It is said that cats have nine lives. The connections of Courageous Cat are hoping that a second chance is enough.
The regally bred 5-year-old, by Storm Cat out of grade I winner Tranquility Lake, was oh so close to ending Goldikova’s Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) winning streak at just one two years ago. Courageous Cat is a tricky horse to ride, though, with a habit of pulling himself up if he makes the lead too soon. So in 2009, with Garrett Gomez aboard for the first time, Courageous Cat shot to the lead at the head of the stretch and opened up by 1 1/2 lengths. He held on well, but came up a half-length short of the rallying Goldikova, who would continue on to annex the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Mile as well, making it three in a row coming into the rematch Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.
Gomez didn’t feel like he was moving too early because he didn’t realize the kind of turn of foot Courageous Cat had; he didn’t think the horse would accelerate that quickly. Patrick Valenzuela will have the mount on Courageous Cat this time around, and he went through a similar scenario in the Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) Sept. 18. Courageous Cat brushed to the lead on the turn for home and then became disinterested until first Turallure and then Right One passed him. You can see Courageous Cat re-break late in the race to become part of a three-way photo in which he was beaten a neck by Turallure but passed Right One by a nose for second.
Obviously, timing is going to be key if Courageous Cat, in what will be his last race before going off to stud at Will Farish’s Lane’s End Farm near Versailles, Ky., is to exit in a blaze of glory.
“You have to time it just right,” said Marty Wygod, who bred Courageous Cat with his wife, Pam, and owns him with Pam and Farish. “Two years ago, even with his antics, I still thought we were going to win, but that filly was just too good.”
Courageous Cat is a full brother to After Market , a multiple grade I winner bred and raced by the Wygods who has taken up stud duty at Lane’s End. After Market was a bigger horse who did most of his best running at nine and 10 furlongs. Courageous Cat, quicker and faster, is more a true miler. Although Courageous Cat has triumphed in graded stakes events in each of his three years of racing, he is lightly raced, and will be making just his 15th career trip to the post in the Breeder’s Cup.
Part of that is due to a trip to Dubai in which he ran unplaced in the Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) in March 2010.
“In retrospect, the Dubai trip wasn’t good for him,” Wygod said. “He wasn’t right there and he didn’t run at all. Then it took a long time for him to recuperate.”
So long, in fact, that trainer Bill Mott didn’t feel he was ready to contest last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile. Courageous Cat was put away for the season after running third in the October Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland.
This season, Courageous Cat facilely took the Poker Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park in June, then shipped out West to win the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park in July before heading back east to rejoin Mott’s main string. The Woodbine Mile was his prep for the Breeders’ Cup.”
“We freshened him for quite a while at River Edge (the Wygods’ farm in California) before his 2011 campaign,” Wygod said. “Bill did a good job of bringing him back. The win in California was very impressive, and we think the two turns at Churchill Downs will help the horse. I’ve watched Goldikova’s races this year and I hope she’s slowed down a little, but you don’t know. She’s a great filly and she definitely robbed us of a Breeders’ Cup; no question about it.”
The Wygods, who have taken home Breeders’ Cup wins with Sweet Catomine in the 2004 Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) and Life Is Sweet in the 2009 Ladies Classic (gr. I), are hoping all it takes is a second chance to turn the tables.