Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Thursday, September 15, 2016

| Churchill Downs Communications | 09/18/2016 #
  • The Pizza Man, in his closest finish of 2016 (Four Footed Fotos)

  • The Pizza Man Looking for Redemption in Northern Dancer
  • Yo Carm Back in Grade III Ontario Derby 


Midwest Throroughbreds’ 2015 Arlington Million winner The Pizza Man will face some familiar rivals in Saturday’s Grade I Northern Dancer Turf Stakes at Woodbine. The 1½-miles race drew a field of eight, including 2016 Million starters Danish Dynaformer, Wake Forest, and World Approval. The Pizza Man finished sixth in this year’s running of the Million only 1½ lengths behind the winner, a head behind Danish Dynaformer in fifth and a neck in front of World Approval in seventh, while Wake Forest finished 10th in the field of 11.

The Million was the fourth start of the season for the 7-year-old Illinois-bred son of English Channel, who hasn’t hit the board since his two-length win in the Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes at Del Mar last November. Trainer Roger Brueggemann says the colt is beginning to pick up the pieces in his training, and believes the gelding would have benefited from a longer rest over the winter as they had done in past seasons.

“He’s doing better than he was,” Brueggemann explained. “I keep saying I made a mistake, I should have sent him home and let him have a little bit more of a break like we did before. For some reason, when we went to New Orleans with him he didn’t do well. And we just kept going and going, and when we finally decided to quit he only had a month or so off. The year before, we sent him home after Del Mar and he was off for about four or five months. He came to the track last year a much different horse than he did this year. He is a year older, and I know how a year affects me. I think he just didn’t get enough time off and it’s taken him a little bit longer to get into the swing of things.”

Since the Million, The Pizza Man has turned in two sharp four-furlong works in 48 seconds flat, with his most recent breeze on Sept. 10 earning the best time of the morning from 41 workers at that distance. This will be his second start in the Northern Dancer, with his first coming in 2014 off a win in the American St. Leger at Arlington. Favored in the field of ten as they went to post, the gelding broke well from the rail but failed to show a strong late kick, finishing fifth.

“The first time we went for this race he didn’t ship well,” Brueggemann said. “That was one of the first times we started shipping around. We were stabled by the airport and the planes were going over – he was hyper about that. He didn’t eat very well. We took him back for [the Grade I Canadian International Stakes], and he ran much better. He made the lead about halfway down the stretch, but he moved him too soon. I don’t know how long that stretch is but it’s really long. That’s what I’m concerned about, is him moving too soon.”

“I think if I had to do over again there are two things I’d do different: one, I’d send him home earlier and let him get more of a break,” Brueggemann continued. “Then I’d find a race for him easier for the first time, like we did last year when we started with that overnight stake at Churchill, and let him really get his confidence built up. The Wise Dan at Churchill was a tough one to run him in; really I wanted to run him in the one a few weeks before, but it didn’t work out, so that’s what we ended up in. So like I said, I made a couple mistakes and now, he’s probably starting to come around.”

California-based jockey Flavien Prat will be aboard the Illinois-bred gelding, who is getting close to the $2-million mark in career earnings after 16 wins in 30 lifetime starts. Prat was aboard Wake Forest for his 10th-place finish in the 2016 Arlington Million.

“They say Prat is a good, strong finisher,” Brueggemann said. “Maybe we can both redeem ourselves.”


Ed Fortino’s homebred stakes-winner Yo Carm will take on seven others in the Grade III Ontario Derby at Woodbine this Saturday. The 3-year-old colt by Flatter, winner of the Bruce D. Memorial Stakes at Arlington International Racecourse on Aug. 13, will be piloted for the first time by Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the 1 1/8-miles race over the synthetic Tapeta track.

“He’s been training well since the Bruce D., and has done everything good in between so I think he’s ready to go up there and run well,” trainer Chris Block said of his colt. “I think [the extra distance] will be in his benefit. He seems the kind of horse that gets stronger as the race goes further.”

Yo Carm has put in three works since his win at Arlington, with his final move before the Ontario Derby coming on Sept. 10 when he breezed five furlongs on the Polytrack in a time of 1:02.4.

“He’s never been a fantastic workhorse,” Block remarked. “That’s not what he does. When I watch him work, if I see it’s what I have since he’s been in training, then I know it’s him. If it’s anything different, I try to figure out what’s going on, but it’s been all good since Aug. 13.”

The colt also put in a five-furlong work on the turf at Arlington on Sept. 3, covering the distance around the dogs in 1:04.2.

“[Racing Secretary] Chris Polzin gave me the opportunity to work him on the grass and I like to mix things up sometimes, keep things fresh for the horses if I can,” Block explained. “Rather than breezing on the Poly every time, I thought this might keep his mind a little fresher breezing on the grass. It’s not his best surface by any means, but he’s been good on it.”

Yo Carm made his debut at Arlington last summer, breaking his maiden in his third start on the turf going a mile. He finished the year racing in Kentucky at Keeneland and Churchill Downs. He began his sophomore season with a 6¼-length win over the dirt at Tampa Bay Downs before moving into graded stakes company. After three off-the-board attempts, Block entered him on the synthetic in the one-turn-mile Bruce D. Memorial Stakes, where the colt showed a late kick in the stretch to win by a half-length margin.

“It seems he’s run his best race of his life on synthetic,” Block said. “It’s a different named synthetic [at Woodbine], I don’t know how different it is in composition, but nonetheless it’s a synthetic surface, and it’s probably one of our last shots to run against 3-year-olds on a synthetic surface, so that’s why we are heading up there.”