Colonel John validates connections' confidence
WinStar Farm's homebred Colonel John drew a large contingent from Kentucky to witness his 3-year-old debut and first graded stakes victory on Saturday in the Sham Stakes GIII at Santa Anita under drizzly skies with jockey Garrett Gomez in the irons. The Tiznow son broke sharply and settled behind slow pacesetter Victory Pete. Gomez waited patiently until turning for home to call on the horse and he responded gamely, taking the lead in the stretch and holding off undefeated challenger El Gato Malo under a strong hand ride to win by a half-length.
"I just wanted to let him have the smoothest trip possible and have him come home," said Gomez. "And he really did. He did things very nicely and came home really well."
The bay colt was making his first start off a two-month layoff after finishing a strong second in the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on December 22nd. He has three wins and two seconds in five career races, including a victory in the Real Quiet Stakes on November 18th. The top brass at WinStar Farm has had faith in their homebred from the beginning and have not been disappointed with any of his performances. They remain confident in his talent and class to deliver an exciting season as he heads toward the Kentucky Derby.
"He's got the ability and I'm sure he can get the distance," said trainer Eoin Harty. "It's just a matter of not getting in his way."
Colonel John is all the more special to the farm, as he is bred and owned personally by Susan Casner, wife of the farm's co-owner Bill Casner. Susan chose his dam, the Turkoman mare Sweet Damsel, at auction. The farm flew eighteen guests out from Versailles, Kentucky, including President and CEO Doug Cauthen, Vice President Elliott Walden and two of his sons, bloodstock agents Mark Maronde, Robert Hammond, Brian Ludwick, and controller Jack Mulliken. Also on hand were the Casner's daughter and son-in-law Kayce and Clark Anderson.