- MONEY READY TO CASH IN MATT WINN STAKES
The Triple Crown races may be over, but the three-year old campaign still has many “big” races left in the season. And if things go as some hope, one talented runner is ready to cash in.
Mr. Money is one of those striking colts with a lot of things going for him. First of all he’s got a competitive racehorse name, but more importantly he’s got the goods to back it up. A versatile son of a speed merchant in Goldencents, this Bret Calhoun trained runner has displayed his father’s amazing turn of foot at times. After finishing a solid fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs in 2018, it looked as if Calhoun had a prime time Kentucky Derby contender.
“We thought he was our Derby horse for sure,” says Calhoun. “We got a cheap thrill in the Breeders’ Cup and started thinking about our path to the first Saturday in May. Unfortunately he had a few hiccups along the way and had to miss one of the races in Louisiana and just couldn’t get totally on track. We knew he was getting better, he just couldn’t overcome those little setbacks on the way.”
Calhoun’s colt came up short on points in his Kentucky Derby quest with a seventh in the Risen Star Stakes and a fifth in the Louisiana Derby. Seeing progress from Mr. Money despite a lack of wins as a three-year old, his conditioner sent him to Churchill. Entered as part of a very competitive 13 horse field in the Pat Day Mile, Calhoun’s decision paid off in a major way.
Stalking a hot early pace in the one-turn mile race, Mr. Money settled nicely and bided his time. At the top of the stretch, jockey Gabriel Saez opened the vault and made it rain. Exploding in a fashion that would do his pappy proud, Mr. Money drew away easily and won by a widening 5 ¼ lengths.
“The Pat Day was certainly the best race of his life and a real breakout affair,” says Calhoun. “Those one-turn mile races can be challenging because normally horses run real fast early. That’s kind of how this one set up and he just destroyed a really good field. When you think about what his dad did in winning back to back Breeders’ Cup Dirt Miles, this was a performance that was certainly Goldencents-like.”
Considering the impressive showing coupled with the fallout from the Kentucky Derby disqualification, most figured Mr. Money would be a Preakness horse. After some careful consideration, Calhoun decided on an alternate plan as he focused on the bigger picture for this talented son of broodmare Plenty O’Toole.
“We had 1.5 million reasons to run in the Preakness,” says Calhoun, “but after a lot of consideration we decided to pass on it. In reality I thought he ran too good in the Pat Day. When a horse turns in that kind of effort and then tries to turn around in just two weeks you face the strong possibility of a letdown. We have a plan for some things we want to do as the year plays out and we felt it was best to skip the Preakness.”
After deciding to skip the second leg of the Triple Crown, Calhoun set his sights on the mile and a sixteenth two turn Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs on June 15. Formerly known as the Northern Dancer, this grade 3 race for three-year olds has been won in recent years by standouts like McCraken (2017) and Gun Runner (2016). Hoping to use this as a stepping-stone to the rest of the year, the thought of keeping his colt at home was very attractive.
“We know he likes Churchill Downs as both of his career wins have come there and he ran well in the Breeders’ cup too,” says Calhoun. “We think the mile and a sixteenth is well within his scope and the two turns will be good for him too. If he can do well enough here we will likely target the Indiana Derby next because it is worth $500,000. There are some other three-year old races after that we will look at as we move through the summer and towards the Breeders’ Cup in the fall.”
The Matt Winn is part of a blockbuster card on a Downs after Dark night that features the grade 1 Stephen Foster. On a night that will have six stakes races and a number of stars, Calhoun hopes to cash with Mr. Money. With opponents like Knicks Go and Signalman slated to be in the gates as well, this son of Goldencents will need to bring some large bills.
“We’ll see how he likes the added distance and if he can be the same horse he was in the Pat Day,” says the Kentucky-based conditioner. “The Matt Winn is always a competitive race and we are very excited.”