Winchell Thoroughbreds, LLC’s Pyro rebounded from an eighth-place finish in the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) to draw off to a 1 3/4-length victory over My Pal Charlie in the seventh running of the $190,925 Northern Dancer Stakes (GIII) on Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan and trained by Steve Asmussen, Pyro rated third off the pace of dueling leaders Texas Wildcatter and My Pal Charlie as the duo carved out fractions of :24.88 and :48.83.
Leaving the backstretch, Pyro moved at the leaders along with Visionaire, who had finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby. Pyro overcame My Pal Charlie at the head of the lane and then shook off the challenge of Visionaire at the eighth pole to complete the mile and one-sixteenth on a “fast” main track in 1:43.53, defeating five other 3-year-olds.
As the second choice, Pyro returned mutuels of $5.60, $3.60 and $2.60. B. Wayne Hughes’ My Pal Charlie, ridden by Jamie Theriot, returned $6.60 and $3.60, while Team Valor International and Vision Racing’s Visionaire, ridden by Garrett Gomez, finished another 2 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $3.20 to show.
Favored Recapturetheglory, who ran fifth in the Kentucky Derby, finished fourth, another 1 1/4 lengths back.
The victory was worth $117,345 and increased Pyro’s career earnings to $1,174,163. A homebred son of Pulpit, Pyro improved his record to 9-4-2-1.
STAKES QUOTES: THE NORTHERN DANCER STAKES
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN (jockey, Pyro) – “Obviously, he’s tactical and he’s so classy. You can do whatever you want with him. Steve and his crew did a fabulous job. He’s been a temperamental horse, but he was fabulous today. The work that they’ve put into him has, obviously, paid off.”
STEVE ASMUSSEN (trainer, Pyro) – “The horse left there very cleanly today and Shaun had him in great position. He ran a very strong race. I’m just proud of how he acted. Pre-race, he was very confident and back to how he was over the winter. I was very glad to see it. Hopefully this is the first step to a very good second half of the year.
“He just came over a lot more relaxed. Pre-race and schooling before the Derby, he seemed agitated and flat nervous. Scott did a great job with him, doing a lot of schooling and (getting him) able to run back here. He beat a nice group of horses today.
“He was coming off two extremely disappointing efforts for a top-class horse. This was a quality field today and he handled what was thrown at him. He was a lot sharper in the race and looked comfortable the whole time. Hopefully we can map out a schedule that has some important races in it for 3-year-olds for the year.”
AL STALL JR. (trainer, My Pal Charlie) – “We actually talked about the one-horse (Recapturetheglory) missing the break because of his lack of starts, and Jamie took it right to ‘em. It was very similar to the Louisiana Derby, but we were just second best – what can you say?”
JAMIE THERIOT (jockey, My Pal Charlie) – “He’s a horse that kind of puts himself into the race and he had everything his way. He was just second-best to that horse (Pyro). We ran all winter long with him and we were second-best to him then, and he still is.”
(It looked on the turn like all things might be possible for you...)
“On the turn I still had plenty of horse and I thought I could get away from him (Pyro), but that horse is just better than us.”
MICHAEL MATZ (trainer, Visionaire) – “He just kind of went pretty wide there (on the turn). Garrett suggested that maybe we put some blinkers on him, so we’ll see what that is like. I thought it was a good race coming back and we’ll just have to go one from here.”
GARRETT GOMEZ (jockey, Visionaire) – “He made a nice run on the turn. We gave up a spot early on in the race that I was hoping to stay up in, but it’s a learning experience and hopefully we can move forward from this and get him back on the right track. He’s a nice horse.”
E.T. BAIRD (jockey, Recapturetheglory) – “That’s the first time he’s every really broke with me like that. He didn’t break coming out of there – he kind of broke over the top for a little bit – two or three jumps – and being in the one-hole, I was covered up immediately and I was forced to do what I really didn’t want to do. But I didn’t have a choice.”
(He still ran on pretty well to get fourth...)
“It’s tough. I’ve never had him quite in the position he was in today. He handled it pretty well I think, but I would have liked it if he had broke better and I’d have been able to take my position rather than take what was left.”