Spendthrift Farm’s Following Sea, a Kentucky homebred, will look to bolden his potential stallion credentials in the Dec. 4 Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Following Sea defeated multiple graded stakes-winner Firenze Fire in the Grade 2 Vosburgh on Oct. 9 at Belmont Park en route to a troubled third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 6 at Del Mar.
Following Sea had to steady in upper stretch of the Breeders’ Cup when a seam along the rail was closed off by pacesetting favorite Jackie’s Warrior, forcing Hall of Famer John Velazquez to angle the horse several paths wide. He made up enough ground to round out the trifecta at 20-1 odds, finishing 1 ½ lengths to Aloha West and Dr. Schivel.
“Take nothing away from the first and second horses because they obviously finished beautifully,” said Spendthrift Farm general manager Ned Toffey. “But if that hole stays open, he would have had to have his running shoes on. It would have been nice to see what would have happened. He looked poised to roll through there. He’s a horse who has shown us a lot of talent and shown he can run with the very best in the country. We always need a little luck in this game and with that, he’s more than capable of coming away with a win.”
After an open-length maiden score at Oaklawn Park for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Following Sea was transferred to Pletcher and made his debut for the stable a winning one, defeating winners going 6 ½ furlongs on June 3 over the Belmont main track.
Following Sea made his graded stakes debut in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational six weeks later at Monmouth Park, where he was elevated to second via disqualification after finishing a distant third. He then rounded out the trifecta in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial in August at Saratoga behind talented sophomores Jackie’s Warrior and Life Is Good.
As one of the more prominent racing and breeding operations in North America, Spendthrift Farm’s racing program is centered around making colts under their tutelage into stallion prospects.
Toffey said the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park could be one of the major goals for Following Sea’s 4-year-old season.
“Our goal is always hoping that any colt in our program can earn his way into our stallion barn. I think that’s what we’re looking to do with Following Sea, so his campaign will be shaped around that.” Toffey said. “Certainly, the subject of ‘stallion-making races’ is an interesting one. If you ask stud farms and breeders, the Met Mile would be very high on that list. That would be one goal we would have in mind. Obviously, there’s the Breeders’ Cup as well. But as always, we’re going to listen to Todd, and Todd will listen to the horse.
“This game is a little tricky to look too far ahead in, but we just have to see how things unfold,” Toffey continued. “He’s a fun horse to have in the barn. He’s given Todd every indication that he’s ready to run a good race.”
A win would also provide Following Sea’s second-crop sire Runhappy with his first Grade 1 victory as a sire. The medication-free stallion, who stands at Claiborne Farm, was voted 2015 Champion Sprinter and has seen his offspring garner much success in their second year of racing age.
“Following Sea has gone a long way to keep Runhappy in the forefront. He’s shown that he’s a horse that doesn’t take a backseat to too many,” Toffey said.
Following Sea is out of the Speightstown mare Quick Flip, a stakes-winner during her juvenile season who also produced Gimmick, an Into Mischief filly, who broke her maiden this summer at Saratoga. Quick Flip is scheduled to be bred back to Into Mischief, who has been the leading sire for three years running.
Into Mischief stands at Spendthrift Farm for a $250,000 stud fee and has been the pride and joy of the Lexington, Kentucky farm.
“He’s a remarkable horse, that’s for sure,” Toffey said of Into Mischief. “We’ve been very fortunate to have him in our barn. What I see the most is that they’re really good-minded horses. They tend to enjoy their job. They like going to the track and train and are very workmanlike and at the same time very talented.”