Mr. Buff strongarms rivals in Evan Shipman Stakes

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

NYRA/Coglianese Photos

By Sarah Mace

Mr. Buff, a third generation homebred for Chester and Mary Broman through the male line, towered over his rivals on paper for Wednesday’s 38th running of the $100,000 Evan Shipman Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds and up at Saratoga Race Course. As it turned out, a dose of adversity at the gate meant that the confirmed front-runner and 3-5 favorite and was called upon to prove his mettle in a new way to secure the victory.

Coming into the 8-horse Evan Shipman, Mr. Buff had won five of seven starts at the 9-furlong distance of the race. His only real glitch at the distance came at the Fair Grounds on March 23 (or as trainer John Kimmel quipped the “unfair grounds”) when Mr. Buff was basically eased out of the Grade 2 New Orleans H. Nothing ended up being amiss physically with the 5-year-old gelding, so the connections put a line through the race and moved on.

Since the Fair Grounds, Mr. Buff has returned to his usual competitive ways. On May 27 he finished a close-up third after setting the pace in the Commentator Stakes, three-quarters of a length behind Pat On the Back, who was in career form. On June 30 in the 1 1/16-mile Saginaw Stakes he scored the most facile of victories, winning by 6-plus lengths geared down and earning his third career triple-digit Beyer.

The moments before the gates opened on the Evan Shipman did not go smoothly for Mr. Buff and regular jockey Junior Alvarado. As Alvarado reported, the big chestnut got a hind leg propped up on the narrow shelf where the assistant starter stands. Alvarado got out of the saddle while the gelding was put to rights, but even after Mr. Buff got all four legs squarely under him, he did not break particularly well when the latch was sprung. He ended up in the third position early while spotting pacesetter Sea Foam and three lengths.

Faced with the the unaccustomed position of chasing another horse on the lead, the Mr. Buff rose to the occasion. Tracking readily in third around the clubhouse turn he advanced into second midway along the backstretch.

Challenging Sea Foam directly with a half-mile to go, the pair vied head-and-head through the far turn.  Mr. Buff finally shook clear just past the quarter pole and opened up on the rest with huge, powerful strides. Ultimately he was geared down before crossing the finish line a 3 1/2-length winner. Following a half-mile in 47.48 and one mile in 1:37.44, the final time for nine furlongs over the fast track was 1:51.65.

Dynamax Prime (10-1), second to Mr. Buff in the Saginaw, closed from sixth to get the place, while longshot Winston’s Chance (36-1) finished another 2 1/2 lengths back in third. Sea Foam completed the superfecta, followed across the line by Vincento, Gio d’Oro, Twisted Tom and Evaluator. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Alvarado acknowledged the slow break and clarified the gate issue. “Sometimes, you just have to be confident. I didn’t have the best break. I wanted to be on the lead because it seems that’s where he’s most comfortable. But he got his hind leg stuck in the gate right before the break. He wasn’t standing great when we broke, he kind of missed the start. I had to hurry in front inside and be confident working my way through the field, and he was there for me every step of the way. He just does what he needs to do to win.”

Kimmel was impressed to see Mr. Buff succeed while passing horses. “He didn’t break sharp and for a horse that’s got a lot of ‘ones’ in his past performance line, for him to be in behind horses and come up the inside and outrun these horses, I was pretty proud of the effort,” said Kimmel.

The trainer continued, “The most important thing for him is to find his rhythm and he’s such a good moving horse with such a big stride that you put him on the bridle too soon and get him pulling on you, that’s not been very conducive.”

As to the moderate final time for the race, Kimmel added, “The time was kind of weird. I don’t think the track is very fast, but time, like they say, only matters in jail.”

Mr. Buff’s obvious superiority to his New York-bred rivals at this stage, naturally has Kimmel musing about jumping up in class. “We’ve been tinkering of the idea of a nice mile and an eighth, two-turn race, and we’ll evaluate him. If he comes out of this race without any issues, we’ll probably keep him eligible for the [Grade 1 $750,000] Woodward [on August 31].

Mr. Buff is sired by Chester and Mary Broman’s homebred multiple stakes winning homebred Friend or Foe, who is, in turn, a son of Friends Lake, the Bromans’ homebred graded stakes winner who took them to the Kentucky Derby in 2004 after winning the Florida Derby. He has won 10 of 30 starts, with six seconds and four thirds, including four stakes victories, and earned $678,786.

Mr. Buff’s dam Speightful Affair is graded stakes placed Ontario-bred by Speightstown, who was purchased by the Bromans for $80,000 at the Fasig-Tipton 2013 winter mixed sale.

In 2018 Speightful Affair produced a full sister to Mr. Buff. Unfortunately, her 2019 foal by Friend or Foe, who stands at Smallwood Farm in Virginia, was stillborn. She has been bred this year to Accelerate.

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