There is an old saying that you get what you pay for. So when Larry Best spent $1.2 million for a 2-year-old Into Mischief colt he eventually named Instagrand, he was praying this axiom would ring true.
After two double-digit length wins, the second of which came in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 11 at Del Mar, racing fans were looking at potentially the sport’s next superstar. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, this colt had a “sky is the limit” future.
Well, he still does. But as a 3-year-old.
Larry Best decided to skip races like the Del Mar Futurity, the American Pharoah Stakes, and the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as he took Instagrand out of training. The main reason is, Best’s long-term goal is to have a horse who will race at ages 3 and 4.
In an era when owners of young horses have their eyes on one goal – to win the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve – Best is not among them. He has nothing against the Derby. To each his own. But he is thinking long term, and only time will tell us if his plan will succeed.
I guess if you have the money to buy a Lamborghini and decide to park it in your garage and not drive it, that’s your prerogative.
But horses are not cars. I like to say “horses are only human,” meaning they are made of flesh and blood just like us.
Some newcomers may be wondering, why take a perfectly sound horse that was doing great out of training? Best may be doing horse racing’s version of a pitch count with young baseball pitchers. That is, limiting the number of pitches while an athlete’s young arm is still developing.
On the other hand, we know the future guarantees us nothing. Best told the media he has always acted on his gut instinct. And that the break in training is what he felt was in the best long term interests of Instagrand.
There really is no right or wrong on this issue, just differing philosophies. At minimum, this will be an interesting experiment.
Say in a best-case scenario Instagrand is pointed to a summer and fall campaign next year. Let’s say he wins the Haskell Invitational, Travers Stakes, and Breeders’ Cup Classic. It would be as if Instagrand won the final table at the World Series of Poker.
And the gravy for the rest of us would be if Best kept his promise and raced Instagrand as a 4- year-old. What an equine treat that would be.
The large unknown is that not all precocious 2-year-olds turn into outstanding 3-year-olds. It’s as unpredictable as your NCAA basketball tournament bracket.
Instagrand arguably is the leader of this current crop. A Breeders’ Cup Juvenile win would likely earn him an Eclipse Award championship. That’s something you cannot take away from him, no matter what happens next year.
For now, Instagrand will be given every chance to grow up physically before embarking on a 2019 campaign. Whether that includes a Kentucky Derby chase remains to be seen.
I would like to believe Instagrand is an equine version of a youthful LeBron James with four legs that will go on to superstardom. Let’s hope so. Good things are worth waiting for – so to Instagrand, good luck with your vacation and we’ll see you next season.
Richard Eng is the author of “Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies”, an introductory book for newcomers to the sport of horse racing. For two decades, he was the turf editor and handicapper for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He still handicaps the Southern California tracks and his picks are for sale at www.racedaylasvegas.com. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @richeng4propick and on Facebook.com.