November 27, 2021

Mr. Misunderstood makes point in Wise Dan as World Approval fades

Mr. Misunderstood emerges from the pack to take the Wise Dan Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 16, 2018 (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

Champion turf horse World Approval was sent off as the even-money favorite on his retrieval mission in Saturday night’s $200,000 Wise Dan (G2), but still unable to recover his old form, the door was open for horse-for-the-course Mr. Misunderstood to jump up.

Bet down to 5-2 from a generous 10-1 morning line, Flurry Racing Stables’ Mr. Misunderstood brought a two-for-two mark over Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn turf. The Brad Cox pupil had defeated fellow sophomores in last fall’s Jefferson Cup and Commonwealth Turf (G3), and added the Woodchopper at his Fair Grounds winter home. Taking on elders in his ensuing starts proved a tougher challenge. Runner-up to Synchrony in the Fair Grounds H. (G3), fourth to the same foe in the Mervin H. Muniz Memorial (G2), and a closing sixth to Heart to Heart in the Maker’s 46 Mile (G1) at Keeneland, Mr. Misunderstood regained the winning thread back beneath the Twin Spires.

The start was a harbinger for World Approval, who did not get off particularly smoothly and found himself in a barging match with Inspector Lynley to his inside and Mr. Misunderstood, drawn right on his outside in post 5. World Approval recovered to stalk Mr Cub through splits of :24.70, :48.75, and 1:12.73 on the firm course. Flatlined was also forwardly placed in third until giving way.

Meanwhile, Mr. Misunderstood was well placed in fourth by regular rider Florent Geroux. Fellow Churchill lover Divisidero was traveling smartly on the inside, but with no room approaching the far turn, lost position to ease back and come around. Mr. Misunderstood held his spot, and at the top of the lane, got the seam when a fading World Approval could not maintain his.

Quickening through the gap, Mr. Misunderstood took off after Mr Cub, who was still clear in midstretch. But the winner ultimately wore the pacesetter down, getting up by a half-length in a final time of 1:41.83 for 1 1/16 miles.

Inspector Lynley, stuck in traffic for a time, made late headway on the inside to snatch second by a head from Mr Cub. Divisidero was another neck away in fourth, and Parlor was the same margin back in fifth. World Approval retreated to sixth, beating only the long-way last Flatlined. Shining Copper, who would have contributed to the pace scenario, was scratched.

Mr. Misunderstood’s sixth career stakes score advanced his line to 17-10-2-0, $574,714, reflecting additional victories in the Super Derby and Super Derby Prelude at Louisiana Downs.

Bred by Athens Woods in Kentucky, the Archarcharch gelding is out of the multiple stakes-placed Afternoon Deelites mare Jodys Deelite. He initially sold for $47,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling but brought $130,000 from his current connections as a two-year-old in training at OBS March.

Beyond Blame gives Cox and Geroux a double in the Regret (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

Later on the card, Cox and Geroux struck again with 7-2 favorite Beyond Blame in the $100,000 Regret S. (G3) to sweep both turf stakes on Stephen Foster night.

The Pop-A-Top homebred was given a textbook ground-saving trip a few lengths off a contested pace, swung out on the far turn, and bested longtime leader Go Noni Go by 1 1/2 lengths. The Casse-trained Heavenly Love, last in the 13-filly field, closed with a rush but had to settle for third, with a game Go Noni Go keeping her nose down on the wire.

Beyond Blame covered 1 1/8 grassy miles in 1:48.94 to earn her first stakes win, following a second in the Allen “Black Cat” Lacombe Memorial at Fair Grounds and a troubled sixth in the Edgewood (G3). By Blame and out of Quippery, a Forest Wildcat half-sister to Grade 3 scorer Life Imitates Art from the family of Street Boss, Beyond Blame sports a mark of 6-3-2-0, $123,040.

Wise Dan Quotes from Churchill

Winning rider Florent Geroux on Mr. Misunderstood: “This horse isn’t the biggest horse in the world but does very well covered up behind some of the other bigger ones in front of him. When I tipped him out he really dug in. He didn’t run bad in his last start (the Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland) but we knew he was better than that. He proved today he’s right up there with some of the best turf horses in the country.”

Winning trainer Brad Cox: “I think we may have rushed him a bit getting back from the Maker’s 46 at Keeneland. He ran well but I think the three weeks between races was a bit too much, especially running in a Grade 1. We gave him a bit more time off and pointed for the Wise Dan and he proved he could compete with some of the top horses on the grass.”

Winning owner Staton Flurry: “Brad and his team have done such a phenomenal job with this horse. I was up here two weeks ago when he breezed over the grass and looked phenomenal. I said after the Maker’s 46 we needed to get a little bit luckier in the Grade 1 and Grade 2s and that happened tonight.”

Jockey Chris Landeros on near-miss third Mr Cub: “He ran such a big race on the front end. I’m so proud of his effort. He was just a few strides away from winning. He ran a great race.”

Mr Cub’s trainer Ian Wilkes: “He ran such a great race. We almost had it. He simply ran too good to lose.”

Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez on World Approval, sixth as the favorite: “He just didn’t run his race at all. I was just telling Mark (trainer Casse) it feels like the grass is very loose. He’s run in the soft and he’s run on the firm turf, but this just feels like it’s just coming up underneath of him and he’s not really getting a grip of it. And then he just didn’t run.”

Trainer Mark Casse on World Approval: “I guess the track’s a little loose. He (Velazquez) said that every time he’d start to accelerate he’d kind of lose his footing. He said he’s never done that before, so I don’t know. Johnny did a good job. We got roughed-up a little bit at the start, but he got him out of there and got him in good position.

“Johnny knows him better than anybody, and he said he’s never struggled with a turf course like he struggled tonight. He said that every time he’d run about three or four strides, they call it ‘pitchin,’ and he said that’s what he kept doing. I don’t know, because he handles all kinds of turf.”

On whether World Approval is the same horse: “Well, he trains and looks as good, but so far his last two performances haven’t looked it, so I don’t know. It’s our job to figure that out.”