The Pizza Man became the first Illinois-bred to win the Arlington Million (G1) on August 15, and the English Channel gelding is now headed to Keeneland for the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) on October 3.
Richard Papiese, principal of owner/breeder Midwest Thoroughbreds, revealed that The Pizza Man will use the Shadwell Turf Mile as a prep for both the October 31 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), which also takes place at Keeneland, as well as the Japan Cup (Jpn-G1) at Tokyo Racecourse on November 29.
“He’s doing great and came out of the Million in awesome shape,” Papiese said. “We had a few options of places to take him for a final Breeders’ Cup prep, but we decided on the Shadwell Mile because we believe it is what is best for the horse.
“There are a few reasons to go to Keeneland. First, I think he will benefit from a race over the course. I also like the idea of shortening him up beforehand, as he may have to be laying closer in order to win on the big day.”
The six-year-old gelding traveled 1 1/4 miles over Arlington’s yielding turf course in the Million, rallying from well out of it for the neck victory over multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Big Blue Kitten. The Pizza Man will have to stretch out to 1 1/2 miles for both the Breeders’ Cup Mile and Japan Cup.
“We would love to show everyone that he can run many distances well,” Papiese said. “He may be slightly better at a mile and a half, but he has won from a mile to a mile and three-quarters. He may not win (the Shadwell), but we know he’ll be right there and will have something to say about the outcome.
“We thought about going to Laurel (Park) for the ($250,000) Commonwealth Cup ([G2] on September 19), but we believe he will get a lot more out of the Shadwell than going anywhere else,” Papiese continued. “We always love supporting Laurel and we hope to race there with him in the future.
“It’s more about the set-up and running against the best horses. He’s also not the greatest shipper and this was best for him in that regard. We feel like it will prepare him perfectly for two consecutive mile and a half races afterward, especially with shipping to Japan and doing so early. Everything will hopefully go well between now and then.”
The Pizza Man earned his first Grade 1 score in the Arlington Million, saw his earnings boosted past the million mark and remained unbeaten this year in three starts. He opened his 2015 campaign with a 2 1/2-length score in the Opening Verse S. at Churchill Downs on May 30 and defended his title in the Stars and Stripes S. (G3) at Arlington by a neck on July 11.
The homebred bay bypassed last year’s Arlington Million in favor of the 1 11/16-mile American St. Leger, which he won by a length while setting a new course record of 2:47.44.
“It will be nice to see him race at Keeneland,” Papiese said. “We will also have (defending Eclipse Award champion sprinter and Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner) Work All Week racing the day prior in the ($250,000) Phoenix (G3), so it should be a fun weekend.”
The Pizza Man is trying to become only the second Arlington Million winner to also capture the Japan Cup. Golden Pheasant got the job done in 1991. If he’s victorious in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, he would also be trying to become only the second Turf winner to take the Japan Cup as well, following Pilsudski in 1997.
“We’re excited to show the world what The Pizza Man is all about,” Papiese stated. “He will likely leave around November 13 for Tokyo if he’s sound and comes out of the Breeders’ Cup well. He should have about six days of quarantine and we will try to work him on the 22, a week before the race.”
The Pizza Man photo courtesy of Four Footed Fotos