Tomorrow will be judgment day for So You Think, as he will be facing the top horses the world has to offer in the Dubai World Cup. He has shown his tremendous capabilities on the pinnacle of horseracing, but it seems that he has yet to reveal to us his greatest level of talent.
Upon hearing the news that So You Think will be ridden by eighteen year old Joseph O’Brien, I recalled the story of a special colt that took then nineteen year old Fernando Jara on the ride of his life, which ended in triumph in the 2007 Dubai World Cup…
Several years ago, the three Vio Brado brothers traveled from Uruguay to Argentina to find a young racing prospect. They inspected eighty colts and fillies at numerous farms, but nothing stood out to them as special. While looking at horses at Haras Clausan, the brothers finally came upon a smallish bay colt that caught their attention. Named Quiet Style, he was not the most attractive horse they had seen, but he stood out apart from all the rest. They bought the two year old Candy Stripes colt for $20,000, and changed his name to Invasor.
The Vio Brado brothers put Invasor into Anibal San Martin’s training. Jockey Gustavo Duarte was in the irons for Invasor’s first ever work, and after the gallop, he told the owners, “This colt will become the Uruguayan Horse of the Year.” At the time, such a statement was rather liberal for a completely untested colt, but Invasor proved that Duarte could be right when he won his maiden with complete ease and became a hot topic around the track.
Invasor’s two-year-old season was cut short by a sesamoid injury that required surgery and months of recovery. He consequently missed the most prestigious juvenile events. Invasor made his comeback in the GIII Clasico Ensayo where he shattered his opponents and went on to win the Uruguayan Triple Crown by a combined 15 ¾ lengths.
Invasor’s immense success caught the attention of Sheikh Hamdan of Shadwell Stables, and he offered to buy the colt. Despite reluctance from one of the Vio Brado brothers, Invasor was sold for about $1.4 million, and was transferred to the Kiaran McLaughlin’s training.
Since he was nominated to the UAE Derby, Invasor was sent to Dubai for that race before he came to North America and finished fourth after an unfortunate trip. However, he followed up with a 1 ¼ length triumph in the GI Pimlico Special. In the colors of Shadwell Stables, Invasor dominated the east coast in 2006 by winning events such as the Suburban and Whitney Handicap. Invasor ended his year in victory at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. In this race, he made his regular rider, Fernando Jara, the youngest to win a Breeders’ Cup contest until Joseph O’Brien won the Breeders’ Cup Turf aboard St. Nicholas Abbey last year.
Fernando Jara was born into a family involved with horse racing, and left public school to attend the jockey school in Panama at the age of fourteen. While growing up, he involved himself with various activities around the track in order to be close with the horses he admired so greatly. Jara was quite popular on the racing circuit in Panama, where he rode until he reached the North American age limit for jockeying and earned the nickname, “Ice Boy” for his fearless riding style. Jara secured his first Graded Stakes victory in the Gotham. As an eighteen-year-old, he collected his first GI win in the Belmont Stakes when he rode Jazil. At the end of 2006, he ranked 16th on a national scale, and consequently became the youngest jockey to be in the top twenty riders. Over his career, Jara has accumulated just over $22 million in purse earnings. After winning the 2006 Suburban Handicap with Invasor, McLaughlin said of Jara, “(He) is a very good rider; he just needs the horses. We’re trying to give him a good jump start.”
In his first start of 2007, Invasor took the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. His next start would undoubtedly be his most challenging test yet, as he would travel to the U.A.E for the Dubai World Cup. Choosing to run a horse in the Dubai World Cup always seems to be the largest gamble an owner or trainer could make. The reward is the greatest in the entire sport, but the risk is colossal, because many horses do not recover well from the strenuous trip abroad, and never return to their best form.
After the break in the Dubai World Cup, Invasor raced on the outside, and battled for third with Bullish Luck. Over halfway through the race, Invasor moved up to third, and made a run at the pacemakers. At the 1,000 meter mark, Invasor trailed the leading Premium Tap by only a neck. The two pulled away in a duel for the win, but 200 meters out from the wire, Invasor pushed his head in front. Once he had the advantage on his adversary, Invasor powered home with a dominant victory. After the triumph, Jara stated, “This is very, very special. To come to Dubai and win the world’s richest race is just unbelievable…”
Racing’s young fan base has been diminishing in recent years, but I sense hope and optimism for the future when I see the success of fresh faces involved with the sport I love. In her acceptance speech for the 2010 Eclipse Award of Merit, Mary Lou Whitney said, “…As we look to the future, we must also pass on the passion and the excitement of this wondrous sport to the next generation. It is our obligation. A candle loses nothing by lighting another…” Indubitably, horse racing is working to foster the sport’s future followers and industry workers.