Stakes Winner Send It In a Homebred Slam Dunk for Pompa

Send It In won his first stakes on New Year's Eve in the Alex M. Robb at Aqueduct. (Chelsea Durand/NYRA)

Paul Pompa Jr.’s Send It In picked up his first stakes win on New Year’s Eve when he charged clear to a dominant victory in the Alex M. Robb Stakes at Aqueduct.

The victory was especially sweet because Send It In is a homebred son of Big Brown, the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner that Pompa purchased out of the 2007 Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale, and because the gelding has a fun connection to family and friends.

College hoops fans might guess that Send It In was named after longtime color commentator Bill Raftery’s unforgettable “Send It In!” call, made famous by this mammoth, backboard-breaking dunk by Pitt’s Jerome Lane in a 1988 Big East game against Providence:

But the name Send It In was actually inspired by some of Pompa’s closest friends, professional handicappers who are not afraid to “send it in” at the betting windows, including his cousin-in-law, Jerry McClenin, who has served as Pompa’s bloodstock agent in New York and Florida.

“I have some friends of mine and they’re great guys,” Pompa said. “My gambling is when I buy a horse or claim a horse or breed a horse. That’s the real gambling. But my friends, they ‘send it in,’ if you know what I mean.”

Pompa said McClenin goes to the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas every year and competes in smaller tournaments at Aqueduct and in online tourneys.

“He’s almost 60, and he’s been handicapping since he was a teenager,” Pompa said.

The “send it in” phrase even served as the inspiration for a song, written by Pompa’s sons, Paul III and Michael.

“My sons, they write music, so they wrote a song called ‘Send It In’ and they incorporated one of my trainers and two of my friends in it,” Pompa said. “It was very catchy, so when I had the opportunity, I named a colt Send It In.

“When you have horses, you try to make it a family thing. When you come up with a good one everyone gets excited.”

While Big Brown had the backboard-breaking impact of a Jerome Lane dunk when he started his career with five straight wins – including a sweep of the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2008 – New York-bred Send It In has been a more steady type. He progressed through state-bred allowance races to open allowance races to his first stakes win.

Send It In has won seven of 14 lifetime starts, but he’s really come into his own with six wins and two seconds in his last eight races. He even earned some lofty praise on Monday from eight-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher.

“Todd Pletcher told me that he’s probably the most improved horse, and I couldn’t even believe this, in the history of Todd Pletcher’s career. That’s saying a lot,” Pompa said of a horse who started his career in a pair of $40,000 maiden claiming races. “He’s a great homebred. It’s very rewarding.”

Pompa was not an active breeder until he raced several standouts who turned into stallions, including Grade 2 winner D’ Funnybone, Watchmon, Fearless Vision and, of course, Big Brown. He also expects his current runner Connect, who won the Curlin Stakes (a race named after his sire), $1 million Pennsylvania Derby and Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap last year as a 3-year-old, to become a nice stallion.

Pompa found Big Brown as a 2-year-old and, after his stunning 11 ¼-length debut win at Saratoga Race Course, sold an interest to IEAH Stables. Big Brown was the 2008 champion 3-year-old male; he started his stallion career at Three Chimneys in Kentucky and now stands in New York. Send It In is from Big Brown’s third crop of runners.

“He’s sweetheart; he’s a classy dude,” Pompa said about Send It In. “He’s just a gentleman and a sweet horse to be around. Kind … but a real Thoroughbred; he tries hard every race and takes it seriously. He’s like a professional athlete, a real good one.”

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