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Perform won the 2023 Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park, a “Win & You’re In” qualifier for the 2023 Preakness Stakes (G1). If his connections pay the late supplemental fee, is the Shug McGaughey trainee a legitimate threat in American horse racing’s Triple Crown Middle Jewel? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
It took Woodford Racing, Lanes End Farm, Phipps Stable, Ken Langone and Edward Hudson Jr.’s Perform six tries since last summer to break his maiden, racing against competition that included some of the top point-earners for the Kentucky Derby (G1).
He needed only one more start, 35 days later in his stakes debut, to make a return visit to the winner’s circle.
Ridden by Feargal Lynch for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, Perform ($22) sprung a 10-1 upset of Saturday’s $125,000 Federico Tesio at Laurel Park, making a dramatic rush in the final sixteenth of a mile and sticking his head out at the wire to edge a game Ninetyprcentmaddie.
The 42nd running of the 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio anchored four stakes worth $450,000 in purses on the first of back-to-back Spring Stakes Spectacular Saturdays that continues April 22 with five $100,000 stakes including the first three of the season scheduled for Laurel’s world-class turf course.
Named for the noted Italian breeder, owner and trainer whose homebreds Nearco and Ribot dominate Thoroughbred bloodlines around the world, the Tesio for an eighth straight year served as a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated 3-year-olds to the 148th Preakness Stakes May 20 at historic Pimlico Race Course.
2022 Preakness Stakes
Perform, bred in Kentucky by Michael Orem and JB Lane Orem, is not among the six Triple Crown nominees in the Tesio from a field of nine. He can be supplemented to the Preakness on entry day for a cost of $150,000.
“It’s a shame he’s not [automatically] in the Preakness,” Lynch said in winning his first race of the year, in his fifth start, following his annual winter vacation. “This is a nice horse.”
Multiple stakes winner Coffeewithchris, made eligible for the Triple Crown races by the late March 28 deadline, broke alertly from his rail position and took up residence on the lead, going a quarter-mile in 24.47 seconds with Ninetyprcentmaddie, another late nominee, pressing to his outside in second and early nominee Fletcher tracking in third. Stakes winner Prince of Jericho, the 9-5 favorite also looking to punch his ticket to the Preakness, raced in fifth with Perform trailing the field.
Coffeewithchris maintained his lead through a half in 48.48 with Ninetyprcentmaddie still glued to his flank and Fletcher tagging along behind. Lynch maintained his course on the inside and was gaining ground around the turn but still needed room to run. Ninetyprcentmaddie put away Coffeewithchris at the eighth pole and began to clear as Lynch tipped Perform out from behind Prince of Jericho and a tiring Fletcher to make a run at the leader.
“I was expecting him to be keen. Shug said, ‘You’ve got to get him to relax,’” Lynch said. “[Jockey] Irad [Ortiz Jr.] said the last time at Tampa he got him switched off and he came home good. When Johnny [Velazquez] rode him in his maiden at Keeneland he was quite keen and strong. He’s always been a nice horse, but the key’s been getting him to relax.”
Lynch moved back down inside around Prince of Jericho past the sixteenth pole and, instead of taking the opening to Ninetyprcentmaddie’s left, he darted back to the outside and was able to get up in time after completing the distance in 1:51.28 over a fast main track. It was 1 ¼ lengths back to Summer Cause in third.
“I thought I was in trouble down the back, to be honest. He just wasn’t handling the track. I got in behind Sheldon and he was getting braver and braver and just kept picking it up and I knew at the half-mile pole, I’ve just got to figure out a way through here. That’s going to be the hardest part,” Lynch said. “When we came into the straight and I saw Paco coming off the rail I thought, I don’t want to go up the inside on him. So, I went around him and hoped that I had time.”
Eldest Son, one of two horses in the Tesio for Laurel winter meet-leading trainer Jamie Ness, was fourth. Coffewithchris, Prince of Jericho, Circling the Drain, Time to Cruise and Fletcher completed the order of finish.
“I knew with all that speed up ahead in front there were always a few horses that were going to press the pace. It was going to be a quick pace and it was going to set up for a horse coming from behind,” Lynch said. “The horse I was worried about was [Summer Cause]. I thought he was a nice horse, too. He was a bit close to the pace. I thought he’d be further back with me and he’d be a horse to jump onto, but I never saw him.”
Perform fetched $230,000 as a yearling in September 2021 and ran second in debut last July at Belmont Park to subsequent Sapling winner Lost Ark. He was fourth behind Disarm second time out and third to eventual Gotham (G3) winner Raise Cain at Keeneland in October. Raise Cain and Disarm, the Louisiana Derby (G2) runner-up that ran third in Saturday’s Lexington (G3), have 64 and 56 points, respectively, on the Derby leaderboard.
In his sophomore opener, Perform ran fourth behind Mage, who would come back to be second to 2-year-old champion and Derby favorite Forte in the Florida Derby (G1) April 1 at Gulfstream Park. Mage sits on the Derby leaderboard with 50 points.
2023 Florida Derby Replay | Forte Romps To Stamp Kentucky Derby Favoritism
“They thought the world of him as a baby. He went off favored as a 2-year-old at Keeneland with Johnny V. and he broke the gates and was just doing too much,” Lynch said. “Two nice horses beat him, and the horse that beat him down at Gulfstream was second to Forte. You can’t get any more solid form than that.
“He was pulling when I was warming him up. He’s not a big strong horse or anything. I couldn’t believe this was the same horse that I was watching on all the replays this morning,” he added. “I was expecting having to wrestle with him and get him to relax but he was good.”
Lynch, 45, returned to riding March 31 at Laurel, finishing second on Dover Bluff, after spending the winter in Spain with his parents. He also ran second Saturday with Grade 1-placed Pass the Champagne in the $100,000 Heavenly Cause.
“I take the winter off and it keeps me fresh. I think at my age I enjoy it more coming back for these races, especially. It really lights me on fire,” he said. “These are the days I want to be here for.”
A total of 22 Tesio winners have gone on to run in the Preakness, the last being Alwaysmining in 2019 with Maryland-bred Deputed Testamony (1983) the only horse to sweep both races. Last year’s winner, Joe, was named Maryland’s male division champion for a second straight year and is nearing his return to the races.
Happy Saver won the Tesio in 2020 for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher as a prelude to his next-out victory over older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). Runners-up Ruler On Ice (2011) and Monday Morning Qb (2020) respectively went on to capture the Belmont Stakes (G1) and Maryland Million Classic.
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