FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Brian Nadeau
Notes Writer/Media Relations
Alicia Hughes provided copy – [email protected]
Colonel Liam the Star of the Show in Muniz
Pegasus World Cup Turf Winner Figures Tough to Beat
New Orleans (March 17, 2021) – The early returns on Robert and Lawana Low’s Colonel Liam were admirable enough for a young horse. A diet of steady works allowed the son of Liam’s Map to post a victory via disqualification in his career debut and, while he was beaten in his second outing, there was reason to believe Todd Pletcher, his Eclipse Award-winning conditioner had plenty to work with moving forward.
In order to bring that upside to the surface, however, Pletcher needed to get the gray colt a change in surface scenery. Since switching Colonel Liam to the grass, Pletcher has indeed found himself with a new stable star on his hands, one who can further enhance his budding reputation when he starts in Saturday’s $300,000 Muniz Memorial Classic Stakes (G2) against 11 rivals at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Contested at 1 1/8 miles over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course, the Muniz is race 12-of-14 and one of eight stakes races on Saturday’s program. The headliner is the $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2)—a Championship Series event on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The All Stakes Late Pick Five (races 10-14) and All Stakes Late Pick Four (races 11-14) are both estimated at $750,000.
The expectations Colonel Liam (post 5 as the 3-1 favorite on Mike Diliberto’s morning line, with Irad Ortiz Jr. to ride) has carried since being purchased for $1.2 million at the 2019 OBS April 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale were met in his last start when he prevailed in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park on January 23. Since making his first two starts on dirt, Colonel Liam has won three of his four tries on the turf—confirming Pletcher’s belief that life on the lawn would ultimately bring out the 4-year-old’s best intangibles.
“We always sort of had in the back of our minds that he’s got quite a bit of turf on the bottom side of his pedigree,” said Pletcher, a finalist for racing’s Hall of Fame class this season. “He trained well enough on the dirt that we got him started but we also felt like maybe we weren’t quite seeing the best of him. We worked him on the turf at Saratoga and that’s when we saw a significant improvement. That’s why we switched him to the turf, and he seems to have found a home there.”
The only blemish Colonel Liam has had on the turf came when he was bumped hard at the start of the Saratoga Derby last August en route to finishing fourth. A signal of what was to come then emerged last December when he came from off the pace to capture Gulfstream Park’s Tropical Park Derby by 3 ¼ lengths.
In his first try against older horses and first venture into graded stakes company, Colonel Liam accelerated in the lane to best stablemate Largent by a neck in the Pegasus Turf while taking down a field that included grade 1 winner Next Shares and fellow Muniz entrant Pixelate.
“We felt very good coming into (the Pegasus),” Pletcher said. “He had got what we’d hoped for in the prep race and subsequently came back and trained great. We were very optimistic that he was sitting on a good race and would perform well. Aside from (the Saratoga Derby), he’s been perfect on the grass and I think he’s versatile enough he can handle multiple distances.”
The turf male ranks were ripe with parity last season as the top contenders took turns beating up on one another. Should Colonel Liam perform as expected in the Muniz, Pletcher would likely target the $1 million Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 1 with hopes of having his charge emerge as a definitive divisional leader.
“I will say now as an older horse, he has trained more impressively on the dirt than he used to so at some point we might consider trying that again, but he’s doing so well on the grass now that we felt that the Muniz was good timing wise to hopefully propel him forward to the race at Churchill on Derby Day,” Pletcher said. “Right now, the plan it to hopefully go from the Muniz to Churchill and then there is a really good schedule of some high-quality grass races all summer. Hopefully we can have a good season with him.”
Gaining Ground Racing’s Factor This (post 1 at 4-1 with Shaun Bridgmohan) will try stymie Colonel Liam’s progression as he takes to the course where he has earned two of his four career graded stakes victories for trainer Brad Cox. The 6-year-old son of The Factor captured last year’s Muniz Memorial—part of a four-race win streak for the bay horse—but has been off the board in his last three starts, including a fifth-place run in the February 13 Fair Grounds (G3).
“(Being on the rail) going 1 1/8 miles doesn’t play a big role or scare me any, being down inside,” Cox said. “I like him better in this race than in the last race, from the standpoint that it looks like we’re going to have a little bit of a softer pace and not be pressed as much, and that’s what he likes. There’s no secret about how he likes to run and the trip he needs; he needs to be able to take a breather and hopefully he can be able to get that on Saturday.”
Though Godolphin’s homebred Pixelate (post 12 at 8-1 with Luis Saez) was fifth behind Colonel Liam in the Pegasus Turf, he was beaten less than 3 lengths by the winner and has the back class of his victory in the Del Mar Derby (G2) last September for trainer Mike Stidham.
“He ran very well (in the Pegasus Turf), he only got beaten a few lengths,” said Stidham. “He’s one of those horses that, every time he runs, he’s going to give you a huge effort. We’re taking a shot; this race did come up very tough. But I think we’re live, he tries every time, and if he gets a decent trip from that outside post, I think we’re in there with a decent chance.”
Lothenbach Stables’ homebred Captivating Moon (post 3 at 12-1 with Marcelino Pedroza) comes into the Muniz off a victory in the February 13 Fair Grounds, the first graded win for the 6-year-old horse in 29 career starts for trainer Chris Block. He is cross-entered in the New Orleans Classic (G2).
Completing the Muniz Memorial field from the rail out: Paul Braverman and owner-trainer Tom Morley’s Ninety One Assault (post 2 at 30-1 with Mitchell Murrill), a Louisiana-bred stakes winner who is 7-for-11 over the Stall-Wilson; Three Diamonds Farm’s Cross Broder (post 4 at 5-1 with Jose Ortiz), third in the Pegasus Turf for trainer Mike Maker; JPS Racing’s Logical Myth (post 6 at 6-1 with Adam Beschizza); a two-time stakes winner at the meet and second in the Fair Grounds for trainer Joe Sharp; Wolfe Racing and owner-trainer Hugh Robertson’s Two Emmys (post 7 at 20-1 with James Graham), who won an optional-claimer here in February; Terry Hamilton’s Spooky Channel (post 8 at 8-1 with Florent Geroux), who enters off a win in the January 31 John B. Connally (G3) at Sam Houston for trainer Brian Lynch; Paradise Farms Corp and David Staudacher’s Conviction Trade (post 9 at 15-1 with Joel Rosario), third in the Connally for Maker; JSM Equine’s Peace Achiever (post 10 at 20-1 with Declan Carroll), third in the Fair Grounds for trainer Mark Casse; and Gary Barber’s Olympic Runner (post 11 at 8-1 with John Velazquez), second, beaten a neck, in the February 27 Canadian Turf (G3) at Gulfstream for Casse.
About Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots: Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, one of the nation’s oldest racetracks, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, LA, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN); it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and 13 off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. The 149th Thoroughbred Racing Season – highlighted by the 108th running of the Louisiana Derby – will run from November 26, 2020 through March 28, 2021. More information can be found online at www.FairGroundsRaceCourse.com.
Information set forth in this press release contains various “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (the “Act”) provides certain “safe harbor” provisions for forward-looking statements. All forward-looking statements made in this press release are made pursuant to the Act. The reader is cautioned that such forward-looking statements are based on information available at the time and/or management’s good faith belief with respect to future events, and are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual performance or results to differ materially from those expressed in the statements. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date the statement was made. We assume no obligation to update forward-looking information to reflect actual results, changes in assumptions or changes in other factors affecting forward-looking information. Forward-looking statements are typically identified by the use of terms such as “anticipate,” “believe,” “could,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “may,” “might,” “plan,” “predict,” “project,” “seek,” “should,” “will,” and similar words, although some forward-looking statements are expressed differently.
Although we believe that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, we can give no assurance that such expectations will prove to be correct. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from expectations include the following: the effect of economic conditions on our consumers’ confidence and discretionary spending or our access to credit; additional or increased taxes and fees; public perceptions or lack of confidence in the integrity of our business; loss of key or highly skilled personnel; restrictions in our debt facilities limiting our flexibility to operate our business; general risks related to real estate ownership, including fluctuations in market values and environmental regulations; catastrophic events and system failures disrupting our operations, including the impact of natural and other disasters on our operations and our ability to obtain insurance recoveries in respect of such losses; inability to identify and complete acquisition, expansion or divestiture projects, on time, on budget or as planned; difficulty in integrating recent or future acquisitions into our operations; legalization of online real money gaming and sports wagering in the United States, and our ability to capitalize on and predict such legalization; the number of people attending and wagering on live horse races; inability to respond to rapid technological changes in a timely manner; inadvertent infringement of the intellectual property of others; inability to protect our own intellectual property rights; security breaches and other security risks related to our technology, personal information, source code and other proprietary information, including failure to comply with regulations and other legal obligations relating to receiving, processing, storing and using personal information; payment- related risks, such as chargebacks for fraudulent credit card use; compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or applicable money-laundering regulations; compliance with payment processing and payment transmission regulations; work stoppages and labor issues; difficulty in attracting a sufficient number of horses and trainers for full field horseraces; inability to negotiate agreements with industry constituents, including horsemen and other racetracks; personal injury litigation related to injuries occurring at our racetracks; the inability of our totalisator company, United Tote, to maintain its processes accurately, keep its technology current or maintain its significant customers; weather conditions affecting our ability to conduct live racing; increased competition in the horseracing business; changes in the regulatory environment of our racing operations; declining popularity in horseracing; seasonal fluctuations in our horseracing business due to geographic concentration of our operations; increased competition in our casino business; changes in regulatory environment of our casino business; the cost and possibility for delay, cost overruns and other uncertainties associated with the develop.m.ent and expansion of casinos; concentration and evolution of slot machine manufacturing and other technology conditions that could impose additional costs; impact of further legislation prohibiting tobacco smoking; geographic concentration of our casino business; changes in regulatory environment for our advanced deposit wagering, sports wagering, or online gaming businesses; increase in competition in the advanced deposit wagering, sports wagering, or online gaming businesses; inability to retain current customers or attract new customers to our advanced deposit wagering, sports wagering, or online gaming businesses; uncertainty and changes in the legal landscape relating to our advanced deposit wagering, sports wagering, or online gaming businesses; and failure to comply with laws requiring us to block access to certain individuals could result in penalties or impairment in our ability to offer advanced deposit wagering, sports wagering, or online gaming.