By Bill Heller
Fifteen years after Sackatoga Stable’s brilliant New York-bred gelding Funny Cide made history by winning the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, another New York-bred, Audible, is a top contender for the Triple Crown. Now owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, SF Racing and Starlight Racing, Audible looms as a top contender for the Florida Derby on March 31st, which would be his final prep for the Kentucky Derby for trainer Todd Pletcher.
If you say his connections are always dreaming, that’s a good thing with this colt. Pletcher won last year’s Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby with Always Dreaming.
Audible’s running style is similar to that of Always Dreaming. “I think Audible may be a little less ambitious at this time, but he has the same tactical speed,” Pletcher said March 10th. “He’s a pretty straight-forward horse, easy to train.”
Bred by Oak Bluff Stables, Audible is a son of Into Mischief out of Blue Devil Gal by Gilded Time. He has added new owners as he followed his deceptively impressive third-place finish in his debut with three victories: a New York-bred maiden special weight by a length and three-quarters, an open allowance race by 9 ¾ lengths and, in a defining moment, a breathtaking 5 ½-length victory in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes on Februry 3rd.
Asked about the fact that he’s a New York-bred, Pletcher said, “No effect whatsoever. He’s by a Kentucky-based stallion. It was an added bonus at the start. It’s just where he was born.”
Audible was a $170,000 purchase by J.J. Crupi at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale of Preferred New York-bred yearlings, then was pinhooked. He sold for $500,000 at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Florida Select Two-Year-Old Sale to WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International and SF Racing.
WinStar’s interest in Audible wasn’t surprising, as they bred Funny Cide. At the time, Elliott Walden, the president, CEO and racing manager at WinStar, said Audible “looked like a two-turn horse.”
He sure did when he won the Holy Bull in a stunning performance. A month after his Holy Bull Stakes triumph, Starlight Racing purchased an interest in Audible from SF Racing. “There was nothing to dislike,” Starlight Racing’s Jack Wolf said on March 12th. “He’s fast and he’s in good hands.”
Starlight Racing also purchased an interest in Justify, who subsequently was made the betting favorite in the Kentucky Derby Future Pool after his sensational allowance victory at Santa Anita on March 11th made him two-for-two in his brief career. That means Starlight Racing has two of the liveliest Kentucky Derby contenders less than eight weeks out. “It’s unbelievable,” Wolf said.
Compared to Justify, Audible is a seasoned veteran with four starts. Audible’s first one was, to say the least, interesting.
In his debut at Belmont Park last September 27th, you needed a telescope to find Audible early in a 6 ½-furlong New York-bred maiden special weight. He was at least 15 lengths removed from the bulk of the field on the backstretch before he kicked in. He closed 14 ½ lengths in the final 2 ½ furlongs to finish third by 4 ½ lengths. He’d run those 2 ½ furlongs in an impressive :28 3/5. “If he didn’t have any talent, he’d have been beaten by 30 lengths,” Pletcher said. “That was a lot better than it was on paper.”
Audible won a New York-bred maiden special weight on November 15th at Aqueduct, then captured an open allowance there on December 6th. Pletcher gave Audible a good freshening before testing him in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.
Audible was second early, then a close third. He took a narrow lead on the far turn before Free Drop Billy roared up to engage him at the top of the stretch. It looked like Free Drop Billy was going to blow past him. Pletcher said, “My biggest concern was that it seemed like he’d gotten a trip where he was always under pressure, under the gun the whole way. He never really got a breather. He never got into a cozy spot.”
Then he had to deal with Free Drop Billy in his face. Audible responded by shifting into another gear under Javier Castellano to win by 5 ½ lengths. “When he did that and then drew away, I was impressed,” Pletcher said.
Audible’s two works since the Holy Bull Stakes were solid breezes with strong gallop-outs. “That’s what I was looking for,” Pletcher said.
Now he’s looking for a victory in the Florida Derby. Another win will earn Audible a trip to the Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May.