Classic Figures - By Evan Hammonds

A sport as unpredictable as Thoroughbred racing does not fall into a rut often, but every once in awhile the results become a little predictable. Sifting through the outcomes from the stakes action last weekend in May provided several cases of déjà vu.

While he’d rather win on the First Saturday in May—wouldn’t we all—trainer Chad Brown was a major force from coast to coast over the three-day Memorial Day weekend, winning four black-type stakes. Three of the four came on the grass, which is humorous considering he just shook free of his “turf trainer” status the weekend before when he won his first classic with Cloud Computing in the Preakness Stakes (G1).

During the run-up to the May 6 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), Brown was interviewed at the Kentucky Derby Trainer’s Dinner in downtown Louisville. As the trainer of starter Practical Joke, last year’s Eclipse Award-winning trainer was asked about his previous Derby experiences.

“It sucks if you are one of the 19 horses that lose,” the competitive trainer said candidly.

The holiday weekend was much kinder to Brown than Derby weekend when Practical Joke finished fifth. The longtime darling of his stable, Lady Eli, shipped to California to win the grade 1 Gamely Stakes May 27 saddled by assistant trainer Cherie DeVaux. Brown tended to his barn at Belmont Park in New York and wound up spending most of the afternoon in the winner’s circle after three of the six stakes winners on the Big Apple Showcase program for New York-breds came out of his barn May 29.

Brown swept both turf races with Offering Plan in the Kingston Stakes and Fourstar Crook in the Mount Vernon Stakes, and also landed the $200,000 Critical Eye Stakes with the unbeaten Kathryn the Wise, yet another stakes winner from Uncle Mo’s first crop.

Through the holiday Brown has won with 70 of 241 starters and ranks fourth nationally in earnings. He has the second-lowest number of starts among the leaders. (Bob Baffert has 115 starts this year, but does have $17 million earner Arrogate on his ledger.) Brown’s stats in stakes races are even more impressive, with 14 graded stakes wins from 57 tries so far—that’s a 25% win strike rate. According to an report, 45% of Brown’s starters so far this year have gone off as the favorite.

While Brown had an enriching weekend, it pales in comparison to the haul brought in by trainer Aidan O’Brien in Ireland. After the Coolmore team had won both the QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas (G1) and QIPCO One Thousand Guineas (G1) at Newmarket on the first weekend in May with the O’Brien-trained Churchill and Winter, respectively, the duo made short work of the Irish versions sponsored by Tattersalls at the Curragh May 27 and 28. Oh, and by the way, O’Brien also won the Seamus & Rosemary McGrath Memorial Saval Beg Stakes May 26 with Order of St George and the Airlie Stud Gallinule Stakes (G3) May 28 with Homesman.

O’Brien’s run is not only a testament to his training talents but to the never-ending bench of talented runners by Galileo, the sire of Churchill, Winter, and Order of St George.

European correspondent Julian Muscat has long since exhausted his considerable vocabulary attempting to keep us apprised of the stallion’s successes. Already the sire of 262 stakes winners (from 2,613 foals; 10%), the season has yet to get warmed up in Europe, and he already has 16 stakes winners of 21 black-type stakes wins on the year.

Will the winning outcomes for Brown, O’Brien, and Galileo continue throughout 2017? Of course not. “They all get beat” is the truest of racing’s adages. But for one weekend in May...

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