Belmont Profile: Tomcito
Photo: Rick Samuels
Way back when, prior to the Florida Derby (gr. I) on March 29, there were a pair of mystery horses in the lineup. One was the unbeaten, untested Big Brown—we know plenty about him now—and the other was South American import Tomcito. The jury is still out on the son of Street Cry, but following throat surgery to correct a breathing problem, he might get another shot at stardom—and Big Brown—in the June 7 Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
 
Bred in Kentucky by Chesapeake Farm and Darley (home of Street Cry), Tomcito’s life journey began at the Keeneland September yearling sale. Consigned by Chesapeake Farm, agent, and the third-from-last hip to go through the ring on Day 9 of the marathon sale, he brought a scant $7,500 from trainer Dante Zanelli Jr. The median for the sale was $45,000.
 
Shipped to the southern hemisphere, Tomcito became a star in Peru while being trained by Juan Suarez,  Zanelli’s uncle.
 
In less than a year’s time from the sale, maiden and allowance wins came by wide margins. Then, a runner-up effort in the Peruvian Two Thousand Guineas (Per-I) was followed by more breakout wins in the Clasico Ricardo Ortiz de Zevallos (Per-I) at 10 furlongs and the 12-furlong Derby Nacional (Per-I). With the wind at the back of the Jet Set Racing Stable (Omar Mahchi and Estaban Ripamonti), Tomcito was shipped to the United States.
 
“The one thing that’s hard to measure is the level of competition he was facing in Peru,” Zanelli told The Blood-Horse’s Steve Haskin back in March.
 
With Big Brown in the Florida Derby line-up, he was soon to find out.
 
Tomcito got a quick class check and his owners got a reality check in his North American debut at Gulfstream Park. Under jockey Jorge Chavez, the colt was far back early, but did manage to rumble past most of the field—finishing third behind Big Brown and Smooth Air, picking up $100,000 in graded stakes earnings in the process.
 
In an attempt to make the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Tomcito was pitched toward the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) over Keeneland’s Polytrack. Sent off as the lukewarm 3-1 favorite, an inside trip resulted in a sixth-place finish behind Behindatthebar. The dreams of running under the Twin Spires on Derby day were dashed.
 
Tomcito had a chance to rebound in the Peter Pan (gr. II), but went in the other direction, finishing seventh behind Casino Drive, Mint Lane, and Ready’s Echo and displacing his soft palate in the process. Three days later he had a myectomy.
 
On May 28 it was announced that Alan Garcia will ride Tomcito in the Belmont. With one answer, Tomcito still remains a mystery horse in the field and there are certainly many questions to ponder prior to his run in the “Test of the champion” at Belmont:
 
Will his recent throat surgery be able to reverse the fortunes of Jet Set Racing?
 
Will he be ready to handle 12 furlongs of Belmont Park’s “big sandy” track after posting a 1:29 4/5 seven-furlong work on May 28…his first recorded drill since before the Peter Pan?
 
And…
 
Can he make up the 12 1/2-length differential between him and Big Brown in the Florida Derby?

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