The Virginia Equine Alliance sponsored Saturday’s $250,000 Colonial Cup (Gr. II) and Mr. Speaker, one of two million dollar-plus earners in the field of seven, surged past Cut To Order and Legendary in the stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
The 4 year old Pulpit colt, trained by Claude “Shug” McGaughey, sat third through much of the 1 1/8 miles race before making his move. By the top of the stretch, he was a head better than runner-up Legendary and took off from there.
“I was in a nice position and the horse just fired,” said rider Jose Ortiz describing the stretch move. “The pace was a little bit slow but I was sitting right behind the leaders so it worked out perfectly.” The winner crossed in 1:47.77.
Mr. Speaker, winner of the 2014 Belmont Derby, went through a string of races where he got “sidetracked”, as Assistant Trainer Robbie Medina described. “He hasn’t finished well since then but we’re pleased with how he’s been racing of late, especially in his last three races. You’d never know it from the past performance lines, but he could have won all three. That’s why we didn’t go off as the favorite today”.
“We thought about staying in Canada after his most recent Woodbine start, but saw this race on the calendar, was familiar with the turf at Laurel, and thought this would be the right place for him”, added Medina. Mr. Speaker, owned and bred by Phipps Stable of Kentucky, now has 5 wins from 13 turf starts
Up With Birds, the high money earner entering the race with $1,463,189, was favored but never emerged from mid-pack and finished fourth. Legendary, with regular Sheldon Russell up, ran second throughout the race and El Jefe Grande finished third.