Moonshine Mullin earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup Classic when he won the Stephen Foster Handicap. (Photos by Eclipse Sportswire)
The first Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event of the year for the Breeders’ Cup Classic set off some fireworks as Moonshine Mullin pulled the upset in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on June 14.
The bay 6-year-old horse has quite the story behind him, coming from the claiming ranks to win a Grade 1 race against a field that included the reigning 3-year-old champion, Will Take Charge. Included in the rags-to-riches story is the fact that anyone could have claimed [bought the horse in a race] Moonshine Mullin only three starts before the Stephen Foster Handicap for $80,000.
With an automatic ticket to the Breeders’ Cup, it is highly likely we’ll see Moonshine Mullin at Santa Anita Park in November. So let’s learn a bit more about the latest rags-to-riches story in racing.
Moonshine Mullin got his first taste of stakes competition in his third start as a 2-year-old in the Display Stakes. While the colt was nowhere near winner Tiz Blessed at the wire, he did finish second by 2 ¾ lengths over the third-place finisher.
From there, Moonshine Mullin spent a few months out of the stakes ranks before winning the Victoria Park Stakes in June 2011 and finishing second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. After finishing sixth in that year’s Travers, Moonshine Mullin bounced back and forth between stakes races and optional claiming races until late 2012, when he dropped down from stakes competition and raced in allowance, optional claiming or claiming races for 17 months.
Moonshine Mullin was claimed for $25,000 in August 2013 by Maggie Moss but he didn’t stay with her for long. Two races later, trainer Randy Morse claimed the then 5-year-old for owner Randy Patterson.
While Moonshine Mullin took a few races to get comfortable with Morse’s program, he kicked off an improbable, 5-race winning streak in February 2014. Starting with an optional claiming race, in which he was entered for a claiming price of $40,000, Moonshine Mullin won by 3 ¼ lengths. In the first two wins, anyone could have claimed the horse, but that opportunity was up in April when Moonshine Mullin won an optional claiming race by 5 ¾ lengths with no price attached.
In his next start after that win, Moonshine Mullin returned to graded stakes competition for the first time since the 2012 Texas Mile Stakes. Showing how much he had improved since his 4-year-old year, Moonshine Mullin beat a solid field in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks day.
Six weeks after the Alysheba, Moonshine Mullin went up against elite older horses in the Stephen Foster when he took on a field that included multiple graded stakes winners Will Take Charge, Departing, and Revolutionary. Going off as the fourth-longest shot on the board, Moonshine Mullin was never worse than second during the race, winning by 1 ¾ lengths.
In addition to being Moonshine Mullin’s first Grade 1 victory, it was also the first Grade 1 victory for trainer Randy Morse and owner Randy Patterson.
"If he never wins another race, it's been a great ride,” Morse said after the Stephen Foster. “But as good as he's doing, who knows [where he’ll race next]? You never know; that's one thing about this sport, they come from everywhere. I'm very happy with him though."
JOCKEY CALVIN BOREL HUGS MOONSHINE MULLIN AFTER THE STEPHEN FOSTER
Moonshine Mullin’s Equibase Speed Figure for the Stephen Foster was the second time he broke into the 110s, scoring a 114 for the race. However, it isn’t his best figure of his career, or even the year, as he earned a 117 in his April optional claiming victory.
One thing to watch when it comes to Moonshine Mullin is the other speed in the race. While he has raced in midpack before, none of those races ended with a victory. In fact, he’s never been worse than third when he has gone on to win a race with most of those victories coming with him racing in second or on the lead. It is safe to say that if Moonshine Mullin isn’t close to the pace during the race, he probably won’t be the first to the finish line.
By 2000 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Albert the Great, Moonshine Mullin is the only stakes winner for his unraced dam Mullen Road.
Mullen Road is also the dam of Minimast, who set the 1 ½-mile track record at Indiana Grand Race Course in 2011. Moonshine Mullin and Minimast are her only two foals to hit the track as of this point, and because her last foal was born in 2010 it could be that they will be the only two foals from Mullen Road to ever race.
From a pedigree standpoint, Mullen Road’s claim to fame is as a half-sister to the Argentina-bred Group 1 winner Successful Affair. Her dam, Stone Flower, was a winner in England and is a full sister to Group 3 winner Stonehatch and half-sister to Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap winner Danger’s Hour.
While Moonshine Mullin has made a dramatic improvement this year, he still has a lot to do to be considered a top contender in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But with nearly five months left until the Classic, the horse can definitely be one of the main contenders come November if he follows the road he’s currently on headed into the second half of the racing season.