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Preakness Stakes News | Mugatu Owner Hoping For Big Things From Small Purchase
Mugatu (Jessica Morgan/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Preakness Stakes News | Mugatu Owner Hoping For Big Things From Small Purchase

Christopher Britton, who has dabbled in Thoroughbred ownership for the past 14 years, wasn’t necessarily looking to buy a Preakness Stakes (G1) prospect when he asked bloodstock agent Dan Preiss to purchase a horse for his Average Joe Racing Stables Ltd.

“We didn’t have that big of a budget,” Britton said. “We told our bloodstock agent, ‘Find us as nice a one as you can get for $15,000 at the OBS sale.”’

A 2-year-old son of Blofeld joined Average Joe Racing Stables Ltd. and Dan Wells after selling at the ‘bargain’ price of $14,000.  When it came to naming the colt, there were two camps of thought.

“We got with each other, the owners, and bounced some names around. It came down to Mugatu, which some people liked because they liked that Zoolander movie,” Britton recalled, “and there were a couple of us who like Mr. Blojangles, because he was by Blofeld. Mugatu ended up winning the shake, you could say.”

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Mugatu, named after Zoolander villain Jacobim Mugatu, would go on to graduate impressively in his fifth career start in a mile-and-70-yard maiden special weight race on Tapeta at Gulfstream Park by 3 ¼ lengths Nov. 18.

Mugatu went winless in five subsequent starts at Gulfstream and Turfway before closing from last in a 10-horse field to finish fifth in the April 6 Blue Grass (G1) over Keeneland’s main track behind Sierra Leone, Just a Touch, Epic Ride and Dornoch, all of whom went on to run in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1).

Seize the Grey, who finished seventh in the Blue Grass, went on to win the Pat Day Mile (G2) on the Derby undercard.

Due to late defections, Mugatu was on the bubble to make the Kentucky Derby field.

“At first, we didn’t want to get our hopes up because we were third alternate, Britton said. “Then Seize the Grey went ahead and dropped out and went to the Pat Day Mile, which was good for them because they won it. Then Encino scratches, and we were sitting here on Tuesday thinking it could be a reality. It didn’t happen.”

Britton has worked 17 years at Union Home Mortgage in greater Cleveland, Ohio, where Bill Cosgrove, who operates Lea Farms LLC, serves as Chief Executive Officer. Lea Farms LLC’s Power Squeeze, who captured the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), finished sixth in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (G1).

“I sort of got him into the racing game about four years ago. There were a few horses we did together, but he’s on a different playing field than we are, so he’s sort of done his own thing and has had pretty good success,” Britton said. “He had one in the Oaks, and if we could have drawn into the Derby, that would have been real neat.” 

Britton and Mugatu’s trainer Jeff Engler have been longtime friends since playing ball together in their hometown, Westchester, Ohio.

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Horsemen will be offered $7.5 million in bonus opportunities as well as two qualifiers for races at Newmarket and Deauville come Preakness Day May 18 at legendary Pimlico Race Course.

In addition to their respective purses, a $5 million bonus awaits the owner or owners of the horse who wins the $2 million Preakness (G1), the $1 million California Crown (G1) Sept. 28 at Santa Anita, and the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park in 2025.

Meanwhile, a $2.5 million bonus awaits the owner or owners of the horse who wins Pimlico’s $500,000 Dinner Party (G3), the $750,000 California Crown John Henry Turf (G2), and $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1).

In addition, the winner of the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint will receive an automatic entry and travel incentive to run in the July Cup Stakes (G1) at Newmarket on July 13, while the winner of the Gallorette Stakes (G3) for fillies and mares on the turf will receive an automatic entry and travel incentive to run in the Sumbe Prix Jean Romanet (G1) at Deauville Aug. 18.

The Maryland Jockey Club will also offer bonus money totaling $100,000 bonus to trainers who run a minimum of five horses in the stakes races during Preakness weekend, and another $50,000 bonus for trainers with the most points in non-stakes during the weekend.