Midwest Thoroughbreds' fan-favorite homebred The Pizza Man, off the board in all four of his previous starts this year, rallied down the stretch to just get up by a neck on the line in Saturday's G1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes. The 7-year-old gelded son of English Channel, masterfully ridden by Flavien Prat, stopped the clock in 2:32.85 for 12 furlongs over Woodbine's good turf course. This marks the second Grade 1 win of the Roger Brueggeman trainee's career.
“There was no pace, and he was just comfortable close to the lead so that was fine for me,” said Prat. “I was really happy all through the trip. When the leader picked it up coming for home, I thought I couldn't catch him, but when the horse came outside me it helped me to pass him.”
World Approval went straight to the lead out of the gates, setting very slow early fractions while The Pizza Man tracked from second along the outside. Button Down held third along the inside rail while Danish Dynaformer and a slightly rank Wake Forest were in mid-pack early on. World Approval led up the hill to mark the first quarter in :27.30 and the half-mile in :54.94, having everything his way while a length in front of The Pizza Man.
Rounding the turn for home, Wake Forest was looking for running room behind horses while World Approval tried to keep his lead down the lane. The Pizza Man appeared to hang a bit early in the stretch, but when Wake Forest ranged up beside him the aged gelding dug in courageously, and was able to not only keep in front of Wake Forest, but also to pass World Approval for the win. On the wire it was The Pizza Man by a neck over Wake Forest, with World Approval in third.
“Great ride, heady ride,” said Midwest's Richard Papiese. “We've been very fortunate to be involved with him, and Roger does a great job with the horse.”
Bred in Illinois, The Pizza Man achieved national fame when he captured last year's G1 Arlington Million on his home track in Chicago. Since then, he has finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf before shipping west to win the G2 Hollywood Turf Cup at Del Mar. Since he's been back to the track in 2016, The Pizza Man has struggled a bit, finishing off the board in all four of this starts. That was not the same horse that The Pizza Man showed his fans Saturday at Woodbine, improving his career record to 17 wins from 31 starts, with earnings of over $2 million.
Watch the race replay here:
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