A maiden $25,000 claiming winner on Nov. 16 at Laurel Park, Maryland, 4-year-old rags to riches poster child Bright Thought rattled off his fourth consecutive win and set a new track record in taking Saturday's mile and one half Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Rey Stakes on the turf in 2:22.72—finishing 3 ¼ lengths clear of longshot All Squared Away.
With gate to wire scores in a starter allowance Feb. 3 and a first condition allowance to his credit on Feb. 21, Bright Thought, ridden for the first time by Victor Espinoza, was dispatched as the 5-2 second choice in the eight-horse San Luis Rey, which was run for the 62nd time on Saturday.
As expected, Slim Shadey, who came off a front running win in the Grade II San Marcos on Feb. 9, showed good early speed from the rail with Gary Stevens up. “Slim” was content to sit second to Bright Thought as the field began its journey down the hillside and onto the “course proper,” but Stevens turned up the heat around the Club House turn, and had a diminishing half length advantage with a quarter mile to run.
“In his prior races here, he did show that he would settle, but we were a little worried about Slim Shadey coming out (running),” said winning trainer Jorge Gutierrez, who notched his first-ever graded stakes win in the San Luis Rey. “…If he did come out running, we wanted to sit off him a little and that's fine. We broke good enough and when Slim Shadey came on the outside of him, we kind of let him go by and (my horse) relaxed.
“Victor had worked the horse and watched videos of him and knew him quite well…He used good judgement and it worked out perfect.”
Bred in-part by Alex Venneri and owned by Venneri, Marjorie, Michael and Joanne Dye, Bright Thought paid $7.40, $5.80 and $4.60. A 4-year-old Kentucky-bred colt by the Sunday Silence stallion Hat Trick, Bright Thought bagged $90,000 and increased his earnings to $164,500. With an allowance win at Penn National negated due to a purse disqualification, he now officially has four wins from seven starts.
“He's an unbelievable horse, he's an unbelievable talent,” said Espinoza. “He broke running, and I was going to go on with (Slim Shadey), but I didn't want to go head to head with every other horse all the way to the wire so I eased back a bit. I gave him a little breather and started to let him run from the three eighths (pole)…He can go any distance. He has the speed, but he can rate, too.”
All Squared Away, ridden by Edwin Maldonado, was keen early and tugged his way into a forward position early, and ran gamely to finish second, three quarters of a length in front of Fire With Fire and Tyler Baze. All Squared Away paid $10.80 and $6.20.
Fire With Fire and last year's San Luis Rey winner Bourbon Bay provided trainer Neil Drysdale with a one-two punch, but Bourbon Bay never fired, finishing seventh. Fire With Fire, off at 20-1, sat third early and paid $8.60 to show.
Race favorite Interaction, off at 2-1, finished fourth and was “just flat today” according to jockey Brice Blanc.
Bright Thought's course record final time broke Hawkster's mark of 2:22.80, established on Oct. 14, 1989.
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