Sky Mesa not only likes to be on time, he likes to be early. And that has made life interesting for his connections.
Sky Mesa, owned by John Oxley, arrived at Arlington Park Oct. 16 to prepare for the Oct. 26 Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The fact he's even pointing toward the Juvenile is somewhat unusual for trainer John Ward Jr., whose 2-year-olds usually come along more slowly.
"He's kind of a frightening horse," said Donna Ward, who has overseen Sky Mesa's training since his arrival at Arlington. "He just responds and gives you his best. Usually 2-year-olds aren't that mature at this time of year, but he just seems to do it."
Sky Mesa has handled the Arlington surface well so far, and is no stranger to the paddock at the Illinois track. He likes a routine, and he has had time to get acclimated.
Sky Mesa, clearly one of the early favorites for the Juvenile, won the Oct. 5 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland by an easy four lengths. He loafed a bit in the lane, in part because he got a look at the large crowd in the grandstand.
"He literally came around that turn, and took a look (at the grandstand)," Ward said. "We chose Keeneland because we wanted a true two turns for him, and he got a world of experience. The blessing in it was it was not that hard a race on him. He was more interested in getting out of the test barn and eating his dinner."
Monarchos, another Oxley-Ward product, broke his maiden early in his 3-year-old year, and a few months later won the Kentucky Derby. Sky Mesa, meanwhile, is a three-time winner so far this year, and he'll make his fourth start in 12 weeks in the Juvenile. He won the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga even though he was sick before the race.
"You never know at which stage they're going to develop," Ward said. "He really put himself in this position. The important thing is to come out of the race good and sound. We're hoping for his 3-year-old season to be even bigger."
Ward said the 1 1/8-mile distance is a lot to ask of 2-year-olds, even the ones who seem more advanced. Still, there could be some upside.
"I think he's getting a world of experience this year that our horses in the past haven't had," Ward said. "When he finishes this race, he should have a ton of seasoning. We haven't asked him to do the same thing twice."
The Wards also have 2-year-olds Bluegrass Spirit and Flying Jazz, both of whom broke their maidens at their Keeneland base this month, and the unstarted My Dear Jazz.