Paul Pompa, Jr. with the 2008 Preakness trophy

Paul Pompa, Jr. with the 2008 Preakness trophy

Anne M. Eberhardt

Pompa Well Positioned Again

Here we go again. It didn’t take long after second-time starter Well Positioned crossed the finish line 14 1/4 lengths in front in the sixth race at Aqueduct Nov. 22 for owner Paul Pompa to begin getting phone calls from prospective buyers. It was déjà vu for Pompa and trainer Pat Reynolds after playing out the same scene last year with Big Brown.


But this time, Pompa has a greater foundation to lean back on. This time, he has a lifetime of what might have beens, having to watch Big Brown’s mercurial rise to stardom in the background as 25% owner.


Pompa, according to Reynolds, has received a dozen phone calls, including two from IEAH Stables, who purchased majority interest in Big Brown from him after the colt’s maiden victory on grass last summer for a reported $3.5 million. But this time he is not rushing into selling him.


After a disappointing debut on Oct. 19, Well Positioned, equipped with blinkers, put on a dazzling exhibition Saturday, battling briefly for the lead under Javier Castellano and then drawing away under a hand ride to demolish a solid field of highly touted maidens. He covered the mile in 1:38 3/5, while stakes horses ran their mile in 1:40 in the Discovery Handicap (gr. III) the following race en route to a 1 1/8-mile time of 1:53 1/5.


“A horse like this always stirs interest, especially with people wondering if history can repeat itself,” Reynolds said. “After the race, Paul said to me, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to win one of those big races in my colors?’ I told him tomorrow we’ll check on the horse and see how he is and then we can sit down and start discussing plans. Paul’s got a taste for the game now and he loves the business, and he’s become a little more experienced.


“I don’t rush horses, and my 2-year-old record is less than resplendent, by choice. I don’t get that many well-bred horses, and the ones I do get I take my time with them. I try to protect them as much as I can, because I don’t like having to make those calls to owners. So, this horse has got a great foundation under him, and he didn’t turn a hair after the race. He decimated a field of well-like maidens. Shug McGaughey’s horse was coming off an 84 Beyer and Bruce Levine told me they had a runner. There were seven tips in the race.


“In his first race, all of our jocks were out of town, and I put Alan Garcia on him, but he and I weren’t on the same wave length as far as strategy and the two of them just weren’t in sync. I thought we had a colt with untapped potential, but things just didn’t work out. Maybe the light bulb just didn’t go off. With the sharp work (:47 3/5) in blinkers and the addition of blinkers in the race, he put everything together. This morning he’s walking around like an older horse, so I was very pleased with that.”


Well Positioned is bred to run all day, being by Awesome Again, out of a Holy Bull mare, and his second dam is by the Galbreath family’s Hail the Pirates, winner of the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. I) and numerous other stakes in the U.S. and Ireland.


“He’s just coming around,” Reynolds said. “He ate all his food last night and he’s hollering for his feed right now, so he’s definitely the goods. I think we can keep on developing him. There were mixed messages after his first race, but sometimes they just need experience.”


Well Positioned was purchased for Pompa by Hidden Brook, agent, who also picked out Big Brown, at the Adena Springs sale for $340,000.


“Paul said to me, ‘I’m well positioned to stay in this business for a while,’ because of the way things have been planned out, and that’s how the horse got his name,” Reynolds said. “He doesn’t just throw a lot of oatmeal around the kitchen and hope some of it lands in his bowl.”


So, will Well Positioned follow Big Brown and head to IEAH or some other owner? That is for Pompa to decide.


“You can always use the bread, and I’ve never made any money in this business until we started selling them,” Reynolds said. “Paul is a real guy and he’s always taken care of me. He gave me my 10% with Big Brown. If he does sell I’m sure he’ll take care of me again, but maybe the chips will fall my way this time. Who knows, maybe he’ll sell half of him and the new owner will leave the horse here. I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ve only had a couple of preliminary discussions.”