Barry K. Schwartz’ homebred The Lumber Guy scored an impressive 2 3/4-length victory in the one-mile $200,000, Grade 2 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday, but had to deal with a persistent and potentially dangerous stalker throughout in the form of Kaleem Shah’s Brigand, who finished a strong second in his NYRA debut to complete the New York-bred Grade 2 exacta.
The Lumber Guy was wheeling right back in two weeks after setting the pace in the G1 Wood Memorial on April 7 before fading to fifth, but only 6 1/4 lengths behind undefeated top Kentucky Derby contender Gemologist. Cutting back one panel to the one-turn mile for trainer Mike Hushion in the Jerome, the grey went to the post as 2-1 favorite. Mike Luzzi, his fourth rider in as many starts, had the call.
Bob Baffert-trainee and West Coast-based Brigand took quite a different route to the Jerome. Last year’s OBS sale-topping 2-year-old and runner-up in the G3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship in July at Hollywood Park, Brigand was still seeking his second career victory. After two off-the-board efforts on synthetic and turf following the stakes placing, Brigand improved last out, finishing second in an allowance race at Santa Anita on March 16 – his first dirt start and first time going seven furlongs. The public sent him to the post under Corey Nakatani for the further stretchout at odds of 6-1.
Breaking from post one and two, respectively, The Lumber Guy and Brigand, showed the best early speed in the six-horse field. Brigand had the edge in the earliest stages, but after nearly a quarter mile, The Lumber Guy secured the lead by a half length.
As The Lumber Guy ran the half in 45.83, Brigand continued to apply pressure at his flank. At the quarter pole (1:10.08), Brigand drew up even with The Lumber Guy and both horses came under a drive for the stretch run. In the final furlong, The Lumber Guy pulled away from his rival and drove clear to win by 2 3/4 lengths, completing the distance in a hard-fought 1:36.04 for a career-high 95 Beyer. (VIDEO)
Winning rider Mike Luzzi said, “That was cool. Not knowing the horse and just going by what Michael had said, he’s real fast. I didn’t want to warm him up too much to where he was too speedy. He left clean, he was in my hands. It felt slower than it was, honestly. It wasn’t out-of-control speed. He’s just a talented horse. I know the fractions might have said differently, but to me it felt like we went slower and it felt like I still had a lot left [in the stretch]. He galloped out good, too.”
Winning trainer Michael Hushion said, “Usually I get cold feet as it gets closer to the race, but I really didn’t with him. Every morning I came in, his hay rack was empty and he’s standing in front of the stall, bright. When you have a big, strong horse with a lot of talent I think they can make you do a lot of things, and you still look like you know what you are doing.”
Hushion added, “His gallop out looked good to me – from what I saw quickly – so I don’t know about distance limitations. I guess that 36 flat (1:36.04) is going to come up a nice time. Getting to the two-turn thing is a bridge we’re going to have to cross sometime pretty soon. Today, he showed what we were hoping he would show. When he got his head in front, his stride just opened up. His stride looked awfully good down the backside. He’s a nice, big mover. Mike did a nice job nursing his speed. Really good job.”
The Lumber Guy, named after thoroughbred owner Aaron Jones, who made his fortune in the lumber business in Oregon, has earned $225,000 from four starts, including $120,000 for his Jerome victory. Prior to his effort the Wood, he won his first two career starts by a combined 13 1⁄2 lengths, taking a six-furlong state-bred maiden special weight race at Aqueduct in January before winning the seven-furlong Miracle Wood Stakes in February at Laurel.
He is the third black type winner and fourth winner of four foals to start – all New York-breds bred by Schwartz – out of Boltono, an unraced daughter of Unbridled’s Song purchased by Schwartz at the 2003 Keeneland November sale for $77,000. The Lumber Guy’s siblings include stakes winners Bold Deed, by Anasheed ($146,000), and Magical Solution, by Stormin Fever. Boltono unfortunately died from complications the day after foaling The Lumber Guy, leaving him to be raised by a nurse mare.
Brigand, a Flatter colt bred by Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains where he was foaled, is out of Silence Please, an unraced Quiet American mare. All four of her foals to start (all New York-breds) have won, including Sky Music, a stakes-winning colt by Sky Mesa ($104,870). Silence Please has a 2-year-old colt by Bluegrass Cat named Xanamax, a yearling filly by Bernstein and, on March 17 she foaled a full sister to Brigand.
Brigand made headlines last spring when he topped the OBS select 2-year-sale, purchased by trainer Bob Baffert on behalf of Kaleem Shah for $925,000. The colt has a record of 1-3-0 from six starts ($113,600) with two Grade 2 placings to his credit.