Owner Larry Best, who races under the nom de course OXO Equine, was at Aqueduct Racetrack Friday morning to watch his undefeated colt Instagrand enjoy his final gallop ahead of Saturday's Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham.
As part of New York's “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series, the Gotham offers 50-20-10-5 qualifying points to the first four finishers on a lucrative card that also includes the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap; the $150,000 Stymie; and the $250,000 Busher Invitational for sophomore fillies offering 50-20-10-5 qualifying points to the Kentucky Oaks.
All the action will be shown live on FOX Sports Saturday At The Races, airing 4-7 p.m. EST on FS2.
Best served as the chief financial officer of Boston Scientific, a developer, manufacturer, and marketer of medical devices; and is also the founder and chairman of OXO Capital LLC.
On Friday, Best saw Instagrand gallop on the Big A main track under exercise rider Yadiel Ortiz, and later was an able hand walking his star colt through long turns of the shed row.
As Instagrand cooled out, Best recalled his early introduction to the sport of kings.
“I grew up in Akron, Ohio, and my dad was a fireman. On days off we'd go to Ascot Park, about 20 minutes outside of Akron. On sunny days we'd sit outside, and he'd smoke cigars and we'd watch the races. I have many fond memories of thoroughbred racing, but I never thought I'd own a horse,” said Best.
Best made his initial foray into racing in 2016 and one of his first purchases was the graded stakes winner Instilled Regard who finished a creditable fourth in last year's Kentucky Derby.
“I started off with three colts and three fillies and now I'm moving up,” said Best. “It's an adrenalin rush and either you get into it or you don't. I did and it's a big source of fun and excitement for me.”
Instagrand, trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, was a $1.2 million purchase at Fasig-Tipton's 2018 The Gulfstream Sale, but Best said he prefers not to concern himself with the price tag.
“I try not to make the market. I like to pick a horse with a good pedigree that looks the part and then I buy it and the market speaks for itself,” said Best. “This particular horse [Instagrand], all the parts fit together really nice and there's not many horses that move you to the extent that you want to buy them, but when they do move you, you take that risk, and that's what I've done with Instagrand.”
The flashy Into Mischief colt, out of the Lawyer Ron mare Assets of War, posted a pair of scintillating sprint victories as a juvenile including a 10 ¼-length score at Del Mar on August 11 in the Grade 2 Best Pal.
“I still don't know if he's a sprinter or a two-turn horse. We're just getting him back here in 2019 and this is his first race. This is more about prepping him for the future. It's not about the Kentucky Derby right now,” said Best. “It's the right race, the right distance and we'll learn a lot. I just hope he gets on the board.”
Best, who bought Instilled Regard for $1.05 million at the 2017 OBS March Sale, said the Derby is a significant goal as a horse owner.
“Instilled Regard got into the Derby and we went there to celebrate the unbelievable excitement of being in the Derby, and we ended up coming in fourth in my first year. I don't take that for granted, it's a blessing,” said Best. “I think if you're playing in the high end of the thoroughbred space, you have to be driven by the Kentucky Derby. We'll know after this race what the next step is for Instagrand.”
Instagrand will test his stamina in Saturday's one-turn mile, and Best said if the colt performs well, a nine-furlong Derby prep awaits.
“Hopefully he shows up and a mile is good for him and easy for him and he shows speed,” said Best. “The next race after that would be a mile and an eighth.”
Following the Gotham, the final race on the New York “Road To The Kentucky Derby” is the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial at 1 1/8 miles. Slated for Saturday, April 6, the Wood offers 100-40-20-10 qualifying points, and could see the purse increase to $1-million if any official starter is a previous Grade 1 or Group 1 winner.
Best said he will wait until after Saturday's race before considering which Derby prep might await his star colt, if any.
“Any one of them is a possibility. They're all great races,” said Best.
Instagrand has continued to enjoy his stay at the Big A and assistant trainer Dan Ward said the horse was well within himself during Friday's gallop.
“He just jogged back to the wire and galloped a mile and a half. Very smooth. He didn't get tired, didn't sweat, and it didn't take much out of him. We're ready to go,” said Ward.
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