Equibase Analysis: Comebacking Gufo Well-Spotted In Man O’ War

Saturday’s Grade 1, $700,000 Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park drew a field of eight top level marathon turf runners with seven having proven competitive at this level in races around North America. Then there’s Sovereign, making his North American debut and returning to the races after last racing in November. Sovereign has earned $1.14 million in his career, top in this field, the bulk of that when winning the Group 1 Irish Derby in the summer of 2019.

Next in terms of earnings is Channel Cat, who won the Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakes in the summer of 2019 as well and who finished second in the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes in his most recent race. Another horse which earned a big win in 2019 but not since is Ziyad, who was victorious in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Deauville in August of that year. He makes his third start in the U.S. since importing last fall and has two third place efforts since then. Gufo won the Grade 1 Belmont Derby over this course last fall and just missed in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby before taking time off, returning for his 2021 debut in this race.

Moon Over Miami won the Dueling Grounds Derby last summer, a race which doesn’t yet carry a graded designation but with a seven-hundred thousand dollar purse similar to that of the Man o’ War. Field Pass won the Grade 3 Ontario Derby and the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes last year and makes his second start of 2021 following a fourth place effort in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile. Shamrocket has two wins in 13 career races, none in a stakes race although he was third in the Dueling Grounds Derby last summer. So High rounds out the field and is running in a stakes race for the first time while still eligible for allowance races.

Gufo returns to racing following five months off but that is of no concern when coming back in a marathon on turf like the Man o’ War Stakes. Gufo won the second through fifth starts of his career starting in December, 2019, through July of last year when taking the Kent Stakes, then just missed by a head in the $500,000 Saratoga Derby Invitational in August. Next, in his first and only start on the Belmont turf, Gufo won the Belmont Derby in October with a 104 ™ Equibase® Speed Figure which was very strong for a 3-year-old.

In his final race of the year, Gufo was exceptionally game when rallying from last of 11 to be in a three horse photo on the wire, losing by a head and a neck with a 107 figure. The horses which beat him that day, Domestic Spending and Smooth Like Strait, are near the top of the turf division in North America having just finished first (in a dead heat) and third last weekend in the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic Stakes. Now a more physically mature 4-year-old, Gufo should run even better than he did last year and that makes him the one to beat in this year’s Man o’ War Stakes.

Field Pass is also a 4-year-old and has a similar pattern to Gufo which suggests he could run a big race in this situation. Last summer, Field Pass proved his stakes quality when winning the Audubon Stakes and Transylvania Stakes in succession. In October, Field Pass earned a career-best figures of 109 when third in the Twilight Derby, won by Smooth Like Strait (who finished third in the Turf Classic last weekend). After winning the Ontario Derby on all-weather in November with a new career-best 110 figure, Field Pass finished fourth in the Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes (won by Smooth like Strait) before resting to begin his 2021 campaign.

In his comeback race last month, Field Pass was not disgraced when finishing fourth of nine in the Maker’s Mark Mile and appears very well spotted to improve considerably in his second start of the year to be a factor in this race. Although he’s never run this far, as a son of Lemon Drop Kid he should have no problem successfully running the distance because a STATS Race Lens query reveals the sire has produced four top graded stakes winners at similar distances.

Sovereign has been working steadily in Florida and New York for his U. S. debut. He is now in the barn of top trainer Chad Brown, who has a very strong knack with having his horses coming back from layoffs and making their U.S. debuts in top shape. A STATS Race Lens query reveals over the last five years, Brown has won with six of 22 (27%) similar starters in graded stakes. Sovereign earned the biggest win of his career when winning the Irish Derby in 2019 easily by six lengths. Since then, Sovereign has finished second or third in five races. One of those was when second to the incomparable mare Enable in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes last summer at Ascot, an effort which earned a 117 figure good enough to win the Man o’ War if repeated.

Honorable mention has to go to Ziyad, who earned a 111 figure last October in his U.S. debut when third and beaten just two lengths in the Sycamore Stakes. Similarly, Channel Cat earned a 115 figure last month when second in the mile and one-half Elkhorn Stakes. As such I wouldn’t argue with anyone who considered them contenders to win this race.

Also, Moon over Miami earned a decent 109 figure when second in the Pan American Stakes at a mile and one-half at the end of March and may fit as a contender as well. I don’t feel the same way about Shamrocket, who although earning a 109 figure at the end of March did so at a mile and one-eighth and in a non-graded stakes so appears a bit overmatched. So High is definitely overmatched in this field as his best effort earned an 89 figure and he is still eligible for the first allowance condition as well as was running in a claiming level race as recently as December.

Win Contenders:
Field Pass
Sovereign (IRE)

Man o’ War Stakes – Grade 1
Race 10 at Belmont
Saturday, May 8 – Post Time 5:44 PM E.T.
One Mile and Three Eighths on Turf
Four Year Olds and Upward
Purse: $700,000

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