Werner Hopes to Knock Chip Off Shoulder
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2002 3:37 PM
Posted: Friday, October 25, 2002 10:58 PM
Sometimes, even horses that want to run long mature early. Such is the case with Tom Durant's Most Feared, who trainer Ronny Werner will send out Saturday in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).
Most Feared's first race was at Turfway Park on April 3 when he ran all of two furlongs. Though Werner is a former Quarter Horse trainer, even he doesn't run many Thoroughbreds two furlongs.
"He matured early mentally," Werner said from Barn 7C at Arlington Park. "He showed quickness and at that time, there were a couple I liked more than I was saving for Keeneland. So I ran him in that Turfway race."
Most Feared ran fourth in that first effort.
"He just couldn't keep up," Werner said. "In his second start at Lone Star (when he finished third in a 4½-furlong race) he couldn't keep up either."
Werner decided to give the Commanchero colt some time off, regroup, and try another route. So far, so good.
After a three-month break, Most Feared broke his maiden going a mile at Monmouth. A month later, also at Monmouth, he won the Continental Mile by a widening 9¼ lengths. In that race, Werner added blinkers.
"In most states, after they win, they won't let you change equipment," Werner said. "I went to the stewards and they watched the replay with me. They could see he was goofing around. He was green and the blinkers have helped him focus."
Werner had a decision to make regarding Most Feared's final Breeders' Cup prep. He chose the Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. III).
"I ran some horses at Arlington for the first time last summer," Werner said. "I noticed they all ran better the second start."
If Most Feared runs better in his second start, then he certainly can pull the upset in the Juvenile, because in his first start over the surface, he won the Futurity by three lengths.
"I wanted to run him here because if he's that caliber, I wanted to run on the same track as the Breeders' Cup."
Most Feared, who will be ridden in the Breeders' Cup by Pat Valenzuela, races as a homebred for Texas car dealer Tom Durant. The colt is by little known Texas sired Commanchero, a son of Unbridled Durant owns 25% of.
When he switched to Thoroughbreds five years ago, Werner got a reputation as a trainer of 2-year-olds who won early. Now, he wants to show he can win with one at nine furlongs, then have a 3-year-old who can run in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
"I've got a big chip on my shoulder," the 42-year-old trainer said with a grin on his face. "It's a doubting game and I'm proving myself. I really want to do well here."
Besides Most Feared, Werner will saddle another horse on Breeders' Cup Day. Two races before his 2-year-old colt runs, he will send out his first ever Breeders' Cup starter, Touch Tone in the NAPA Sprint (gr. I).
Touch Tone was the first horse to prove Werner could train something other than early juveniles. Unraced at two, he became a stakes winner at three and ran second to Point Given in the grade I Haskell Handicap.
Bothered by ankle and knee injuries, Touch Tone was off for 13 months, returning Oct. 5 at Keeneland in the Phoenix Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III). He battled with the ultra-tough filly Xtra Heat on the front end before finishing third in his return.
Touch Tone, a son of Pick Up the Phone who will be ridden by Jorge Chavez in the Sprint, will sit off the pace Saturday, Werner said.
Touch Tone, as are about half of the 40 horses Werner has stabled at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, is owned by Durant. Formerly a Quarter Horse owner, Durant switched to Thoroughbreds along with Werner.
"I'm not sure if I made him switch or he made me switch," said Werner, sporting his always present black cowboy hat. "I wanted to switch. Somebody has to give you that opportunity."
The likeable Texan gets a big opportunity Saturday when he sends out his first two Breeders' Cup starters.
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