Mending Fences required little cooperation from Mother Nature as he led from gate to wire and won the $200,000 John B. Connally Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IIIT) at Sam Houston Race Park by three-quarters of a length Saturday night.
With rain falling in Houston all afternoon and evening and temperatures dipping into the lower 40s, the Kentucky-bred son of Forestry dismissed the less than ideal yielding turf conditions and captured the first graded stakes of his career and the richest race of the Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meeting.
Martin Wolfson trains Mending Fences, owned by Farnsworth Stables of Palm Beach, Fla. The 5-year-old horse was making the 26th start of his career with the majority of those races at Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park. He ran second to grade I winner English Channel in a $50,000 allowance at Gulfstream on Feb. 22. Based on that performance, Wolfson thought the Connally BC Turf might be a good step for the dark bay.
Taking advantage of a 114-pound impost, Quincy Hamilton, who won the Sam Houston riding title in 2005 and 2006, sent his charge to the lead. They covered the first quarter in :24.42 and the half-mile in :48.52, with their closest pursuer, a game General Charley. Hamilton never relinquished the lead and held off a fast-closing effort of Embossed at the wire. The Irish-bred Embossed finished second by a neck over General Charley. The final time of the 1 1/8-mile contest was 1:52.34 over the heavy going.
“He's a great horse to ride. I can't find many of those,” commented Hamilton. “He broke great and settled in perfectly and whenever I called on him, he was all there. I saw (Embossed) coming at the end, but my horse was very game and just a pleasure to ride.”
Wolfson did not make the trip to Houston, but his wife, Carla, accompanied Mending Fences on a flight from South Florida to Oaklawn Park and a seven-hour van to Houston last Wednesday. Wolfson is the trainer of Miesque’s Approval, the amazing 7-year-old who was the upset winner in the 2006 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT).
“This horse is very special and we think the best is yet to come," said Carla Wolfson. "We hope he will follow in Miesque Approval's shoes, he's that good.”
“My horse was coming on at the end, but (Mending Fences) just had too much left,” said rider Bobby Walker, Jr., who piloted Embossed for trainer Niall O’Callaghan. “There just wasn't anyone in the race to soften him up on the lead. We thought maybe General Charley would, but he never really pressed him.”
Silver Tree, who had banked $1.2 million for Vegso Racing Stable and trainer, Bill Mott, ran fifth as the 9-10 favorite in the field of seven.
"The yielding course was very much a factor in tonight’s race,” said John Gaver, assistant to Mott. “The last 12 starts have been on a firm ground, so as soon as it started raining this morning, I was getting worried.”
Mending Fences, at 3-1, was the second choice and paid $8.20, $5.20 and $7 for the win. The exacta with Embossed ($10.40, $12.60) returned $67.40. The trifecta with the Stonerside Stable homebred General Charley ($14.60), Paul Nolan aboard, paid $377.80. Defending champion Fort Prado, Silver Tree, Storm Treasure and Doctor Doctor Mrmd completed the order.
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