It was a rollercoaster summer for trainer Chad Summers.
After his superstar sprinter Mind Your Biscuits won the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint Championship on July 8, Summers was on top of the world. Biscuits looked unstoppable in the victory, which gave him an all-fees-waived berth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint later that fall, and Summers was preparing to move his growing barn to the historic Saratoga Race Course for the annual meet that had been a staple of his childhood.
“As a kid, I’d go with my dad and brother, and we’d come for a week during the summer,” he said shortly after the Saratoga meet commenced. “That was our one nice family vacation. We’d get a log cabin and come out for the races.”
His first runner at the meet, Paquita Coqueta, led until the final furlong in the sloppy $200,000 Caress before falling to fifth late. His next two, Big Mara and Padilla, finished first and third, respectively, in claiming races, and Mind Your Biscuits looked to still be in top form as he resumed training.
That’s when reality brought Summers crashing back to earth.
Big Mara, his only winner, was claimed after that race. Aside from Padilla, Somekindasexy gave Summers his only other in-the-money finish, a third-place effort in the $200,000 Fleet Indian.
By the end of the meet, his runners had a combined average finish of 6.21 in 14 total starts at the Spa, with 7% winning and 21% finishing in the top three. Don’t blame Summers if he doesn’t seem anxious to return to Saratoga anytime soon.
“Saratoga’s a really tough place to do well,” Summers said. “Nobody ever said this game was easy. It’s a very humbling sport.”
Even the best of his barn struggled. Mind Your Biscuits never seemed comfortable in his environment and Summers nearly scratched him from the Grade 1 Forego before deciding at the last minute to run him. The decision to run didn’t pay off as Biscuits never threatened and finished a disappointing sixth.
“It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, but he wasn’t training well over there,” Summers said after the Forego. “We moved his stall and thought it helped him, but it was too little, too late.”
One bright spot for Summers came when his 2-year-old colt Egyptian Prince debuted in the mud on Saratoga’s closing day, September 4. Though he missed the board, finishing fourth, Summers was encouraged by what he saw from the Zayat Stable-owned son of Pioneerof the Nile.
“The sloppy track really bothered him,” Summers said. “He was fighting the mud the whole time. It was hitting him pretty good and he got a good education out of it.
“We don’t really kvetch too much when one gets beat first time out, so long as they do it the right way. While you want to win every time, I didn’t think it was a disappointing first-out effort. He finished up well and galloped out really strong.”
If history is any indication, Egyptian Prince losing on debut is a sign of good things to come: the Zayats’ American Pharoah, Pioneerof the Nile, Bodemeister, Thorn Song, and Prayer for Relief all lost their first starts before having very successful careers.
“Justin Zayat joked with me after (the debut) about how many of their good horses got beat first time out,” said Summers. “He said he would’ve been more worried if we’d won.”
The best-case scenario for the highly-regarded Egyptian Prince might have been to run in the Grade 1 Champagne and/or the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile had he won on debut, but Summers is satisfied sticking to the long-term plan he mapped out with the Zayats.
“If he’s able to break his maiden next time, you have a lot of different options on where to go,” Summers said. “For now, you just want him to break his maiden and to keep getting better. With that in mind, we’re looking at training for the bigger 3-year-old races on the east coast (next year) instead of being ultra-aggressive and going for the Breeders’ Cup this fall.”
His barn has many juveniles that haven’t even begun breezing. Now that Summers has relocated back to Belmont Park for the remainder of the year, they may start working soon, but Summers insists that he isn’t in a hurry to rush them to the track.
“We’re excited about those horses, but it’s a process,” he said. “The one thing that we’re trying to do with these young horses is build a foundation into them. We’re 0-for-7 with our 2-year-olds so far this year, but I like where we’re at with them. They’ve all come out of their races well and I expect them to move forward.”
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.