Following Khozan’s 12 3/4-length romp in Sunday’s fifth race at Gulfstream Park, Todd Pletcher said that the Florida Derby may be next for the two-for-two colt. Both wins have come at the track.
Owned by Al Shaqab Racing, Khozan turned in another eye-catching performance. Four weeks after his impressive debut win going seven furlongs from post 14, the sophomore Distorted Humor colt found himself both behind and inside horses in his return. Under Javier Castellano, Khozan, who paid$2.10, ran one mile in 1:38.07 on a fast main track. Six ran in the allowance race.
“It was another very impressive performance,” Pletcher said. “It was what we were hoping for, but we were glad to see it all the same. He got a little bit of an education today and did some things he didn’t do in his debut.”
Khozan broke from post 3 and settled in third as Bluegrass Luck ran a quarter-mile in :23.51. Castellano steered the colt to the rail to take on the leader after a half in :46.57, taking over the top spot leaving the backstretch.
A half-brother to multiple Eclipse Award champion Royal Delta and Grade 1 turf winner Crown Queen, Khozan exerted his class from there. In front by 5 1/2 lengths at the head of the stretch, he drew off effortlessly under a hand ride from Castellano. Big Family was second, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Global Positioning.
“Unbelievable. That’s what we live for with the horses,” Castellano said. “I always like to see horses like that. The way he did it today was so easy. My strategy today was not to rush him and let him have a chance to pick it up, because today was a mile race. He reacted so good behind horses. He took dirt in his face and didn’t mind at all. He put himself in a good spot. I saved all the ground and cut the corner. I really liked the way he did it today. He’s a brilliant horse.”
“You don’t want to take the risk of losing a race but at the same time you want to educate him a little bit,” Pletcher said. “We talked about it in the paddock a little bit that because he drew so far outside in his first start he might be in a situation where he gets some dirt in his face, so see how he reacts. Javier said he reacted really well to it, so he let him kind of stay there and take a little bit and then he opted to go inside. It couldn’t have gone much better than that.”
The 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby could be the next spot for Khozan, following a similar blueprint Pletcher used last winter with Constitution, who broke his maiden and won an allowance at Gulfstream before winning Gulfstream’s signature event.
“We’ll discuss it, but I think the logical next race would probably be the Florida Derby,” Pletcher said. “He’s two-for-two over the track, and he’s trained well here. He’s run well over the track, so we’ll talk about it and see.”
Purchased for $1 million as a 2-year-old-in-training last March, Khozan marked the seventh victory in as many starts at the Championship Meet for Al Shaqab, including graded stakes winners Mshawish and Sandiva.
“Special. I rarely get nervous before a race,” Brad Weisbord, Al Shaqab’s U.S. racing advisor, said. “We had Sandiva and Mshawish here a few weeks back in races and I was fine, but this horse could be very, very special. He has the pedigree, the speed, the talent. Hopefully, he stays sound and we go for a good ride with him.”
Edited Gulfstream Park release
Photo by Lauren King