Jan. 1, the Stay Thirsty colt got Sacco's new year off to a perfect start with a similarly gritty victory in the $150,000 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack, the first qualifying race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby in 2019.
With Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons, Mind Control bounced back from a seventh in the Nov. 2 Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs last out for Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stables, and picked up 10 points to rank fifth on the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve leaderboard.
“In this race, by the way he's been training, I knew how sharp he is and (that he) was going to come out of there bouncing,” Sacco said. “I didn't want Johnny (Velazquez) to take a hold of him. ... I anticipated him breaking fast today and putting his head in the game, and the rest would be up to Johnny and Mind Control.”
The bay colt showed the way in the mile test with an inside trip throughout, posting early fractions of :24.16 and :48.40 with Souper Jackpot in close pursuit to his outside. As three-quarters went in 1:13.78 and the field turned for home, Mind Control put away Souper Jackpot and kicked on with a professional run, holding safe by 1 ½ lengths over the late bid of Our Braintrust.
“He took the heat from (Souper Jackpot) down the backside. He was at his throatlatch the whole way and then the other horse (Our Braintrust) came to him at the eighth pole and he spurted away. He's still green and learning. We're overwhelmed with this performance today. Of course, when you run like that, it's hard to fault the way he ran today.”
“I wanted to put him in the race and make sure that I was in a good position where if someone was going crazy, I could just sit off the speed,” Velazquez said. “I broke well and got the position I wanted in the first part of the race. I saw the other horse on the outside (Souper Jackpot), he didn't want to go, so I got close to him and by the turn we both came in and kind of sat there. Down the lane, I remember from Saratoga he opens up and he waits, so I waited until they came after him to get after him really hard and he responded really well.”
The final time was 1:39.06 on a good (harrowed) track. Family Biz, Gates of Dawn, Souper Jackpot, and Direct Order completed the order of finish. Mind Control, the 3-2 choice in the field of six newly turned 3-year-olds, returned $5, $3.90, and $2.80.
Mind Control was bred in Kentucky by Red Oak Stable out of the Lightnin N Thunder mare Feel That Fire, and improved his record to three wins and a second from five starts, with earnings of $323,400.
According to Sacco, the Feb. 2 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct could be the next step for Mind Control, while the April 6 Wood Memorial remains a tantalizing target on New York's Kentucky Derby trail.
“With him being a Grade 1 winner, the Wood goes up to a million (via a purse bonus),” Sacco said. “We would take every race, race by race, but it certainly is appetizing and enticing.”