Big Brown’s Geno scores in NYSS Great White Way

Saturday, December 18th, 2021

Geno and Jorge Vargas Jr. hold of Un Ojo and Trevor McCarthy in Saturday’s $500,000 Great White Way division of the NYSS. Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo.

By Tom Law

What better spot to take a try a dirt race with a 2-year-old colt with three starts, all on grass, than for a $500,000 purse?

Dave Donk figured as much with Pete Martine’s homebred Big Brown colt Geno, who relished his chance and came away with a victory in Saturday’s $500,000 Great White Way division of the New York Stallion Stakes Series at Aqueduct.

“This is a pretty good spot to find out,” Donk said after Geno split rivals in the lane and held off a late run from Un Ojo to win the 7-furlong Great White Way by a neck. Jorge Vargas Jr., aboard for Geno’s two most recent starts against open company in turf stakes on the NYRA circuit, rode the colt to victory in 1:25.88.

“This horse has a lot of class, as much class as I’ve seen a horse have in a while,” Donk said. “I debated first time out whether I should run him on dirt or turf. His mother (Weekend Hottie) won on grass and my success with Big Brown offspring have been on grass, so I ran him over it.”

Geno broke his maiden going 6 furlongs on the grass Sept. 19 at Belmont Park, then just missed there in the $100,000 Awad Stakes stretching out to 1 1/16 miles. He came into the Great White Way off a sixth, beaten just 2 lengths, in the $100,000 Central Park Stakes again at 1 1/16 miles on the turf at Aqueduct.

Sent off the 8-1 fourth choice in the field of 11, Geno and Vargas saved ground early and around the far turn while 8-5 favorite Unique Unions led Kenner through the opening splits of :22.71 and :46.48.

Vargas sent Geno through those two foes in the lane, took the lead at the eighth pole and past 6 furlongs in 1:12.30. Un Ojo, fourth last time in an open-company stakes at Delta Downs and making his first start in New York, rallied under Trevor McCarthy while several paths off the fence into the lane. Un Ojo came alongside Geno in deep stretch, the two exchanged bumps and the latter stayed tough for his second win in four starts. Unique Union, a son of freshman sire Union Jackson, finished 2 1/4 lengths back in third with 96-1 longshot Hot Stepper fourth.

Geno and his connections also withstood a claim of foul from McCarthy and a stewards inquiry for the victory.

“Nothing really happened,” Vargas said. “My horse got to waiting on horses a bit. He [Un Ojo] came running on the outside and bumped my horse on his rear end a little bit.”

McCarthy saw it a bit differently on his mount, an aptly named son of Laoban who is missing his left eye.

“My horse is a pretty big, gangly horse and it doesn’t take much to get him off stride,” McCarthy said. “When he bumped me, it took all the momentum away from him. I had a great position. I was able to tuck him in around the turn and cut the corner and then get him back out. He had a great trip. It was just really unfortunate that he got bumped and lost all his momentum.”

Trainer Dave Donk (left) says Geno could wind up in more stakes this winter after Saturday’s Stallion Series victory. NYRA Photo.

Geno now heads into the winter months with some momentum.

Donk hinted that the colt could stick around for other dirt stakes engagements, rather than being turned out for six weeks and returning with eyes on spring turf stakes.

“He breezes really well on the dirt and I needed to try him somewhere on the dirt,” Donk said. “This is as good a spot as I could have found.”

Geno’s victory provided champion and dual classic winner Big Brown, who stands for $5,000 at Irish Hill Century and Dutchess Views Stallions LLC in Stillwater, with another major victory in 2021. He’s also the sire multiple New York-bred champion and multiple graded stakes winner Somelikeithotbrown, in the midst of his best season in 2021 with $498,000 in earnings; and 2021 stakes winner Jemography.

Bred by Martine and raced in the green and white colors of his Mendham Racing Stable, Geno is the first foal out of the winning Sun King mare Weekend Hottie.

Campaigned by Mendham Racing Stable, Weekend Hottie broke her maiden on the grass for Donk in June 2017. She’s also the dam of a soon-to-be yearling filly by Laoban, also bred in New York by Martine, and was bred back to Majestic City in 2021.

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