Gayego competed in two legs of the 2008 Triple Crown and captured the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) at 1 1/8 miles, but “we think we’ve found a niche for him in sprint races (with him) being a closing sprinter,” said Rick Mettee, a key assistant to Godolpin Racing trainer Saeed bin Suroor. A 4-year-old son of Gilded Time, the colt is the morning line’s 5-2 second choice for the $2-million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) Nov. 7 at Santa Anita Park.
Godolpin purchased Gayego privately late last year after he set a Hollywood Park Cushion Track record of 1:13.37 for 6 1/2 furlongs. He is coming into the World Championships off a 1 1/4-length victory in the Oct. 11 Ancient Title Stakes (gr. I) over Santa Anita’s synthetic Pro-Ride surface at the Sprint distance of six furlongs.
“Garrett (Gomez) rode Gayego for the first time, and he rode him with a lot of confidence,” Mettee said. “The race set up perfectly with a fast pace, and if you watch it, he only had to run hard about 200 yards and then he was eased up. He never felt the stick or anything.”
In the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Gayego “is going to have to run against a lot better horses. But given the draw, No. 5 is a good post position with all the speed down to his inside, and he should pull the right trip again," Mettee said. “We’re not really worried about anything other than is he good he good enough to get past those speed horses? He’s going to have to run harder and probably stay a little closer. But let’s face it, when you’ve got all the speed — No. 1 (Zensational), No. 2 (Cost of Freedom), and No.3 (Fatal Bullet) — right next to each other, Garrett can kind of bide his time and let him (Gayego) find his own rhythm.”
Gayego carried Godolphin’s colors for the first time this past March in Dubai, defeating Big City Man by a three-quarters of a length in the nearly six-furlong Dayjur Mahab Al Shimaal (UAE-I) and finishing second in the Godolpin Mile Sponsored By Etisalat (UAE-II).
“He had both dirt and synthetic form when we bought him, and he would be live World Cup (UAE-I) night in either the sprint (Golden Shaheen, UAE-I) or the Godolphin Mile,” Mettee said. “We ended up running him in the Mile, but we thought he was a pretty versatile horse. In the sprint race he won in Dubai, the horse he beat, Big City Man, came back and won the Golden Shaheen.”
Gayego returned to this country about three weeks after his runner-up finish in the Godolphin Mile, but didn’t compete again until August, when he won a six-furlong allowance/optional claiming event by a length at Saratoga.
“We hoped to get him in a race at Belmont (Park) like the Tom Fool (gr. II), but he just wasn’t ready in time,” Mettee said. “He wasn’t really geared up for it (the Saratoga race), and we were happy with it even though he got off a little slow at the start. It was a pretty fast race, and it was a perfect prep. We didn’t know whether we would run back in the Vosburgh (gr. I) or the Ancient Title (gr. I) out here in California. We ended up opting to bring him out here because he had run well here as a 3-year-old, and he wouldn’t have to run against (grade I winners) Fabulous Strike and Kodiak Kowboy (a Canadian champion) in the Vosburgh. We just thought it (the Ancient Title) would be an easier race to set him up for the Sprint, which was the ultimate goal with him. We wanted to have him peaking for the Sprint and not for the Ancient Title.”
Following the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Gayego is scheduled to go back to Dubai.
“This will be his last race in the United States this year,” Mettee said. “He’ll probably be pointed for the (2010) Golden Shaheen, which will be on a Tapeta surface at the new track, Meydan Racecourse.”