After a brutal beat in his U.S. debut in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1), Masen found a cozy spot to rebound in Sunday’s $87,000 Seek Again S. at Belmont Park. A Juddmonte homebred like race honoree Seek Again, the 1-4 favorite romped over just two remaining rivals with ease.
“I know it came down to a three-horse field,” Brown said, “but I was really happy to see him get a ‘W’ under his belt. It was a tough loss last time when he got beat by a really good horse (Shirl’s Speight) over in the Maker’s Mark Mile. It was his first time racing in the country and he got nailed. I wanted to give him a confidence booster and it worked out perfect.”
With Manny Franco picking up the mount as super-sub for the suspended Flavien Prat, Masen broke on top but let Wolfie’s Dynaghost set the pace. Franco had a handful of horse as the favorite stalked through fractions of :23.64 and :47.40 on the good Widener turf. Last of the trio was another former European with back class, Duke of Hazzard, in his first start for Wesley Ward.
Masen cruised up to Wolfie’s Dynaghost on the turn and effortlessly took charge through six furlongs in 1:11.43. Franco glanced back to see where Duke of Hazzard was, then just shook the reins to give Masen the cue to go in earnest. The gelded son of Kingman extended his margin to five lengths, in hand, while clocking the mile in 1:34.94.
Duke of Hazzard, carefully handled by Irad Ortiz Jr., crossed the wire 17 3/4 lengths clear in second. Wolfie’s Dynaghost was treated tenderly by Jose Ortiz once he was beaten. Field Pass and Mandate were scratched from the original field of five.
Franco kept it simple:
“I was on the best horse in the race, so I just tried to give the best ride I could and keep him out of trouble. In the beginning, he was pulling me because he was in the clear, so I was trying to put him behind the horse on the lead (Wolfie’s Dynaghost).
“I just engaged the horse on the lead and my horse did the rest. He was ready for the race. I never asked him at all and he just was eased at the eighth pole.
“Man, I am just grateful to be in this spot right now (riding for Brown) and gain the trust of him and his owners. I just want to make the most of the opportunities.”
Brown recognized Franco’s role in the win.
“Manny filled in for Flavien and did a fabulous job first time sitting on that horse to get him to settle,” the trainer observed. “He did everything I wanted him to do and it’s time to move forward now and run in a higher-level race again.”
That higher-level race is likely to come in New York, with an interim step at Belmont ahead of a major target at Saratoga.
“We’re going to look at the Poker (G3) in four weeks,” Brown said of the June 18 affair. “The Fourstardave (G1) at Saratoga (August 18) is really our next big Grade 1 try after that near-miss in the Maker’s Mark.”
Masen advanced his record to 8-4-2-1, $288,788. Previously based with Ger Lyons in Ireland, the bay showed promise at two in 2020. He won his debut at Leopardstown and placed a close third in the Tyros (G3), but ran well below form when trailing in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1).
In a limited 2021 sophomore campaign, Masen went 2-for-3. Runner-up in the Ruby S. at Killarney off an 11-month layoff, he captured a lucrative handicap on Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown and earned his first stakes score in the Knockaire S. at the same venue. Masen resurfaced stateside in the April 15 Maker’s Mark Mile, where he was mugged on the line.
“He came into my barn in outstanding shape,” Brown said of the import, “and I want to point out that Juddmonte and former trainer Ger Lyons had the horse and did a good job of developing him and sending him over very sound and in terrific shape. I’m very appreciative and they took very good care of him.”
The British-bred is out of Continental Drift, a daughter of Smart Strike and champion Intercontinental. Thus Masen hails from the all-star tribe of Dansili, Banks Hill, Champs Elysees, and Cacique – all full siblings to Intercontinental – as well as their half-sister, Heat Haze.