Trainer Kent Sweezey sent out his first graded stakes winner on the Pegasus World Cup undercard, saddling Marianne Stribling, Force Five Racing and Two Rivers Racing Stable's Phat Man for a 6-1 victory in the Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park. The 6-year-old son of Munnings, ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., covered a one-turn mile over the fast main track in 1:35.95.
“These people had horses with me before anyone else did,” Sweezey said of the ownership group. “If I could win a race for anybody, it would be these guys.”
Phat Man broke well and settled in mid-pack, about 8 lengths off the pacesetters through fractions of :22.43 and :44.68. Ortiz kept him on the rail until mid-way through the far turn, then angled three-wide to make his rally. Phat Man kept grinding all the way to the wire, defeating front-runner Zenden by three-quarters of a length. Rare Form was third, and Chewing Gum finished fourth.
Sweezey, a former assistant to Jimmy Jerkens, has conditioned Phat Man since an allowance start at Delaware Park in August of 2019; previously, Joe Sharp trained the gelding for owner Brad Grady. Sweezey picked out the stakes-winning Phat Man for $65,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Summer Selected Horses of Racing Age sale, and in his second start for new connections Phat Man won the listed Good Magic Mile Stakes at Monmouth Park.
Second last out in the G3 Harlan's Holiday, Phat Man went one better this time in order to score in the Hooper. Overall, the gelding's record stands at 7-7-1 from 26 starts for earnings of over $460,000.
“He's a big, heavy horse and we realized he could stand up to some training and racing,” Sweezey said. “He gained weight out of his last race and we worked him a couple times in between, which I would not have done on a normal horse coming back in a month. I'd usually just give an easy work or two. But we drilled him a bit. He got tired last time and I wanted to make sure he was fit. If he's going to be able to run on this day, he's got to work for it, so I wanted to make sure I got to the bottom of him. That's a Jimmy Jerkens move – when you have a dirt horse, you really have to breeze and crank on them. If he was going to be go run with those horses, he'd better be darn sure fit.”
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