For most people, watching Paddy O'Prado emerge as the top 3-year-old turf horse in the nation in such a short amount of time has come as quite a surprise. After all, the son of El Prado was winless in three starts as a juvenile and did not break his maiden until pulling an upset in the March 6 Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) in his fifth start. A little more than four months later, he is a millionaire.
But trainer Dale Romans is not one of those that is surprised by the colt’s rapid ascent. Not even a little.
“I knew how special he was as a 2-year-old,” said Romans, whose charge was pegged as the even-money favorite in the $400,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT) Aug. 21 at Arlington Park, where he will take on six 3-year-old rivals in the 1 1/4-mile turf race. “I knew it was only a matter of time before he put it all together. That’s why I put him in the Palm Beach. I’d rather break his maiden in a stakes race than a maiden race.”
Romans helped pick out Paddy O’Prado for Jerry Crawford’s Donegal Racing at the Keeneland September 2008 yearling sale for $105,000. He saw a raw athleticism in the gray/roan colt that he hoped would make him a star one day. He was right.
Though Romans always suspected that turf was his best surface, he threw Paddy O’Prado onto the Triple Crown trail, a decision that netted him a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and a sixth in the Preakness (gr. I). After that it was back to turf, where Paddy O’Prado has really turned it on.
In his last two starts, he won the Colonial Cup Turf (gr. IIT) and Virginia Derby (gr. IIIT)—both at Colonial Downs—in impressive fashion, vaulting him to the top of the class. Now, he seeks his first grade I victory.
“We’ll see what happens in this race; I expect him to run well,” said Romans. “If he wins, I’ll probably keep him on the same path as Kitten’s Joy—the Joe Hirsch (Turf Classic at Belmont on Oct. 2) and the Breeders’ Cup Turf (at Churchill on Nov. 6).”
For the record, Kitten's Joy won the Palm Beach, Virginia Derby, Secretariat, and Turf Classic in 2004 before finishing runner-up in the BC Turf.
Regular rider Kent Desormeaux will ride Paddy O’Prado in the Secretariat and they will break from post 1.
The main competition for the favorite could come from Workin for Hops, a Mike Stidham-trained son of City Zip who was a 2 1/4-length victor in both the Arlington Classic and the American Derby (gr. IIT). Sandwiched between those local triumphs, Workin for Hops finished second to Paddy O’Prado in the Colonial Turf Cup. Should Workin for Hops pull off the minor upset, he would become the first horse to sweep Arlington’s Mid-American Triple since Honor Glide did in 1997.
Overall, the gelding has produced a 5-2-0 mark from eight starts and has earned $356,176. Francisco Torres retains the mount on Workin for Hops, who is owned by Estrorace, and the pair will break from post 7.
The only European-based runner is Mark Hatwin’s Wigmore Hall. The Irish-bred son of High Chapparal makes his North American debut after scoring victories in his previous two starts in England. The Michael Bell-trained gelding won his most recent effort at Newmarket by 1 1/4 lengths after previously tallying a nose victory when taking the John Smiths Cup at York. Jamie Spencer makes the trans-Atlantic journey to guide Wigmore Hall, who has been pegged as the 5-1 third choice.
Lothenbach Stable’s Mister Marti Gras looks to rebound from his runner-up finish in the American Derby. The locally based son of Belong to Me won the Oliver Stakes at Indiana Downs in his previous start June 30 after finishing fourth in the Arlington Classic. He is trained by Chris Block.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Dean's Kitten finished third in the American Derby but was disqualified and placed fourth for interference in the stretch. The son of Kitten’s Joy ran second behind Paddy O’Prado in the Palm Beach Stakes and later won the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) over Polytrack at Turfway. The Mike Maker-trained colt will be ridden by Julien Leparoux.
The Horse Racing Radio Network will provide exclusive radio coverage of the grade I Secretariat Stakes, Beverly D, and Arlington Million. HRRN’s two-hour broadcast from 4:30-6:30 p.m. ET will include feature analysis of all three grade 1 stakes, along with pre and post race interviews, and announcer John Dooley’s live call of each race. Mike Penna will anchor the HRRN coverage, along with analysts Jude Feld, Rolly Hoyt, and Billy White. Adam Frenier will produce.
$400,000 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT, Race 8, 3:37 p.m. CDT) 3YO, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf) PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Paddy O'Prado (KY), K J Desormeaux, 126, D L Romans
2. Mister Marti Gras (KY), E E Perez, 123, C M Block
3. Cherokee Lord (KY), J E Felix, 119, C Livesay
4. Wigmore Hall (IRE), J P Spencer, 123, M L Bell
5. Dean's Kitten (KY), J R Leparoux, 123, M J Maker
6. Two Notch Road (VA), M C Baze, 119, G R Thompson
7. Workin for Hops (KY), F C Torres, 123, M Stidham