americanus had fought off early pursuers Soros and Relentless Dancer, but he could not contain the battling closers.
Dr Post muscled his way through, finally getting out from Attachment Rate’s blocking maneuver. In the final strides, he drove 1 1/2 lengths clear, much more comfortably than could have been forecast on the far turn.
For such an inexperienced colt, Dr Post proved that he could stand up to traffic and impose himself at will. His time of 1:43.07 yielded a 94 Brisnet Speed rating, not as impressive on paper, but the form offers a bit more hope.
Runner-up Attachment Rate, the 2-1 second choice, was coming off a third in the Gotham (G3). Americanus held third, followed by another graded participant, Necker Island; Relentless Dancer, fourth in both the Holy Bull (G3) and Tampa Bay Derby (G2); and Soros. South Bend was scratched, likely in favor of a turf tilt in light of trainer Stanley Hough’s prerace comments.
Like he’s never been away! It’s a fabulous four-timer for @iradortiz at @GulfstreamPark as @PletcherRacing‘s really promising Dr Post puts away some smart and experienced rivals in the Unbridled Stakes! pic.twitter.com/R0BsEk6B1V
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) April 25, 2020
Ortiz observed that Dr Post is still developing mentally.
“He got through between horses and when he finally got through he just took off,” his rider said. “He’s still such a young horse. I think when he grows up a little bit in his mind, it will help him a little bit more. But he did everything right. I can’t complain.”
Pletcher explained how much he was asking of Dr Post in this spot:
“I was concerned that we were going from a 7-furlong maiden to a solid field of experienced racehorses. I was concerned that I was throwing too much at him in just his second start of the year. But he trained so impressively – his last two breezes were so good.
“We had the option of taking him to Oaklawn for an allowance race, but I said, ‘we’re here and the horse is doing well, let’s take a calculated risk.’ I thought for a lightly horse to respond that way and overcome some traffic, it was impressive. He got the win and got a good education. He showed a lot of talent and backed it up again today.”
Bred by Cloyce C. Clark in Kentucky and sold for $400,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, the dark bay has bankrolled $76,635 from his 2-for-3 mark. Dam Mary Delaney, by Hennessy, was a sprinter who scored her signature win in the 2007 Madison (G2) at Keeneland. But Dr Post, likely inheriting stamina from Quality Road, acts like a router.
His second dam is by Crafty Prospector, and his third and fourth dams, respectively, are by Triple Crown legends Seattle Slew and Secretariat. That fourth dam is Fiesta Lady, winner of the 1984 Matron (G1) and ancestress of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Thorn Song.
This is the further family of Faneuil Boy and Faneuil Lass, whose descendants include reigning Travers (G1) star Code of Honor. He’s a reminder of how a speed-oriented female line can produce a top performer over the American classic distance with the right sire.
Pletcher will map out a path for Dr Post once the racing calendar becomes clearer.
“Like everyone else, we’ll wait and see what options we have. Hopefully, we’ll find out some news from New York when they’re thinking about reopening hopefully this week. By the time he’s ready to run we’ll have a better idea what our options are, but I was very, very encouraged by that.”