01/07/2015 12:21PM

2014 Eclipse Awards: Work All Week

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Debbie Roma

In the span of three years, 2011-13, the Midwest Thoroughbreds operation of Rich and Karen Papiese won 1,362 races: 418 in 2011, 542 in 2012, and 402 in 2013.

Those 542 wins in a season – think about that. An average of almost 1.5 wins every day of the year. For the architect of a massive racing operation, heaven.

But early in 2014, Rich Papiese said Midwest was changing. The win-a-day mentality was headed out the door. Quality would be prized over quantity. And in at least one particular instance, Papiese got that right, too.

Work All Week started his campaign in an Oaklawn allowance race, and won it. He ended his campaign in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and won that, too. He ran five times on dirt and won every time, and Work All Week’s high-quality 2014 season has made him an Eclipse Award finalist in the category of champion sprinter.

Not only did Work All Week pull Midwest to the top of the mountain, he took trainer Roger Brueggemann there, too. Brueggemann used to work with cars in southern Illinois before moving to the track, little Fairmount Park. He shifted his operation to Chicago, struggled, caught on, and became a local kingpin when he partnered with Midwest. It was a strange sight, seeing Brueggemann, so strongly associated with Chicago, in a shed row at Santa Anita. And then he was in the winner’s circle, too.

Midwest has won most of its races through the years with horses acquired through the claim box, but this horse, Work All Week, came out of its breeding program. Bred in Illinois, the foal of 2009 is a son of City Zip out of the Repriced mare Danzig Matilda. Brueggemann started him out in a turf route in November 2012. That was not to be his calling.

Work All Week is a sprinter – more precisely, a dirt sprinter. He has raced 12 times in dirt sprints, and no horse has beaten him. The only two losses on his record since that turf-route debut came in the same race, the Addison Cammack Handicap, an Illinois-bred six-furlong race over Arlington’s Polytrack, and the same relatively obscure horse, Sweet Luca, beat him in 2013 and last summer. In his 2014 loss, Work All Week toted a 130-pound impost.

No one else could beat him. He won the $100,000 Hot Springs at Oaklawn, and while one might question the quality of the competition in that ungraded stakes, Work All Week’s win in the ungraded Iowa Sprint in June – his first race after undergoing a procedure to correct a breathing problem – came at the expense of the crack sprinter Delaunay.

Brueggemann and Papiese gave Work All Week the rest of the summer off after his Cammack loss, and Work All Week returned to make his graded stakes debut in the Grade 3 Phoenix at Keeneland, where he won by a half-length over C Zee. That was good, but the best was yet to come.
Florent Geroux rode Work All Week in the BC Sprint, breaking from post 13. From that wide draw, a good start is imperative, but Work All Week is a great gate horse. He never has broken worse than second in any of his starts, and in the Sprint, he won the break, taking up a pressing spot in second position through typically torrid Sprint splits.

But neither the pace nor the best competition he’d ever met fazed Work All Week, who surged to the front in upper stretch, took a one-length lead to the stretch call, and beat 2013 Sprint winner Secret Circle by a half-length, with subsequent Cigar Mile hero Private Zone third.
Midwest still managed to win 218 other races during 2014. Papiese might have traded them all for this big one.