Musket Man made a successful return in his first start since back-to-back third-place finishes in the first two legs of last year's Triple Crown, winning the Super Stakes by a half-length at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 6 (VIDEO).
Ridden confidently by Daniel Centeno, odds-on choice Musket Man drew even with the leaders at the quarter pole of the seven-furlong main track event while rallying five wide. Battling through the stretch, the 4-year-old son of Yonaguska took a narrow lead approaching the furlong marker and had to dig down to hold off Guam Typhoon while fully extended. The winning time was 1:23.10 over a fast track.
"That is some horse; some horse!," exclaimed Centeno, who also rode Musket Man to victory in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) last March. "I worked him the other day and he really went well so I knew he was ready. We were five wide almost every step but he was relaxed, and when I asked him entering the stretch he just surged past them. It was good for him to be challenged like that in the stretch; he is some horse.”
Trained by Derek Ryan for owner Eric Fein, Musket Man last raced in the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico May 16 when he finished third, 1 1 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Rachel Alexandra after being steadied at the quarter pole. He ran third in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) two weeks before that, finishing 6 3/4 lengths behind Mine That Bird.
“He was only about 70% cranked," said Fein, who was on hand for the colt's return to action. "I knew how good he was. I was nervous as usual, but I had tremendous confidence. We came back to Tampa Bay Downs for a few reasons: number one, I’ve had good luck here; and number two, he loves the track.”
Musket Man could next start at Gulfstream Park, Fair Grounds, or Oaklawn Park, Fein said.
Musket Man went to the sidelines last July after sustaining a bone bruise on his left front foot while preparing for the Haskell Invitational (gr. I). He was working well for his return at Tampa Bay for Ryan.
Winner of the Illinois Derby (gr. II) on last year's Triple Crown trail, Musket Man triumphed for the sixth time in nine starts. The $30,000 winning share for the Super Stakes bumped Musket Man's career earnings to $923,600.
Out of the Fortunate Prospect mare Fortuesque, Musket Man was bred in Kentucky by Jim E. Nelson and Sergio De Sousa.
He paid $2.80 to win. Guam Typhoon, who rallied from sixth under Leandro Goncalves to challenge in the stretch, finished 9 3/4 lengths clear of the show horse, Chief Talkeetna.