It hasn't quite been 12 months since Rodolphe Brisset took his years of knowledge gained from working under one of the sport's all-time trainers and decided to see what he could do under his own shingle.
Since opening up his public stable at Keeneland April 1, gradually working to build a base of clients, the former top assistant to Hall of Famer Bill Mott had saddled a total of nine winners from 93 starters. The next time Brisset leads a horse over, however, he will have a distinction many horsemen never achieve—being in charge of a graded stakes-winning sophomore who has all but locked up a starting position at Churchill Downs for the first Saturday in May.
Brisset's charge Quip proved all business during his seasonal debut in the $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2), where he wore down pacesetter World of Trouble in late stretch to capture the 1 1/16-mile race by a length and pick up 50 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).
In a 2018 season that has yielded its share of upsets, Quip's gritty victory at odds of 19-1 made perfect sense in hindsight. The bay son of Distorted Humor was making his first start since finishing seventh in the Nov. 25 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs, but that race has yielded multiple contenders on the Road to the Kentucky Derby: Gotham Stakes (G3) victor Enticed, Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) winner Promises Fulfilled, and Risen Star Stakes presented by Lamarque Ford (G2) victor Bravazo.
Under heady handling from jockey Florent Geroux, who kept his mount right off World of Trouble's hip through early fractions of :24.54 and :49.48, Quip added his name to that list of graduates with a determined late burst that pulled him clear of Sam F. Davis (G3) winner Flameaway, who got going in the final strides to take second.
"He is a pretty forward horse, and he's a smart horse," said Brisset, who helped condition such runners as three-time Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta, classic winner Drosselmeyer, and grade 1 winner Emollient during the nearly 11 years he spent with Mott. "On paper it looked like we were going to be there early, and it was a matter (of) if they were going to let us go (the half) in :47 or :49. I guess they let us go in :49, which was a little surprising to me.
"It was just a matter of him being fit enough. I'm not sure if we had him 100%, but he was fit enough to win today, and that's the main thing."
Bred and co-owned by WinStar Farm, Quip showcased his high cruising speed when he broke his maiden at first asking Sept. 23 going six furlongs at Churchill. He followed that up with an eye-catching, 6 1/2-length victory going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland in October.
"We knew he had a lot of talent after he won his first two races, but he got a little lost in the Kentucky Jockey Club," said Elliott Walden, president of WinStar Farm, which owns Quip along with China Horse Club and SF Racing. "I'm not sure what's next. We're going to enjoy this one and go from there."
As expected, 8-5 favorite World of Trouble shot to the front in the Tampa Bay Derby, attempting to duplicate the form that made him a 13 3/4-length winner of the Jan. 20 Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay. Quip, who traveled in the two-path second, never let that one enjoy more than a half-length advantage. World of Trouble succumbed to Quip's sustained pressure late, with the winner covering the distance in 1:44.72 over a track rated fast.
"I've always thought a lot of him," Geroux said of Quip. "The way the Jockey Club unfolded, he was between horses most of the time and he didn't really respond when I called him. But I've always known he had talent. Rodolphe rides him in the morning, and he said he was doing fantastic. It seemed like he handled the track very well."
Flameaway rallied after tracking in third throughout to finish a neck in front of World of Trouble for second. Vino Rosso was a well-beaten fourth, 4 3/4 lengths behind World of Trouble, with Tiz Mischief rounding out the top five in the nine-horse field. Untamed Domain, Caloric, Arazi Like Move, and Grandpa Knows Best completed the order of finish.
Quip was bred in Kentucky and is out of the Indian Charlie mare Princess Ash. He improved his record to three wins from four starts with $282,800 in earnings.