Tapit colt Proxy, under Joel Rosario, wins the G1 Clark at Churchill Downs
Godolphin LLC’s Proxy, winner of Churchill Downs’ Clark (G1) in his most recent start Nov. 25, had his final tune up for next Saturday’s $3-million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park, breezing five furlongs Saturday morning at Fair Grounds.
If the five-furlong move in 1:01.80 wasn’t quite as eye-catching as his previous two workouts, that was by design.
Working by himself at the New Orleans track, Proxy was clocked tooling a half-mile in :49.40 to the wire under regular exercise rider Arturo Aparicio. The 5-year-old campaigner continued on to the seven-eighths pole, but since that gallop out was so strong, it was classified as a five-furlong work, said trainer Mike Stidham.
“The two important works were the last two,” Stidham said by phone from New Orleans. “This was important, but we weren’t looking for anything special. We were just looking for maintenance here. He handled it well. He always is a big gallop-out horse, and the best part of the work was the finish and the gallop out. That’s what we were looking for, and we got it. He cooled out well, and all is a go as of right now.”
Jockey Joel Rosario will be back aboard for the third straight race. Proxy will ship Sunday evening to Gulfstream Park, arriving Monday.
The Clark was Proxy’s first stakes victory of any kind, though he’d never been worse than fourth in eight prior stakes attempts. It also came in his first Grade 1 appearance.
“Certainly, I feel like the Pegasus is going to come up tougher overall, a tougher race, so we have to pick our game up from the Clark,” Stidham said. “I don’t think we can run the same race we ran in the Clark and expect to win. I think we need to do a little bit better, and I’m hoping my horse will move forward from the Clark. That’s what we need to see.
“He’s had plenty of time from the Clark. He’s done well here at the Fair Grounds since that race. He’ll get to Gulfstream Monday, and he’ll have time to settle in. Barring any issues between now and then, we’re ready to go.”
Proxy brings a versatile running style into the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus. He’s won on the lead; pushed the tepid pace in the Clark before taking command late over the front-running favorite West Will Power; and he’s prevailed as a closer.
“Last time there wasn’t a lot of speed in the Clark,” Stidham said. “Rosario had ridden West Will Power before and obviously knew him well, so we felt like we needed to stay in striking distance of that horse. Now, in a race like this at Gulfstream, more of a speed-favoring type surface, I’d imagine there’s going to be a considerable amount more speed, which should put us in a spot somewhere mid-pack, is my guess. With a rider like Rosario, I’m certainly not going to have much to say to him other than good luck and get the best trip you can.
“He’s shown he can do either (style). If they’re really going fast, he can sit back and finish into fast fractions. If the pace isn’t too hot, he can lay in a close stalking position. It’s going to depend on how the race sets up and where Joel thinks is the best spot for him to be.”
With Proxy being a son of Godolphin’s Include mare Panty Raid, a Grade 1 winner on turf and synthetic and Grade 2 winner on dirt, Stidham acknowledged toying with the idea of switching to the turf a while back. After all, Panty Raid’s older daughter Micheline was strictly turf, winning four stakes and narrowly losing a Grade 1.
“When things weren’t panning out like we had hoped with Proxy, where he was not quite getting it done, the subject came up,” Stidham said. “(Godolphin’s) Dan Pride and Michael Banahan both said, ‘Hey, we need to exhaust all dirt options before we go to the grass, because obviously to make a stallion these days, you’ve got to win Grade 1s on the dirt.’ That was exactly what we did. Turf obviously came up, but it wasn’t an option yet – and I’m glad we didn’t.”