Making the Grade, which will run through the 2019 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners or top performers of the key races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey), and pedigree.
Long Range Toddy
Long Range Toddy sprung an 18.60-1 surprise in the Remington Springboard Mile and earned 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Was the victory a one-time upset or is he capable of duplicating that effort as the competition becomes more difficult? Let’s take a closer look.
Ability: A homebred of Willis Horton Racing, Long Range Toddy has been terrific in three starts since finishing fourth in his career debut in a 5 ½-furlong sprint on Aug. 31 at Remington Park.
Stretching out in distance to one mile at Remington for his next start, Long Shot Toddy pressed the pace and drew away from the competition in the stretch en route to a 5 ¾-length victory on Sept. 28. He improved his Equibase Speed Figure from a 64 in his debut to a 77.
Long Range Toddy continued to show improvement in his next race despite cutting back to seven-eighths of a mile and taking a step up in class for his stakes debut in the Clever Trevor Stakes. He again pressed the pace from second through a strong opening quarter-mile in 22.46 seconds before seizing command and then holding off 4-5 favorite Cajun Firecracker by a length to prevail.
Trainer Steve Asmussen swept the top three spots in that race and Long Range Toddy, at 10.80-1, was the longest odds of his three starters. The 89 Equibase Speed Figure again marked a career best and gave Asmussen the confidence to start him in the Remington Springboard Mile on Dec. 16, which is a Kentucky Derby points race.
Facing by far the best group of 2-year-olds he’d encountered, Long Range Toddy dropped a little bit father off the pace in the Springboard Mile and still had some work to do with a quarter-mile remaining when 1 ¼ lengths behind leader Dunph. Long Range Toddy shifted out into clear running room and accelerated willingly when given his cue by jockey Richard Eramia. He pulled away to a clear lead and then held off a powerful late bid from Bankit to win by a head in 1:39.75 while covering the final eighth of a mile in a respectable 12.88 seconds.
For the third start in a row while facing increasingly better competition, Long Range Toddy increased his Equibase Speed Figure to a career-best 98 while extending his winning streak to three.
The consistent improvement over the last three starts is encouraging, but before considering Long Range Toddy among the top tier or even second tier of 2019 Kentucky Derby contenders he’ll need to do two things: run considerably faster and prove he can win outside of Remington Park. For me, he’s a fringe player worth watching on the Triple Crown trail.
Running style: After dropping more than four lengths off the pace in his debut, Long Range Toddy seems to have found a comfort zone pressing or stalking the pace. He has enough speed to stay within striking distance of the pace, and he showed off push-button acceleration when angled out from behind horses in the stretch of the Remington Springboard Mile.
Connections: Willis Horton Racing owns and bred Long Range Toddy. Willis Horton is best known as the owner or co-owner of 2013 Travers Stakes winner and champion 3-year-old male Will Take Charge as well as 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and champion 2-year-old filly Take Charge Brandi.
Trainer Steve Asmussen ranks second all time among North American trainers by wins with 8,269 victories through Dec. 17. A two-time Eclipse Award winner (2008, 2009) and a 2016 inductee into the Racing Hall of Fame, Asmussen has won the Belmont Stakes once with Creator in 2016 and the Preakness twice with Curlin in 2007 and Rachel Alexandra in 2009. Asmussen has finished second in the Kentucky Derby twice and third once.
Richard Eramia has been aboard Long Range Toddy for his three most recent races. Eramia has won 2,223 races since he took out his jockey’s license in 2005, with 114 stakes wins and four graded stakes wins to his credit. He has never had a mount in the Kentucky Derby. He is a native of Uruguay who rode in Argentina and Brazil before moving to the U.S.
Pedigree: Long Range Toddy is from the second crop of 2012 Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy, who is off to a nice start with 2018 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby winner Noble Indy and graded stakes winner Take Charge Paula from his first crop plus a Derby hopeful in Long Range Toddy from his second crop. Take Charge Indy, by 1992 Belmont Stakes winner and Horse of the Year A.P. Indy, was a racehorse who preferred going long and used his high cruising speed to grind down the opposition.
Long Range Toddy’s dam (mother) is Pleasant Song, by Unbridled’s Song, who won three races at distances from one mile to 1 1/16 miles in 17 career starts. His grandam (maternal grandmother), Pleasant Temper, by Storm Cat, was a graded stakes winner at one mile and 1 1/16 miles on the grass who amassed seven total stakes wins and earned $848,944 during her career. In addition to Pleasant Song, Pleasant Temper produced a pair of stakes-placed runners.
Other notable family members include Grade 1 winner A P Valentine and, digging further into the pedigree, champion Leallah and Grade 1 winners General Challenge, Sir Beaufort, and Notable Career.
I’m taking a wait-and-see approach for Long Range Toddy. On one hand, I like the steady progression he’s shown, he’s in great hands, and he has enough pedigree to make him interesting when considering the classic distances. On the other, he still has significant ground to make up on the elite 2019 Derby hopefuls and we’ve yet to see him race outside of Oklahoma.