Rick Schosberg has trained Giant Moon since his first start as a two-year-old, in September of 2007. Giant Moon won that race, and his next three, all New York-bred stakes races. Schosberg has seen him through wins and losses, through injuries and setbacks. He knows his horse.
But yesterday at Saratoga, Giant Moon showed his trainer something he’d never seen before.
“That was very, very different from what we had set up,” Schosberg said, with a mixture of relief and awe after Giant Moon won the Evan Shipman. “Normally, he’s much closer than that. The pace wasn’t that strong. He was three, four, five wide on both turns. He got it done.”
Giant Moon’s prior seven wins had all come when the horse was on the lead or in second; yesterday, he was well back, at times nearly last, until the field turned for home.
Schosberg acknowledged that he had rated Giant Moon in his last work at Belmont. “He got covered in dirt; he was working with a couple of horses that got seven lengths ahead of him, so maybe that helped him.
“I’m glad that he didn’t get beat because of the trip, because that’s a tough trip. I’m not blaming [jockey] Edgar [Prado]; he got the job done. We got parked, and when you have two or three horses inside you, you’re three or four wide, and that’s just the way it is.”
After the race, Prado commented, “It didn’t work like we planned it, but it was good.” He was surprised, he indicated, that Jean-Luc Samyn and late-running Naughty New Yorker made an early move on the backstretch.
Schosberg couldn’t praise his colt enough for the effort that he’d put in. “He was very, very game. He showed his class, he showed he can take some dirt, he showed a different dimension. The mile and an eighth certainly wasn’t a problem, because he ran a lot more than that.
“Every time this horse goes out there and puts in an effort, it’s all because of him. Most of the time, if he’s been beaten, it’s been my fault. Not beaten like he was last time, running second, but if he’s been beaten a long ways, it’s because I made a mistake. I ran him on soft turf, hoping his pedigree would come out, and I almost ruined him. The second time was when we ran him in the Westchester [in which Giant Moon finished last after a layoff of nearly a year]. If he’s right, and I try to stay out of his way managing him, he’s going to put in an effort like that.”
Giant Moon is owned and bred by Albert Fried, Jr., one of Schosberg’s major owners. “I’m sure that Mr. Fried is really thrilled to have his picture taken here at Saratoga,” Schosberg said. Three races later, Fried, Jr., Schosberg, and Prado were a fast-closing third in an off-the-turf race with Hennessy Light.
Giant Moon has in his career been laid up for more nine months or more; this year, he’s put together three solid efforts in four starts, and Schosberg said that he’s got a “really confident” horse now. He’ll keep that in mind as he chooses the horse’s next start, debating about whether to look for an open stakes race for him, possibly at Saratoga, or to find an easier spot with an eye towards the Empire Classic on October 23rd at Belmont.
With less than half a length separating the top three finishers in the race, Schosberg’s relief in the winner’s circle was palpable. “Honestly, with three jumps to go I’d thought we’d be third, beaten two noses. That would have been really, really, upsetting because he was more than two noses wide around both turns.
“That was awesome determination down the stretch, both horse and rider.”
You can watch the race at Thoroughbred Times, and please see the Brooklyn Backstretch Facebook page for a photo album of the race. You don’t need to be a Facebook member to see it, but if you are, please “like” the Brooklyn Backstretch while you’re there!