Long before trainer Ron Moquett saddled 2020 Champion Male Sprinter Whitmore, he earned his first Grade 1 win in astounding fashion with 91-1 longshot Seek Gold in the 2006 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.
The six-year-old bay gelding was making his first start for Moquett and new owners Kristi Couch and Ted Bowman, who had claimed their first horse only five months before for $5,000. On the eve of the Kentucky Derby (G1), Moquett and Bowman dined with Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, who was a mentor to Moquett. They made a nine-horse package deal that included Seek Gold and Go Now. Zito had previously nominated both of these horses to the Stephen Foster.
Since the horses were so new to him, Moquett asked jockey Calvin Borel which horse he preferred to ride in the Stephen Foster. Borel went with Seek Gold, who hadn’t won in nearly two years and entered off a dull fifth-place finish in Churchill’s ungraded Alysheba Stakes.
"Calvin told me he's honest and he'll ride, he empties out every time," Moquett said to BloodHorse.
The daunting opposition included Grade 1 winners Buzzards Bay, Brass Hat, and Perfect Drift, who had finished third in the 2002 Kentucky Derby and won the Stephen Foster in 2003.
Love of Money and Edgar Prado took the early lead on the outside, as was expected. He pulled away from 7-5 favorite Buzzards Bay on the backstretch and led for much of the way but was outmaneuvered at the top of the stretch. Perfect Drift took over and opened a clear advantage. As Seek Gold came into the stretch, he was last. He straightened out and was 12 lengths wide. In a late charge, he closed determinedly under left hand urging to wear down Perfect Drift in the last lunge.
“It’s too close to call,” exclaimed announcer Luke Kruytbosch. Following a lengthy delay, Seek Gold was declared the winner by a nose. The longest price in the 25-year-history of the Stephen Foster and one of the greatest upsets in the 132-year history of Churchill Downs, Seek Gold paid $185.40 to win.
"If you don't believe there is a racing god, then you have to now, right?" said Moquett. "If we lined back up with all those horses, I don't know that we could beat 'em. But you know what? We did yesterday, and I thank God for that."
Perhaps Seek Gold’s win might have been better expected. In the 2004 Clark H. (G2), also at Churchill, he closed from far back, edging by Perfect Drift to beat all the field except for Saint Liam, who was later named 2005 Horse of the Year.
The day after the Stephen Foster, Moquett said "thank you" to an endless stream of visitors. Between the instant that Seek Gold hit the finish line and the moment that he concluded his interviews with the media, Moquett said he had 102 new messages waiting on his cell phone. Near the top of that list of well-wishers were Zito and Robert LaPenta, Seek Gold’s former owner.
"I love the fact that so many people have offered congratulations to us," Moquett said. "Colleagues and people that see us out here struggling and trying to make payroll and trying to pay the feed company. They appreciate what this win means to us."
Seek Gold made two more starts for his connections—in the Hollywood Gold Cup S. (G1) and an allowance race at Keeneland—and finished last in both.
He was retired. From 30 races, he had a record of 5-7-2 and just over $900,000 in earnings. In 2009, he went to live at Old Friends farm through the efforts of Moquett and the generosity of Bowman Couch Racing.