Top Billing rolls to victory under Joel Rosario.

Top Billing rolls to victory under Joel Rosario.

Coglianese Photos

Top Billing Breaks Out in Allowance Effort

Three-year-old colt looks like another impressive Derby prospect for Shug McGaughey.

Highly touted Top Billing made easy work of a first-level allowance field as the even-money favorite in his second start as a 3-year-old Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park (VIDEO).

Ridden confidently by Joel Rosario for trainer Shug McGaughey, Top Billing defeated 17-10 second choice Surfing U S A by 2 3/4 lengths while running 1 1/16 miles in a sharp 1:42.66 on a fast track.

Last in the field of seven 3-year-olds after half a mile while trailing by eight lengths, Top Billing circled his rivals four wide rounding the final bend. The flashy chestnut colt took control in the homestretch while kept to his task by Rosario.

"That was pretty impressive," McGaughey said. "I was watching on the TV and all I could see was his number; number 2 was back there where I didn't want him to be. He's learning. I thought this was a powerful race today. He ate the dirt today even though Joel took him out away from it. (Rosario) told me that wasn't going to be a problem in the future. I just thought he ran an awful good race today."

"He was the best horse in the race," Rosario said. "He always takes himself back a little bit, but when he's ready to go, he goes. I was very happy with the move he made. He just has such a quick turn of foot and when he's ready, he gives it to you. He's an honest horse."

Surfing U S A, ridden by Javier Castellano for trainer Todd Pletcher, set a pressured pace over Rockford, carving quarter mile fractions of :23.88, :47.23, and 1:11.01 before overtaken. He finished second by 2 1/2 lengths over 30-1 shot We're All Set.

Owned and bred by William S. Farish and E. J. Hudson Jr., Top Billing is a son of Curlin  out of the multiple graded stakes-winning A.P. Indy mare Parade Queen. He is a half brother to Untouched Talent, a juvenile stakes winner that became the dam of Bodemeister . That colt won the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) in 2012 before running second in both the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I).

"I'm not surprised by what he did today," Farish said. "He has so much talent. Like Shug said, he is still maturing. He is still growing. I'm very excited about what's next. We'll listen to Shug."

Top Billing came from the clouds to break his maiden Dec. 6 in his debut by 5 1/4 lengths at Laurel Park going six furlongs on a sloppy track. In his first start at Gulfstream Jan. 3, he again came from well off the pace to miss by a neck to the Pletcher-trained Commissioner  at 1 1/8 miles.

Likely headed to stakes competition next, McGaughey will attempt to keep his other highly regarded sophomoresHonor Code  and Mr Speaker apart for as long as possible.

"I'd like to keep them separated," the Hall of Fame trainer said. "You know there's not going to be another allowance race for him, so somewhere along the line we're going to have to put our heads together, see how he comes out of this.

"The one thing we're not going to do is overcook him earlythat's not going to happen. We'll just have to wait and see how he comes out of this. I was a little nervous about running him back in three weeks. But he trained well and came out of it well, but it does show he can do it. This horse has an unbelievably good mind. When he schooled the other day, he was perfect, and he was perfect again today. If we do have to send him somewhere, that won't be a problem."