09/25/2016 1:25PM

Brown considering several options for Connect

Barbara D. Livingston
Connect earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure for his Pennsylvania Derby victory.

Connect's victory in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby on Saturday not only further confuses the 3-year-old male divisional rankings, it poses trainer Chad Brown with a tricky decision regarding where to run him next.

Connect took a big step forward in his development by holding Gun Runner at bay through the final furlong of the 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby, and quite probably we haven’t seen his best race yet. But with only six starts under his belt, would the Breeders' Cup Classic against older runners be a case of too much, too soon?

"Obviously the Breeders’ Cup will be discussed," Brown said. "Other options include possibly to freshen the horse up a little bit for a race like the Cigar Mile or the Clark. All those races are possible.”

A son of Curlin owned by Paul Pompa Jr.,  Connect has lost only his career debut at Aqueduct last December, and the Travers, which he came out of with a lung infection after finishing sixth. Prior to the Travers, he won the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga.

"He’s lightly raced still, he’s an exciting horse for the future," Brown said. "The prospects of him running in some of these big dirt races as a 4-year-old is certainly exciting."

Brown also sent out Pennsylvania Derby fourth-place finisher My Man Sam. Brown said the Discovery, a 1 1/8-mile handicap for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct on Nov. 12, "probably would be a good fit for him."

Although Gun Runner could not get by Connect while finishing out by the center of the track, he ran a strong race to be second-best. It was four lengths back from Gun Runner to Wild About Deb, who won a four-horse photo for third.

Trainer Steve Asmussen shipped Gun Runner to Churchill Downs on Sunday morning.

"Tough beat, there’s definitely some good wins in his future,” Asmussen said. "He came out of the race in really good shape. We’ll train at Churchill for the immediate future. The responsible thing is let him get back on the track before we say what he is or isn’t going to do."

Connect earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure in the Pennsylvania Derby, one point higher than Gun Runner.

As for the 3-year-old division, Kentucky Derby and Florida Derby winner Nyquist finished sixth in the Pennsylvania Derby, beaten five lengths. After winning the first eight races of his career, he is now on a three-race losing streak.

Exaggerator, who has won the Preakness, Haskell Invitational, and Santa Anita Derby this season, finished seventh on Saturday, beaten 12 lengths. He has now lost three of his last four starts.

Arrogate, the 13 1/2-length winner of the Travers, will not race again until the Breeders' Cup Classic, but most likely drew closer in the division to Nyquist and Exaggerator by staying in his stall Saturday. Still, he may have to win the Classic to take the top spot.

"I hope voters remember that championships should be the culmination of a year's races," said Keith Desormeaux, the trainer of Exaggerator. "They should be based on a body of work."

On Sunday, Desormeaux, Doug O'Neill, the trainer of Nyquist, and Bob Baffert, the trainer of Cupid, all said their horses appear to have come out of the Pennsylvania Derby in good condition.

"Nyquist scoped clean and looks great," O'Neill said. "We'll huddle up in a few days with a game plan moving forward."

Exaggerator was vanned back to Churchill Downs on Sunday.

"All reports are that he is fine," said Desormeaux, who watched the race from California. "He will regroup at Churchill and I will get together with the ownership group and make a decision next week on which direction to proceed."

Baffert said Cupid, who finished eighth, "came out of the race fine" but at this time he had "no plans" for him.

Nyquist and Cupid are scheduled to be flown back to California on Wednesday.

* In addition to his Pennsylvania Derby winnings, Brown also won three stakes over the weekend, helping him to push his 2016 earnings to $16,509,334. The total moves him into first place in North America, almost $172,000 ahead of Todd Pletcher. It is the first time anyone except Pletcher has been atop the trainers' standings this later in the year since 2009.

- additional reporting by David Grening




Stevie Shugart More than 1 year ago
So John, what are your choices, a clear cut mud horse or a Derby winner who has lost every race since ? Just wondering...
Jennifer Decker More than 1 year ago
I think it's safe to say that Curlin consistently throws very nice late-blooming, classic-distance colts. I look forward to seeing this one next year!
john gardner More than 1 year ago
I was as dazzled by Arrogate's win in the Travers as anybody. What a monster performance. But, I'm as equally puzzled by the thought that Arrogate could skip the grueling triple crown trail, stroll in late in the year off a few races and win one G-1 race and even if he wins the BC Classic and be 3 year old division champion? Off one G-1 and a BC Classic win, hmmm. 
OK, I'll keep my colt off the TC trail, the grueling TC trail for a colt so young. Let most young colts slug it out and beat each other up and I'll come strolling along like Johnny come lately and take the crown jewel. Something is wrong with this picture Willis.
peter More than 1 year ago
we all know that it is up to each camp to make the choices on which path to follow---where do most of the derby trail horses end up for the rest of their careers?? ---maturity (both physical & mental) comes at different times for these athletes and only the trainer should decide when is the right time to step into the deep end----obviously the connections of CONNECT have done a fine job so far----he may have taken the travers if his lung issue had not popped up-----i doubt they will throw him into the cup just to try to get an eclipse----but if he is up to the task they may, but it is doubtful they would jeopardize his 4 year old season for that if he is not ready to face such a task----there are those that think more of awards than their horses, and the horse is what the game should be about----without them what do we really have???