01/06/2017 4:56PM

2016 Eclipse Awards: Tourist

Email

The week of the Breeders’ Cup, trainer Bill Mott spoke about Tourist’s chances to win the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Mile.

“He’s a good horse. He’s capable,” Mott said. “But he’s got to have the perfect trip.”

The perfect trip is what Joel Rosario gave Tourist in the Mile. The once-headstrong front-running type, professionalized by Mott’s patient tutelage, sat comfortably in midpack behind a crackling early pace, Rosario probing for openings along the rail, never losing ground, never getting stopped. Tourist had to come around one horse in the homestretch, and that task accomplished, he flew across the finish a half-length ahead of the race’s 2015 winner, Tepin, who had gotten less than a perfect trip.

Tourist came into 2016 still seeking the first Grade 1 win of his career. He got that in August, when he won the Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga, and he wound up his 5-year-old season – and career – with two Grade 1 wins, a Breeders’ Cup trophy, and as a finalist for an Eclipse Award as the champion older male turf horse of 2016.

Tourist, by two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow and out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Unbridled Melody, was bred by WinStar Farm and was withdrawn from a yearling sale in 2012. He campaigned in 2016 for WinStar, the Wachtel Stable, and Gary Barber.

A robust dark bay with an eye-catching blaze and a couple of socks, Tourist had shown talent from the start but really found his niche when Mott switched him from dirt to turf in February 2014. That summer, he won the Sir Cat at Saratoga over the classy Ring Weekend and then stayed on gamely at a 1 1/4-mile distance that is farther than his best when second in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes.

Tourist ended his 3-year-old campaign with the first of his three starts in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and unlike in 2016, his trip was disastrous. Tourist broke from post 13, and Mott thought the horse might be headed for the Santa Anita parking lot, so wide did he race on the first turn.

It took forever to get Tourist right in 2015, and he didn’t even make his seasonal debut until September. He was a fine third in the Shadwell Turf Mile in October, but by the time the Breeders’ Cup Mile came around, the Keeneland course had gone too far over to the soft side for the firm-turf-loving Tourist.

Give a patient Hall of Famer like Mott enough time to sculpt a horse with Tourist’s ability, and something is bound to go right eventually, and in 2016, Tourist put together a full year of high-level racing.

Tourist raced six times in 2016 and went 2-1-2. All six of his starts came at the Grade 1 level, and Tourist started at four different tracks from coast to coast. Mott is convinced that Tourist never was especially fond of Keeneland, but he still finished third there in the major turf miles in spring and fall, the Maker’s 46 Mile and the Shadwell Turf Mile.

In June, Mott shipped Tourist to Santa Anita to take on California’s leading turf miler, Midnight Storm, and Tourist came within a half-length of him in the Shoemaker Mile. At Saratoga, Tourist stumbled but still finally got his first Grade 1 victory when he captured the Fourstardave. In the Shadwell, he was beaten just a half-length by the Keeneland-loving Miss Temple City and Ironicus. That set up Tourist perfectly for the Breeders’ Cup Mile – and his perfect trip.