Pyro’s form of old returned June 14 at Churchill Downs as the son of Pulpit powered to a 1 3/4-length win over five fellow 3-year-olds in the Northern Dancer Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO). The Steve Asmussen-trained colt covered the 1 1/16 miles of the $190,925 race in 1:43.53.
Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Pyro was making his first start since an eighth-place finish behind Big Brown May 3 in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). He was the 5-1 second choice in the Derby, but was roughed up at the break and sat a mid-pack trip for most of the race.
In the Northern Dancer, Pyro broke from post two under Shaun Bridgmohan and was in tight early, but moved out a bit and tracked the leaders while in a comfortable position in third. Leading the way was Texas Wildcatter and My Pal Charlie, and the two set splits of :24.88, :48.83, and 1:13.08. Pyro picked up the tempo and pulled on even terms with the leaders on the turn while coming with a three-wide move. He drew clear from his foes at the eighth pole.
“Obviously, he’s tactical and he’s so classy,” said Bridgmohan. “You can do whatever you want with him. Steve and his crew did a fabulous job. He’s been a temperamental horse, but he was fabulous today. The work that they’ve put into him has, obviously, paid off.”
My Pal Charlie finished second, 2 ¼ lengths ahead of Visionaire, who had previously finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby. Recapturetheglory, the Derby’s fifth-place finisher and even-money favorite in the Northern Dancer, was fourth, and was followed by Texas Wildcatter and Unbridled Vicar.
Tiz Now Tiz Then was scratched.
Pyro returned $5.60, $3.60, and $2.60. My Pal Charlie paid $6.60 and $3.60 and Visionaire paid $3.20. The 2-5 exacta paid $35.20.
“The horse left there very cleanly today and Shaun had him in great position,” said Asmussen. “He ran a very strong race. I’m just proud of how he acted. Pre-race, he was very confident and back to how he was over the winter. I was very glad to see it. Hopefully this is the first step to a very good second half of the year."
Pyro, a dark bay or brown Kentucky-bred colt out of the Wild Again mare Wild Vision, has now won four of nine starts and has earned $1,174,063 after collecting the winner’s share of $117,345 from the Northern Dancer. Earlier this year he won the Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II) in back-to-back efforts at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
“He was coming off two extremely disappointing efforts for a top-class horse," said Asmussen. "This was a quality field today and he handled what was thrown at him. He was a lot sharper in the race and looked comfortable the whole time. Hopefully we can map out a schedule that has some important races in it for 3-year-olds for the year.”
As a 2-year-old, Pyro ran second to champion War Pass in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) and the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I).