Wesley Ward believes that Golden Pal will turn out to be the best he’s ever trained. The Uncle Mo colt appears determined to back up that claim, making a triumphant return in Thursday’s $120,000 Quick Call S. (G3) on opening day at Saratoga.
Unraced since capturing last November’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2), Golden Pal sustained an injury that ruled him out of Royal Ascot. But the 1-5 favorite now has designs on another British target – the Aug. 20 Nunthorpe S. (G1) during York’s Ebor Festival.
Golden Pal was sporting new colors in his belated sophomore debut. Coolmore principals Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, along with Westerberg, acquired the speed machine from owner/breeder Randall Lowe.
The 1-5 favorite showed no signs of rust with another frontrunning coup at the Spa. Nor was the earlier rain, that left the Mellon course rated good, any inconvenience. Going straight to the lead with Irad Ortiz, Golden Pal blitzed through fractions of :21.92 and :44.88. Jaxon Traveler tried to pursue, but couldn’t keep up in the stretch. Golden Pal drew off by three lengths while polishing off 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.99.
“He broke really nice for me,” Ortiz told NYRA publicity. “When I asked him, he responded really well. I didn’t want to ask too early. I didn’t want him to do too much; he’s been off for a long time.”
Ward wasn’t worried about the long absence, just the lack of a work from the gate:
“He’s so extremely talented and quick. He’s a big horse and he moves like a cat and that’s where he really has an advantage. I was a little concerned going into the race that I didn’t have a gate work into him, but he’s so smart that he overcame that in the first jump. When they said ‘go,’ he was gone.
“I like sprinters off layoffs. I think they run their best races off layoffs, more so than the distance horses. I think they need spacing in between because they are so fast and put so much into it, especially the first part of the race.”
Omaha City, the 36-1 longest shot on the board, made a sustained run from last to collar Jaxon Traveler for second. After another 6 1/4-length gap came Rebel Posse in fourth, followed at about the same interval by Second of July. Kentucky Pharoah retreated to last. Fauci was scratched, as were the main-track-only duo of Fire Sword and Mr Sippi.
Florida-bred Golden Pal improved his resume to 5-3-2-0, $659,051. Caught late in his unveiling on the Gulfstream Park dirt as a juvenile, the bay was just nailed in last summer’s Norfolk S. (G2) at Royal Ascot. Golden Pal broke his maiden over this course and distance in the Skidmore S. en route to Breeders’ Cup glory.
Golden Pal had since undergone surgery to remove an ankle chip. Ward, in Thursday’s postrace interview with Maggie Wolfendale, hailed Dr. Wayne McIlwraith as an “amazing surgeon” who did a “fantastic job.”
Hitherto campaigned in the name of Lowe’s Ranlo Investments, Golden Pal is out of another Lowe homebred, the brilliant turf sprinter Lady Shipman. The Grade 3-winning Midshipman mare landed a total of 11 stakes, and missed by a neck versus males in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
Golden Pal’s long-term aim is to win the Turf Sprint that eluded his dam. The Nunthorpe could be his ticket as a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event.