Ron the Greek Seeks Triple Crown Mandate

Ron the Greek Seeks Triple Crown Mandate
Photo: Hodges Photography/Lynn Roberts
Ron the Greek and James Graham close late to take the LeComte.

MAHUBAH'S CORNER, by Avalyn Hunter

With its long home stretch, the Fair Grounds has sometimes been called a closer’s track. Ron the Greek certainly did nothing to disprove that reputation. Last of 10 after a half-mile in the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III), the Jack T. Hammer homebred had just one horse beaten at mid-stretch. But at the wire, he was out in front and in the clear, winning by 1 1/2 lengths. Granted, the race set up perfectly for a come-from-the-clouds type, with favored Maximus Ruler being pressured all the way through solid fractions before giving way in the last 100 yards of the mile-and-40-yards contest. But it was still a nice effort, and one that seems likely to set Ron the Greek up well for the next two races in Louisiana Downs’ series of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) preps: the Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) over 8 1/2 furlong and the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) over nine furlongs.

Ron the Greek is the second stakes winner for Full Mandate, a son of A.P. Indy who stands at Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds near Ocala, Fla. A $3.2 million Keeneland September yearling, Full Mandate won five of his fifteen starts, including the listed Black Tie Affair Handicap at Arlington Park as a 4-year-old in 2003.

Although Full Mandate broke his maiden over seven furlongs, he needed more ground to be at his best, which is not surprising given his female family. His dam, multiple grade I winner Clear Mandate, scored all of her major wins at a mile or more before retiring to the paddocks, where she has produced three multimillion-dollar sales yearlings. The other two are multiple grade III winner Newfoundland (by Storm Cat), a $3.3 million purchase who stayed well enough to finish second in both the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) and the Suburban Handicap (gr. I) at 10 furlongs, and group II-placed The Mighty Tiger (by Storm Cat), who did his racing in Europe after being bought for $2.5 million at the 2002 Keeneland September sale.

A daughter of Deputy Minister, Clear Mandate was produced from 1989 Monmouth Oaks (gr. I) winner Dream Deal, also the dam of 1998 Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap (gr. II) winner Dream Scheme (by Danzig) and of Fairy Doll (by Nureyev), dam of 2001 Japanese champion older female To the Victory (JPN). Dream Deal herself is by Sharpen Up (GB) and out of 1979 Delaware Handicap (gr. I) winner Likely Exchange, making her a half-sister to 1985 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Creme Fraiche.

Ron the Greek is the fourth foal, fourth winner, and first stakes winner for his dam Flambe’, a daughter of veteran Florida regional sire Fortunate Prospect. The son of Northern Prospect gained a reputation as a consistent sire of winners before being pensioned in 2005, getting 572 winners (30 of them stakes winners) from 779 foals of racing age. His best runner was probably multiple grade III winner Suave Prospect, who ran second to eventual 3-year-old champion Thunder Gulch by a nose in the 1995 Florida Derby (gr. I). To date, Fortunate Prospect is the broodmare sire of 30 stakes winners.

A sprinter who took down his biggest win in the 1984 San Vicente Stakes (gr. III), Fortunate Prospect would not seem to contribute much stamina to the mix. The female family of Flambe’ is no stranger to Classic competition, however. Out of the Dixieland Band mare Flambeau, Flambe’ is a full sister to stakes-placed Fortuesque, whose son Musket Man   (by Yonaguska) won the 2009 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) and Illinois Derby (gr. II) and ran solid thirds in both the Kentucky Derby–Presented by Yum! Brands and the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (both gr. I).

Admittedly, Musket Man’s emergence as a solid horse over nine to 10 furlongs is something of a mystery, especially given that Yonaguska was at his best over six to seven furlongs. Flambeau never raced but is a half-sister to listed stakes winners Miami Slick (by Baldski) and Cielo Otono (by Conquistador Cielo). Their dam, the winning For The Moment mare Moment’s Prayer, is a half-sister to two juvenile stakes winners and is out of Prayer Cap (by Thinking Cap), a half-sister to 1969 champion juvenile male Silent Screen. This family, which descends from the modern foundation mare Sunday Evening, has leaned towards precocious speed, though other branches of Sunday Evening’s family have produced the likes of Indian Skimmer, Java Gold, Dark Mirage, and Medaglia d'Oro  . Still this heritage of speed may have been just what was needed with Full Mandate, who was resolute when on his game but lacked a brilliant turn of foot. To be sure, Ron the Greek was running down tired horses, but given that he trailed by 15 lengths after six furlongs, he had to have shaded 25 seconds for the final 480 yards of the race, and this while going wide on the final turn – not a bad closing run, all things considered.

Just how classy Ron the Greek is has yet to be seen, but he certainly isn’t fussy. The colt has won in the mud and on fast going, has won at three different tracks so far, and has won for three different jockeys. That kind of take-it-in-stride adaptability should serve Ron the Greek well in days to come, especially if he continues on the Triple Crown trail.

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