Not everyone connected to City of Light was at rain-soaked Gulfstream Park Jan. 26 as William and Suzanne Warren Jr.’s colt parted ways with his 11 rivals, and departed with the $4 million winner’s share of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) purse.
Mark Reid, a principal of Walnut Green who had helped purchase City of Light as a yearling, was returning from running a few at Laurel Park in Maryland. While on the phone, his wife gave him the play-by-play from home.
“When I got home, I watched it a couple of times, and it was awesome,” Reid said the following day.
Reid, a successful trainer in the 1980s and ’90s, got out of the tack room and turned bloodstock agent, buying into Walnut Green in 2005. He’s had a pretty good run. For the Warrens he helped manage the racing career of Saint Liam, winner of the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (G1) and that year’s Horse of the Year and champion older male.
At the 2015 Keeneland September sale, during the “Sunday,” or sixth session, he ran across the eventual Pegasus winner.
“My first thought when I first laid eyes on him was, ‘Wow, what’s he going to look like in a year?’ ” Reid said. “He was a big, tall, pretty horse, but not filled out. He was one of those if you shut your eyes you could imagine him a hand taller and 400 pounds heavier. He looked like one of those five-foot-10, 165-pound sophomores in high school that you know are going to be six-foot-four, 240 pounds, and run a 4.4 40 yard-dash in college.
“You looked at him and said, ‘He’s not there yet, but man, is he gonna be.’”
The final bid was heavy: $710,000. The colt was the session-topper of the day. The next highest-priced yearling was $320,000.
“The guy bidding against me was a pretty tough guy to get past: Donato Lanni,” Reid said of the agent who often buys for trainer Bob Baffert. “The price jumped way up there; he was the session-topper by a mile.
“Bill and Suzanne look for classic colts. They’re trying to get top horses that can run a route of ground, and he fit the bill.”
Reid was also helpful with connecting the Warrens with trainer Michael McCarthy, who had ventured home to Southern California after being an assistant for Todd Pletcher.
“Bill spends time in California and asked me, could we maybe find a trainer out west. He was looking for a young guy with a pedigree to be a trainer. Michael had worked for Todd, and he was a perfect fit.
“Michael’s early words to me about City of Light were, ‘I hope he quits growing.’ You always worry about those real big ones staying sound. It took Michael a while to get him there and get him underway, and when he did, man, oh man.
“You always worry about keeping them together and having the patience to wait until they do develop. Michael did that perfectly.”
The Warrens and Reid have gone their separate ways and Reid has returned to training. However, that hasn’t stopped Reid from marveling at City of Light’s accomplishments.
“He handles mud, he can sprint, he can carry his speed a distance,” he said. “He ran a ‘zero’ on the Ragozin sheets in the (Breeders’ Cup) Dirt Mile (G1). A couple of months later, on a sloppy track, against a big field, he did it like there was nothing to it. This horse just waltzed away from them.”
And like the two previous Pegasus World Cup winners, Arrogate and Gun Runner, City of Light has been hustled to Central Kentucky to start a career at stud. He’s got a new job.
And for everyone else in the business, come the next morning, it’s back to work, looking for the next City of Light.
“I got to go back to work,” Reid said at the close of the day. “These things are pretty tough to top. Working on the next one…this is how this game works.”