Signalman, one of the most accomplished 2-year-olds of 2018, breezed a half-mile in company in :46.63 in preparation for a scheduled start in the $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (G2) March 2 at Gulfstream Park.
”He looked good. It was his first work here,” said trainer Kenny McPeek, who noted that the 3-year-old son of General Quarters had two light workouts at Payson Park Training Center since returning to training in December.
Signalman ran five times for owners Tommie M. Lewis, David A. Bernsen, LLC and Magdalena Racing during a juvenile campaign that was capped with a victory in the Nov. 24 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs.
“We gave him a little bit of a break, because he had a bit of a hard campaign. He got a part of a month off in December and we kind of eased him back,” McPeek said. “We have time for four breezes before the Fountain of Youth.”
Signalman, who earned $448,990 while compiling a 2-2-1 record in five starts, was purchased for $32,000 as a yearling.
` “I work a lot of sales and I basically go for bodies,” McPeek said. “He's pedigree-modest, but he's a runner.”
Signalman, who finished a fast-closing second in his May 17 debut at five furlongs at Churchill Downs, graduated in a seven-furlong maiden special weight race at Saratoga Sept. 1, prevailing by a nose.
“He's a big powerful horse. We sprinted him at Churchill as an early 2-year-old and he did everything right that day to be second. He came out of the race with shins, so we had to back off him for a period before we ran him at Saratoga,” McPeek said. “His second start, where he fought to win, showed that he had a lot of fight. He's a horse that's extremely smart.”
The Kentucky-bred colt returned to Kentucky, where he finished a deep-closing second in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland Oct. 6 before closing from far back to finish third in the 13-horse Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs Nov. 2. After breaking from the No. 13 post in the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile, Signalman finished 3 ½ lengths behind victorious Game Winner and a length behind runner-up Knicks Go and 6 ½ lengths clear of fourth-place finisher Mr. Money.
“It was a really good race. We drew outside, so we had to tuck in and basically take back and try to find a clean trip,” McPeek said. “He made his presence felt the last part of it. From the post he drew he was kind of compromised from the beginning and he did well to run third.”
In the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club, Signalman was held up in traffic at the quarter-pole before finding room, taking over the lead in the stretch and holding off a late-challenge by Plus Que Parfait.
“He's extremely smart and for a big horse he's fast. His last race I really liked. We asked him for speed early and he did that, then he overcame a bunch of traffic. You have to do that in May, don't you? You have to work through traffic, and he seems to understand what to do,” McPeek said. “It's a good position to be in right now.”
McPeek, who saddled Harlan's Holiday for a second-place finish in the 2002 Fountain of Youth before a victory in the Florida Derby (G1), said Signalman has many qualities similar to Tejano Run, whom he saddled for a second-place finish behind Thunder Gulch in the 1995 Kentucky Derby (G1).
“He kind of reminds me of Tejano Run at this stage. They have a similar body type, similar pedigree in that it's modest. Actually, this horse maybe has more speed than Tejano Run,” McPeek said. “But it's apples and oranges.”
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