In his time at Keeneland last fall, Big Bend hinted there was more to his ability than his record reflected. One year and a surface switch later, the son of Union Rags returned to the Lexington track and showed off his new niche.
Marathon turf races don't come up with great regularity, but Big Bend has taken full advantage of those opportunities of late. After rating fifth in the 12-horse field, the 3-year-old bay colt fanned wide and took command in the stretch on his way to a three-quarter-length victory over Nessy in the $100,000 Sycamore Stakes (G3T) at Keeneland Oct. 19.
The 1 1/2-mile Sycamore represented the first graded win for Big Bend and his third consecutive victory—a nice turnaround for a horse who took five tries to break his maiden. The Tom Proctor-trained colt made his first four starts on dirt, and even ran second to eventual graded stakes winner J Boys Echo at Keeneland last October, but has been a better animal since getting to stretch his legs on the grass.
"He actually ran pretty well here last year on the dirt," said Braxton Lynch of owner Union Rags Racing, a syndicate headed up by Phyllis Wyeth, who campaigned her colt's sire. "We kind of knew he had some talent. We just had to find his thing.
"We kind of figured out that he is this mile-and-a-half kind of horse and there are not many places to go. At some point it's the end of his 3-year-old year and you have to start facing older horses. We didn't quite know how he would stack up with these, but obviously he did pretty well."
Big Bend won his previous two outings in gate-to-wire fashion, but jockey Drayden Van Dyke showed off his mount's handiness when he tucked the 18-1 shot into the second flight, as Infinite Wisdom and grade 1 winner Hardest Core prompted one another through an opening quarter in :25.95 and a half-mile in :50.12 over the course rated firm.
"He doesn't have to be on the lead to win, and he stepped it up today," Van Dyke said. "He sat, relaxed, and when he needed to run, he took off. What else can you ask for?"
When Big Bend swung out and began to edge clear in the lane, he faced a late charge from Nessy, but held that one off to cover the distance in 2:33.24.
Race favorite Canessar got up for third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Nessy, with Flashy Chelsey and Tasit rounding out the top five. Hardest Core, winner of the 2014 Arlington Million XXXII Stakes (G1T) faded to 11th.
Big Bend paid $39, $13.80, and $8.20 across the board, as he improved his record to four wins from 11 starts with $327,510 in earnings. He was bred in Kentucky by Daniel Burke and Kathleen Schweizer, and is out of the Broad Brush mare Lenatareese.