On Nov. 4, 2000, a 3-year-old who was only five months removed from his first career victory won the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. A decade later, a son of Tiznow will attempt to pull off a similar feat.
Morning Line, who didn’t win his first race until June 27 at Monmouth Park, won his stakes debut Saturday at Parx Racing, taking the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby by a neck over First Dude. Now, his connections will likely point him to the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6.
“I always remember his father was a late developer,” said Morning Line’s trainer, Nick Zito, whose own late-developing 3-year-old Albert the Great finished fourth to Tiznow in the 2000 Classic and third to him in the 2001 Classic at Belmont. “He could have that ability, he could do similar to what his dad, so yes you have to look at the Classic.”
Tiznow didn’t make his first start until April of his 3-year-old year and didn’t win until this third start on May 31. Morning Line finished fourth in his debut at 2 – on Nov. 6, 2009, at Aqueduct – before Zito had to stop on him due to shins. Morning Line won his third start by eight lengths at Monmouth Park.
In winning the Pennsylvania Derby, Morning Line exhibited some of the same determination his father did winning the 2000 Classic by a neck over Giant’s Causeway and the 2001 Classic by a nose over Sakhee.
After setting the early pace, Morning Line was challenged and passed by Jim Dandy winner A Little Warm coming into the stretch of the Pennsylvania Derby. A Little Warm maintained about a neck advantage until inside the sixteenth pole before Morning Line, under John Velazquez, fought back and stuck his neck in front at the wire. First Dude caught A Little Warm by a nose for second.
Morning Line, a $700,000 yearling purchase by Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.85 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 103.
Zito said Morning Line came out of the race in good order and returned to Saratoga that night. With Velazquez committed to ride Quality Road in the Classic, Zito will have to find a new rider for Morning Line.
First Dude, meanwhile, has finished second in the Preakness and Pennsylvania Derby and third in the Belmont Stakes, Haskell, and Travers. Trainer Dale Romans said Monday that First Dude came out of the Pennsylvania Derby “like he hadn’t even run” and mentioned the Classic as the colt’s next spot.
“That’s the way we’re going to think right now,” Romans said Monday from Churchill Downs. “He always steps up in these big races and does well. He loves this racetrack. We’ll bring him over there trying to win it, but if he were to run second or third, that’s a big payday.”
Tony Dutrow said A Little Warm came out of his third-place finish in the Pennsylvania Derby well. Dutrow hadn’t spoken to owner Edward P. Evans about the colt’s immediate future, and since Evans owns Quality Road, a start in the Classic for A Little Warm would seem unlikely.