Skychai Racing’s Da Big Hoss was just that in Saturday night’s $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Cup (G3), overwhelming the field with a monstrous stretch run. It was also announced that he obliterated the course record at Sam Houston.
Under a rail-skimming ride by Florent Geroux, the Mike Maker charge negotiated 1 1/2 firm-turf miles in an initially reported 2:28.16. That would knock more than four seconds off Commander Calhoun’s old mark of 2:32.56 established October 3, 1996.
By the time the official chart was posted, however, all the times – from fractions to final – were labeled N/A. Pending further review, will Da Big Hoss be accorded the record he surely ought to have?
If the reported time were true, the obvious retort is, “Commander who? How often do they run 1 1/2 mile turf races here anyway, let alone one of meaningful quality? Isn’t this the first time they even held the Connally at this distance?”
But it’s missing the point to be snarky about course records in this context. For Da Big Hoss crushed a couple of very useful rivals in Kaigun and Big John B, and the 5-year-old could just be hitting his stride.
Claimed for $50,000 out of a Churchill Downs allowance score June 21, Da Big Hoss provided immediate returns on investment with a three-race winning spree featuring the John’s Call at Saratoga and the Kentucky Turf Cup. There was no disgrace in his sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) at Keeneland, where he was beaten 6 1/2 lengths by the likes of Found and Golden Horn. Da Big Hoss had since finished third to Charming Kitten and Kaigun in the December 26 William L. McKnight (G3) at Gulfstream, but as a type who appears to thrive on racing, he improved off that effort for this invasion.
Pumpkin Rumble held the lead in the initial stages, only to be joined by Neil Drysdale’s useful Brazilian import Going Somewhere passing the stands for the first time. They raced in tandem with Da Big Hoss traveling comfortably a couple lengths behind until creeping closer rounding the final turn. Zipping through on the rail when Pumpkin Rumble came out a tad, Da Big Hoss shot clear and flaunted his authority by 4 3/4 lengths.
Kaigun closed from further back in the pack, and Big John B uncorked his trademark run from last, but neither could catch a glimpse of the long-gone winner. Both provide some nifty collateral form for Da Big Hoss: Kaigun was a solid (if tiring) fourth in the Canadian International (G1) in his first 1 1/2-mile attempt, and Big John B was second to The Pizza Man two back in the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2).
While neither is a world-beater, each is pretty decent, and Da Big Hoss simply throttled them. And he was spotting Kaigun nine pounds as the 124-pound co-highweight. He’s now won half his starts, with a record of 16-8-1-3 and $703,056 in the bank.
Da Big Hoss was bred by Gary and Mary West. His stamina is easy to spot in his pedigree, with Belmont (G1) winners Lemon Drop Kid and Touch Gold as his sire and broodmare sire, respectively. His dam, Lady Struck Gold, is herself a daughter of Grade 2 victress Lady Blessington, from the further family of dual French classic star and promising young sire Lope de Vega.
Interestingly, Lemon Drop Kid was also prominent in the pedigree of Saturday’s Houston Ladies’ Classic heroine Forever Unbridled. She’s out of his Kentucky Oaks (G1)-winning daughter Lemons Forever.
At the opposite end of the distance spectrum, Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Galton came out on top in a blanket finish to the $75,000 Turf Sprint, in which the first seven home were separated by a shade more than one length.
Trained by Tom Amoss and well handled by DeShawn Parker, the 7-2 chance rated in fourth behind torrid splits of :21.79 and :44.43. Not until deep stretch did Galton begin to challenge, but he ultimately nabbed Billy Two Hats and longtime leader Brilliant Interest. D’Cajun Cat was a fast-finishing fourth, and Marchman, the 4-5 favorite, flashed home as well to snare fifth.
Galton, who was spotting both placegetters several pounds as the 124-pound co-highweight, finished five furlongs in a snappy :56.69 – just off the course mark of :56.21 set by another Amoss pupil, Sum of the Parts, in the 2014 edition of this race. The 5-year-old was earning his first stakes victory, upping his line to 22-6-5-4, $216,820.
Bred and originally campaigned by the Niarchos Family’s Flaxman Holdings, Galton spent much of his career routing. The son of Offlee Wild and the Giant’s Causeway mare Nibbana was claimed by his current connections for $30,000 at Fair Grounds last March. He won an off-the-turf event at a mile that day, but Amoss shortened him up to good effect in his next two. Although he subsequently stretched out again and cleared a couple of allowance conditions at Canterbury, he was fourth in the Mystic Lake Mile and West Virginia Speaker’s Cup. Galton was freshened off a third in a November 18 starter allowance at Churchill, and clearly enjoyed the minimum trip here.
Da Big Hoss photo courtesy Jack Coady/Coady Photography.