A colt that Robert Baron had purchased for $37,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale was nearing his debut late last summer and he needed a name. It just so happened that Baron and his wife, Debbie, celebrate their wedding anniversary on Aug. 18.
They are at a juncture when they can look back on a life well lived — and that led to the youngster’s name.
“We fulfilled our promises to each other,” Baron said. “We fulfilled our promises to our kids. We raised them, we educated them, we did all the things we were supposed to do.”
The discussion ended there. They had landed on the perfect name: Promises Fulfilled.
When Baron told long-time trainer Dale Romans of the name, he reminded Romans that he had long promised him a horse long on talent. That, too, was fulfilled.
Promises Fulfilled, a son of Romans-trained 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford, earned automatic, expenses-paid entry in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita when he coasted home a 4 ½-length winner in the Grade 2, $300,000 John A. Nerud Stakes on July 6 as part of the Stars & Stripes Racing Festival at Belmont Park.
Romans suggested the colt might also be a force in the Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile if he should choose that direction.
“I think he’s at his best going a mile because he has speed and stamina both. We’ll just have to wait and see,” the trainer said.
Romans compared the pre-Breeders’ Cup maneuvering with an elaborate chess game.
“That’s what makes it all so fun. There’s a chess game going on. We’re all moving our pieces,” he said. “I’ve got a serious player. I think I’ve got a Queen.”
Promises Fulfilled has won seven of 15 starts lifetime with three third-place finishes for earnings of $1,437,280. All of which raises one major question. How did he ever sell for $37,000, a bargain-basement price for a yearling sold at Keeneland?
For one thing, Shackleford was still in the early stages of his career as a stallion and therefore unproven. For another, the yearling that became Promises Fulfilled was a late May foal and perhaps for that reason was not all that much to look at.
“He was kind of a plain-brown wrapper,” Romans said.
“He just ran a hole in the wind,” Romans recalled.
Promises Fulfilled led early in the Kentucky Derby but weakened to be 15th at the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles. It was clear at the point that he could be effective at anywhere from six furlongs to a mile, and he has been.
He showed he belonged among the world’s elite speedsters by finishing fourth in the Twinspires.com Breeders’ Cup Sprint last year at Churchill Downs and fourth in the Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan Racecourse this past March.
He handled the Nerud with such ease that he is being compared with the hard-hitting Shackleford.
“He’s not as big as Shackleford. He has a lot better temperament,” Romans said. “Shack could be a handful. He wasn’t mean. He was just feeling good all the time. This horse is pretty laid back. As fast as he is, he’s laid back.”
Although Promises Fulfilled and regular rider Luis Saez led at every call of the Nerud, Romans insisted he is not a horse that must be on the lead to succeed. He will always be forwardly placed.
“He’s always going to be going fast, so I don’t like the chances of a horse that is in front of him. They’re going to be going real fast,” the trainer said. “But if they want to do that, we’ll let them do it.”
Baron, from Albany, N.Y., is enjoying the ride as much as Saez.
“It’s been a trip I never expected, to buy a yearling at that price and have him have the success he did,” Baron said. “My family has traveled to the Derby, my family has traveled to the Breeders’ Cup, we’ve been at stakes races we’ve never been at before. The family is excited about it. I can’t explain how it’s united our family.”
The Baron’s have four children and 10 grandchildren.
Romans could not be happier with the way Promises Fulfilled has progressed.
“He’s a sound, happy horse,” he said. “I always felt physically he was a bit behind his class, maybe because of his late foaling date. Now, I think he has grown up and caught up to them.
“I think he is doing as good as he could possibly do right now.”