By Bob Ehalt BloodHorse
It can never be said that Largent, the equine athlete, was rushed into graded turf stakes company by trainer Todd Pletcher.
The gelded 4-year-old son of Into Mischief won his March 10, 2019, debut and then spent his next four starts collecting two wins and two seconds in allowance-level races.
This summer, after a four-month break, Pletcher finally tried Largent in a stakes, but that was a trio of two stakes for Virginia-breds (which he won) and the Lure Stakes for horses who had not won a graded stakes (where he was second).
It was after the namesake of famed Seattle Seahawks receiver Steve Largent won the Oct. 9 Bert Allen Stakes for Virginia-breds as a 1-20 favorite that Pletcher decided to tackle the graded stakes runners in the deep end of the pool. He entered Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Largent in the $200,000 Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (G2T) at Gulfstream Park along with a more accomplished stablemate from a different ownership group in Halladay.
“He’s always loved Gulfstream. He’s always run well here,” Pletcher said. “He’s been training great. It was the right time to see if he could step up into a big spot.”
Largent was indeed in the right spot at the right time as he benefited most from a brutal pace carved out by Halladay Dec. 12 in the Ft. Lauderdale and rallied from seventh to roll to a two-length victory over Doswell. The 1 1/8-mile test is considered a main steppingstone to the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Stakes (G1T) Jan. 23 at Gulfstream.
“It was a very salty field,” Pletcher said. “I think he ran well enough to earn a spot in the Pegasus.”
For Largent, the Ft. Lauderdale was his first race beyond 1 1/16 miles, and though he was sent off at 16-1 odds ($35.80), he surely handled it in a manner that bodes well for his chances of stretching out to 1 3/16 miles in the Pegasus.
“He’s hinted he wanted more ground in his last few races. Between his pedigree and adaptable running style, we don’t feel he has distance limitations,” said Aron Wellman, the founder and president of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners. “We conservatively managed him over the course of his career, some of it forced, some of it by design, but the time had come for an acid test, and he passed it. It’s a credit to Todd. It’s a pleasure to be associated with a horse like this who always tries, and I’m very happy for our Eclipse partners and Steve Davidson and Randy Gullatt of Twin Creeks. Now that he’s a gelding, longevity is the name of the game.”
Largent has six wins and three seconds in nine starts with earnings of $314,470. The son of the Unbridled mare Life in Seattle (hence the name Largent) was bred by Lazy Lane Farms and was brought for $460,000 from the Warrendale Sales consignment at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
He is the first graded stakes winner from his dam’s eight foals to race.
The Ft. Lauderdale had no shortage of speedsters among the field of 10, and the early duel between the top two choices played out as perfectly for Largent as an unguarded post pattern.
In the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by PDJF (G1T), Harrell Ventures’ Halladay and Factor This were 1-2 after a half-mile in :46.97 and finished no better than sixth. They reprised those roles in the Ft. Lauderdale with 3-1 second choice Halladay leading 2-1 favorite Factor This by a length after an opening quarter-mile in :23.22 on a turf course labeled good. Halladay maintained that lead to the half-mile pole but had to run faster in the second quarter (:23.12) than he did in the first quarter.
After six furlongs in 1:09.62, the pace caught up with the leaders as Phipps Stable’s Breaking the Rules loomed a major threat from the four path.
Yet outside of him, jockey Paco Lopez had Largent moving fastest of all, and he powered past his rivals to grab a narrow lead at the eighth pole and draw clear in 1:46.16.
“Paco rode him exceptionally well,” Wellman said. “The turn of foot was explosive.”
Joseph Allen’s Doswell, a Giant’s Causeway gelding who saved ground in fourth much of the way, moved up along the rail in the stretch to take second at 15-1 odds for trainer Barclay Tagg by a nose over the Shug McGaughey-trained Breaking the Rules, a son of War Front .
Halladay faded to seventh, with Factor This eighth.
“We’ll assess how (Halladay) comes out of it,” Pletcher said about Halladay’s chances of returning in the Pegasus. “We’ll get them home and evaluate both of them, but we’ll just kind of play it by ear with Halladay. Unfortunately for Halladay, there was so much pace in today’s race. We didn’t want to take away his weapon, but at the same time he was probably doing a little too much early on.”
VIDEO: FT. LAUDERDALE S.