Alex and JoAnn Lieblong's The Big Beast jumped up from allowance company to grade I competition and did not disappoint his connections Aug. 23, running down pacesetter Fast Anna with powerful strides to ace the $500,000 King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course by a neck (VIDEO) .
Despite being floated six wide off the turn, the 3-year-old son of Yes It's True rallied gamely and came charging down the stretch to overpower the front-runner in the final yards of the seven-furlong King's Bishop. It was just his fifth career start and his third win in a row for trainer Tony Dutrow. Final time was 1:22.35 on a fast track.
"I learned from my days with Bobby Frankel, when your horse is really, really good not to waste a race," Dutrow said. "You need to make these races count when your horse is really good. Our horse was really good today, and we saw no reason not to take a crack at the very best."
Fast Anna, out of Eclipse Award winner Dreaming of Anna, was off alertly and quickly opened to about a two-length lead while getting fractions of :22.88 and :46.05. Sneaking off the turn with Wildcat Red giving chase and The Big Beast still third out on the outside, the pacesetter seemed to have a chance at prevailing.
But the aptly named The Big Beast was just getting into full stride and cut into Fast Anna's advantage while drifting back in through three-quarters in 1:09.77, getting up in the final jumps to secure the win. Coup de Grace, favored at 2-1, had to steady briefly inside and could only manage third after closing from well back.
Jockey Rosie Napravnik said Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) winner Coup de Grace never really got clear for his run.
"It looked there was going to be a lot of speed in the race and they had a pretty good pace," she remarked. "We kind of just had to maneuver all the way through traffic the whole race. He was really sharp and he ran great, but we didn't have a lot of room to maneuver in the stretch."
Off as the 5-2 second choice under jockey Javier Castellano in the field of eight, The Big Beast returned $7.70, $4.60, and $3.20. Fast Anna brought $8 and $4.70 while holding second,. Coup de Grace paid $2.80. Noble Moon, Wildcat Red, Noble Cornerstone, Myositis Dan, and C. Zee completed the order of finish.
Bred in Maryland by Green Willow Farms out of the Deputy Minister mare V V S Flawless, The Big Beast was purchased by his connections for $150,000 from the Ends Well consignment at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s 2013 spring sale of 2-year-olds in training. At the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale he sold for $32,000 from James M. Herbener Jr.'s consignment to Steve Long Thoroughbreds.
"He's the biggest horse I've ever trained, and everybody loves him," Dutrow said.
Unraced as a 2-year-old, The Big Beast made his debut March 29 with a neck miss in a maiden special weight going six furlongs for trainer Steve Hobby. Shifted to Dutrow's New York barn, he was third in another maiden race going the same distance. Sent to the front June 8 at Belmont once again going six furlongs, he was coaxed along on an uncontested lead and drew off to win by 4 1/4 lengths. His next victory in allowance company was by 6 1/4 lengths in a wire-to-wire romp.
"(Taking back) was part of the strategy, to come from behind," Castellano said of the change in tactics for the King's Bishop. "This is the first time he went seven-eighths, and we wanted to monitor it. He's a big horse. I thought he could go the distance, and I'm happy with the way he did it.
"The way I handicapped the race, there was a lot of speed inside me with Wildcat Red and Fast Anna. I didn't want to hook them in a speed duel. I could have gone to the lead, but he rated so beautifully."
The King's Bishop victory improved The Big Beast's earnings to $415,500 with a 3-1-1 record from five starts.