Some sale toppers become successful racehorses. Others are never heard from again even though their conformation and pedigrees suggested they could become elite athletes.
The jury is still out on Cocalero, but he made his career debut May 8 and broke his maiden by 1 ¾ lengths at seven furlongs at Belmont Park (VIDEO). Last year, he was the most expensive horse sold at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. spring sale of 2-year-olds in training, bringing $675,000. Jimmy Bell the president of Sheikh Mohammed's Darley America operation signed the sale ticket in the name of the Dubai Ruler's bloodstock manager, John Ferguson.
Cocalero was sired by A.P. Indy and is the second foal out of grade I winner Got Koko, who died of foaling complications last March. He was bred by Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings in Kentucky.
The New York Racing Association provided an update on Cocalero as part of its New York Watch series, which looks at promising horses that hve recently cleared the maiden and allowance race at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, or Saratoga. The New York Watch page for Cocalero is located at http://www.nyra.com/nywatch/Cocalero.html.
Here's what New York Watch had to say about the colt's first race:
Despite being coupled in the wagering along with fellow first-time starter Stratford Hill, another well-bred son of A.P. Indy, Cocalero received only mild betting support at 5-1.
Cocalero, after loading reluctantly, reared in the starting gate. He stood still for the break, but was away several lengths slowly.
"It was unexpected," trainer Tom Albertrani said of Cocalero's gate problems. "First time out, you never know what to expect or how they are going to act. He was really tense in the gate."
Jockey Alan Garcia didn't panic, however, and let the Cocalero bide his time at the back of the pack. The bay raced with his head held high through the far turn, but got down to business once he was swung out at the top of the stretch, splitting rivals and closing strongly to win by 1 ¾ lengths.
"(Garcia) was really patient, and the horse was able to recover for him," said Albertrani. "He rode him beautifully."
Cocalero covered seven furlongs in 1:23.71.
While Albertrani was pleased with Cocalero's debut, the trainer wants to improve the colt's behavior at the gate before pressing forward.
"We'll teach him how to settle down for his next race," said Albertrani. "We'll run him a little longer in an allowance, and go from there."
Cocalero was one of the most expensive horses ever sold during the OBS spring sale, and Bell described the colt as a "very powerful individual" after buying him.
"There was every indication that he would relish a distance of ground," Bell also said of Cocalero. "He's the type of horse that John Ferguson really likes to bring to Sheikh Mohammed's attention. A.P. Indy has been really lucky for the boss."
Florida pinhookers Carl Bowling and Ricky Leppala purchased Cocalero for $175,000 from Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent for Stonestreet, at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling auction. With their partner, Jill Julian, Bowling and Leppala planned to resell the colt at the 2009 Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training in early March. But he had to be scratched from the auction because of an injury suffered right before he was going to be shipped from the Nelson Jones Training Center (where the training division of Bowling's Straightaway Farm is located) to Calder Race Course.
"On the way to the track, his exercise rider decided to take a shortcut rather than following the sandy drive," Bowling said. "They cut across the grass, and when the horse stepped off the grass, there was a 12- to 16-inch drop, and he stumbled. He lost the rider, ran back toward the barn, missed the gate going to the barn, and then hit a gate going up into an equipment area. It put a 16-inch slash in his left hip. The slash was so big that you could have stuck both of your fists up in it. It took an hour and a half to suture him up. We put him in the stall and didn't touch him for a month. But the cut healed up great - the muscle wasn't damaged - so we started him back in training."
M. Neal Sims, who worked closely with Julian to prepare Bowling's horses for this year's juvenile sales, consigned the colt to the OBS spring auction. The well-bred 2-year-old worked an eighth of a mile in :10 2/5.
"It wasn't a speed breeze, but it was a class breeze," Bowling said. "He galloped out in :21 1/5, :34 2/5, and :46 1/5 for a half of a mile. That's pretty awesome. The rider's comment was that he just got better with every stride. He's a big, classy horse that stands 16-something hands and probably weighs 1,300 pounds."
The colt had a $399,000 reserve, but ended up not really needing the protection because "we had at least five different key people bidding on the horse," Bowling said. "The bids were coming from everywhere. It (the price) was a blessing to me, and it was a blessing to my partners. We knew we would be blessed if we doubled our money in this economy."
It will be interesting to see how Cocalero progresses as a racehorse - if he lives up to the promise of his physical appearance, genetic attributes, and purchase price.