February 5, 2010

Musket Man Reloaded

In a sequel that promises as much excitement as Neo, Morpheus and Trinity created several years ago, Musket Man is returning to the races in 2010. He kicks off his season in tomorrow’s The Super Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. In the nine months since Musket Man last ran, he has become somewhat forgotten. With horses like Quality Road, Blind Luck, American Lion, and Eightyfiveinafifty set to race this weekend in major markets around the country, and thereby dominating the attention of many racing fans, Musket Man’s return is in danger of being shuffled down towards the middle of the news deck. It should not be. This beautiful dark bay may be one of the most underrated runners in the nation. Musket Man has been spectacular in his consistent excellence and I look for him to be one of the most important horses on the national scene this year. Let’s take a closer look at exactly how good Musket Man has been to this point.

In his eight race career, Musket Man has won five times with three thirds. Never rushed, he began his career in late October of 2008 at Belmont Park. He was an easy winner of the debut. He was brought back for one more race as a juvenile, in an allowance race at Philadelphia Park. Despite lacking room, he was able to turn on the afterburners and sweep to victory. Sent to winter at Tampa Bay Downs, Musket Man returned in January in the Pasco Stakes, where he faced and defeated General Quarters, the future winner of the Blue Grass. Now considered a contender for bigger things down the road, Musket Man would attempt two turns for the first time, in his next race. In what can be considered as his only non-sparkling outing, he hung in the stretch and finished third to General Quarters in the Sam F Davis Stakes. Not deterred, his connections brought him right back in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby. It would prove to be a breakout race for the son of Yonaguska.

Sent off at nearly 6-1 in the ten horse field, Musket Man was squeezed and shuffled back on the far turn. He swung out for clear running room as the field straightened out, but still looked hopelessly beaten at the eighth pole. As if he was the chosen one, afterburners were once again deployed and Musket Man looked like he was shot out of a cannon, or better yet, a musket, as he nailed the leader just short of the wire. It almost appeared that the other horses moved in a matrix like slow motion, in order for him to get the win. He followed this up with an easy win in the Grade 2 Illinois Derby in a final prep for the Run for the Roses. He arrived at Louisville with an excellent record, but without a whole lot of respect. The lack of respect was a mistake. Musket Man ran a big race to finish 3rd, and in fact, if his jockey had taken an opening on the rail when it presented itself, there could have been a totally different result to the 2009 Kentucky Derby. It was on to Baltimore and another chance for Musket Man to prove his doubters wrong. In the Preakness, he did just that. Briefly steadied at the quarter pole, Musket Man came on strongly in the stretch to finish a bang-up 3rd. He was beaten only 1 ½ lengths by super filly, Rachel Alexandra. Musket Man once again proved to be one of the elite sophomores in the country. Unfortunately, we did not see any more from him last year as he suffered a bone bruise and was put on the shelf for the remainder of the season. Now at long last, it is time for Musket Man to race again.


Photo courtesy and property of Sue Kawczynski

Musket Man has been working very well in familiar surroundings at Tampa Bay Downs for tomorrow’s return. His trainer, Derrick Ryan, took his time in bringing him back to do what is right for the horse and should have him prepared for a big season. The Musket is reloaded and now ready to fire in a big way. Tomorrow’s Super might not be the biggest race in the world, but I fully expect it to be only the opening scene in what promises to be a very exciting year. So when you are watching the races this Saturday afternoon, do not forget to tune in to Tampa Bay Downs and Musket Man, you will not be disappointed.

10 comments:

LDP said...

I will also be looking forward to Musket Man's return. Another horse that I saw is returning to the stakes is Win Willy. On NTRA they said he was starting on Sat he would race, but I wasn't sure if they meant this Sat. Come on Brian, do you know if they meant this weekend?

Brian Zipse said...

Yes LDP, Win Willy runs in the feature at Oaklawn this Saturday, the Essex. I have not looked at those PPs yet, but I believe it is his 2nd or 3rd race back since the Spring.

Ciarán said...

nice piece Brian. will expect a big run from Musket Man!

Brian Zipse said...

Win Willy did race twice last Fall in losing efforts and is now coming off a nice allowance win at Oaklawn, so he should be primed for the Essex.

Thanks Ciarán!

Dan said...

love the matrix reference, the musket is reloaded and ready to fire, it'll be a big year for him, last year with any luck he could have been a derby or preakness winner, go musket man!

LDP said...

Brian,
I don't know how I misse his other two races. It will be interesting to see if he's returned to the form he showed in the Arkansas Derby.

LDP said...

Whoops, sorry, I meant the Rebel, not the Arkansas Derby.

Brian Zipse said...

I hope so too LDP, Win Willy is a fun horse to root for. Last year's Rebel was certainly impressive.

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