01/07/2011 10:59AM

2010 Eclipse Awards: Richard's Kid

Benoit & Associates

Richard’s Kid’s 2010 campaign began with a change of colors and ended with a familiar sight, the horse in full homestretch flight, on his way to a major Southern California stakes victory.

That season finale came in the Grade 1 Goodwood Handicap on Oct. 2, giving Richard’s Kid three graded stakes victories during the year – including two Grade 1’s – and a spot on the roster of Eclipse Award finalists.

Richard’s Kid started the year owned by Arnold Zetcher, but in January was purchased by Sheikh Rashid al Maktoum’s Zabeel Racing International Corp. Zetcher is a Californian while Sheikh Rashid lives in Dubai, and Richard’s Kid’s season unfolded accordingly. After winning the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 7, Richard’s Kid was shipped overseas to start in the Dubai World Cup, where he finished seventh while beaten just more than two lengths. That first trip to the Middle East came as no surprise – he was purchased with the World Cup in mind – but Sheikh Rashid’s decision to skip the Breeders’ Cup Classic and bring Richard’s Kid back to Dubai to get an early start targeting the 2011 World Cup caught trainer Bob Baffert off guard in October.

“They’re passing up a chance to be champion older horse and maybe Horse of the Year,” Baffert said at the time.

That Richard’s Kid might even enter such discussions would have been a 1,000-1 shot not all that long ago. Bred in Maryland by Robert Meyerhoff’s Fitzhugh LLC, Richard’s Kid, a 6-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid and Tough Broad, was somewhat slow to come around for trainer Dick Small. He lost his first four races and seven of his first eight before hitting his stride late in 2008, but then advanced rapidly, winning three straight Laurel Park allowance races and capturing his first stakes, the $50,000 John Campbell Handicap, early in 2009. Still, Richard’s Kid had lost three in a row and appeared to be somewhat below graded-stakes class when Zetcher acquired him and brought Richard’s Kid to California during the summer of 2009.

There, Richard’s Kid’s late-running route style synced up beautifully with synthetic-track racing: A nose loss in his synthetic debut, the Cougar II Stakes, was followed by the performance that put Richard’s Kid on the map, a 24-1 upset of the 2009 Pacific Classic. That would be the last time Richard’s Kid truly snuck up on handicappers, but though he consistently proved to be among the best practitioners of the two-turn synthetic game, Richard’s Kid was consistently undervalued at the betting windows: He was 9-2 when he repeated in the 2010 Pacific Classic and a surprising 8-1 in his Goodwood victory.

Like another relatively well known Southern California racer (the name Zenyatta ring a bell?), Richard’s Kid turned in his best efforts from far back in the field. In the San Antonio, Richard’s Kid was last of 11 halfway through the race before commencing his kick. The chart-caller’s short comment accompanying his running line sums up the performance best: “Furious rail rally, up.”

Richard’s Kid’s two North American losses in 2010 came in the two races that lacked any semblance of early speed: The July 10 Hollywood Gold Cup and the July 30 Cougar II were run at a snail’s pace, and Richard’s Kid raced just in behind the leaders both times. The change in style diluted Richard’s Kid’s finish, and in both instances he actually lost ground to the winner between the stretch call and the finish.

But give Richard’s Kid legit splits and he was money. He could rally wide, as he did winning his second straight Pacific Classic from the back of the pack, and also showed no fear of the fence, taking the Goodwood the same way he had won the San Antonio, with a rail-skimming late run.
That Goodwood victory at the end of Richard’s Kid’s 5-year-old season produced a Beyer Speed Figure of 106, the second-highest rating the horse has earned. So don’t close the book on Richard’s Kid just yet, since his career has followed the same trajectory as his best races: Slow early, fast late.

PAST PERFORMANCES: Richard's Kid's 2010 season PPs (PDF)

KEY RACE REPLAY: Pacific Classic at Del Mar >>