The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Festival is just two weeks away.
For many, the annual series of Grade 1 races attracting the best horses, trainers, and owners in the world is a fitting finale for the racing season, with legends to be born, history to be made, and fortunes to be won.
For owner/trainer Chad Summers, it’s the culmination of a 365-day road to redemption and revenge.
“We have unfinished business,” he said, referring to the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Sprint when his superstar colt, Mind Your Biscuits, finished second by 1 1/4 lengths to Drefong. “They kind of looked at us as an outsider. They didn’t give us much of a chance.”
From Biscuits winning the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship and earning his Breeder’s Cup entry, to a disappointing Saratoga stint that was capped off by a non-effort in his long-awaited rematch with Drefong in the Grade 1 Forego, the pair’s journey has been well-documented.
“Nobody ever said this game was easy,” Summers told me after the Forego. “It’s a very humbling sport. Every time you put the bridle on and lead them over, you want to win. You’ll lose some races, you’ll have some bad racing luck. Sometimes you’re on top of the world, and sometimes you feel like you’re under the Titanic.”
One question asked by many armchair jockeys following the flat-running Forego was why Summers decided to run Biscuits, even though reports leading up to the race emerged about his poor workouts. Even Summers was unsure, up until the last workout, whether or not he would allow his colt to compete.
“After we breezed him at Saratoga the first time, we couldn’t really come up with an answer for what was going on,” he said. “I should’ve scrapped my plans for the Forego right then and there. If you watch his workouts at Saratoga, he’s just not into it. I liked the last work, which made me decide to run him in the Forego, but I think I liked it because it was better than what I had seen, rather than looking back and comparing to what he’s done in the last year and a half. That was a mistake. The last workout was better than the previous two, but in hindsight, it wasn’t good enough to compete at Saratoga in a Grade 1 against the defending Sprint champion.
With Saratoga behind him, the 4-year-old son of Posse made his way back to his former stall at Belmont Park, where by all accounts, he seems to be back to the “old” Biscuits. Since returning to the work tab on September 24, he’s fired two bullets, including a best-of-54 trip around 4 furlongs in :46.55.
“I think he’s getting back to himself,” Summers said. “Whether it’s the weather or the noise or whatever it was at Saratoga, we always thought that he just wasn’t himself. Now, his mind is right, and he’s breezing exactly like before the Belmont Sprint. That’s what we needed to see.”
Summers isn’t the only one recognizing the speedster’s return. Ask Irad Ortiz, Jr., who was on Biscuits when he broke his maiden 18 months ago, or Joel Rosario, who’s been aboard for 10 of Biscuits’ 17 career starts with a record of 5-4-0-0. Both breezed Biscuits at Belmont last month.
“It’s not about times – yes, he worked fast, but it’s how he’s doing it and the conversations with the riders when they get back,” he said. “When Irad breezed him, he said, ‘I felt like I was in my BMW,’ because he was just cruising. After Joel rode him (in his last workout), he said, ‘He’s back, he’s back. He’s even better.’ Those are the kinds of things you want to hear.”
The plan is for Biscuits to breeze one last time on Saturday, October 21, before traveling to southern California on Tuesday, October 24, with stablemate Paquita Coqueta. Traditionally, Summers likes to run Biscuits in company shortly before he races, but he’s having difficulty making that happen before they leave.
“Not a lot of people want to breeze against Biscuits in the morning,” he said. “I need to find some company for him to breeze a 1/2-mile. Once we get to Del Mar, I’ll look to blow him out a little bit the week of the race, probably more for me than for him.”
While Summers will make many of the same preparations as his rival trainers, don’t be surprised if Biscuits is witnessed wearing ear buds while warming up at Del Mar, a trick Summers utilized to great success last year.
“In the Breeders’ Cup, he enjoyed ‘All the Way Up’ by Fat Joe,” he said. “For the most part, it was the early 2000s (hip-hop) music that got to him. If you play it next to him, all of a sudden, he’ll get geeked up, his ears will go forward, and he’ll start strutting to the music. That’s his big jam right now.”
With any luck, Summers and Biscuits will soon jam all the way up to victory.
Stay tuned next week and all year long as racingdudes.com follows Chad Summers and Mind Your Biscuits on their quest for vengeance in the Grade 1, $1,500,000 Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 4, 2017.