Virginia-Sired Mr. Buff Shines On Empire Showcase Day

Friend Or Foe gelding galloped to title defense in Empire Classic Handicap.

Million dollar earning horse Mr. Buff is by Friend or Foe, who stands at Robin Mellen’s Smallwood Farm in Crozet. Mr. Buff is 3-for-6 this year and has eaned $277,500. His stakes wins in 2020 include the Empire Classic Handicap at Belmont, and the Haynesfield and Jazil, both at Aqueduct. In 40 career starts, he has 15 wins and earnings of $1,210,786.   

Chester and Mary Broman’s homebred Mr. Buff got back on track Oct. 24, taking the $175,000 Empire Classic Handicap in frontrunning fashion for the second consecutive year and putting the finishing touches on a thrilling day of New York-bred stakes action at Belmont Park.

Winning trainer John Kimmel praised the Bromans for their continued support of his barn and the New York-bred program, which shined on Empire Showcase Day with eight stakes worth $1.2 million.

“They have been with me since their inception in the Thoroughbred game,” Kimmel said. “They’ve been big supporters and sent me a lot of top well-bred New York-breds over the years.

Virginia-Sired Mr. Buff won his third straight stakes race earlier this year (Feb. 22) at Aqueduct. Photo courtesy of Adam Coglianese.

“They have really taken the New York-bred program to another level. No one has done what he’s done and bred his mares to the best stallions in the marketplace—Tapit , Storm Cat, American Pharoah Justify —he’s really tried to prove that you can raise a good horse in New York.”

A hard-knocking 6-year-old, Mr. Buff began 2020 with smashing wins in the Jazil and Haynesfield stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack, the latter of which was a 20-length tour de force against state-breds that netted him a sparkling 106 Beyer Speed Figure, but he was well beaten in each of his previous two starts. His disappointing results in the Whitney Stakes (G1) and Suburban Stakes (G2) this summer led to many jumping off his bandwagon in the 1 1/8-mile Empire Classic for 3-year-olds and up on the main track as he was sent off as a distant 7-2 second choice in the wagering.

Mr. Buff is shown winning the Empire Classic for the second straight year. Photo courtesy of Chelsea Durand.

Departing post 1 with regular rider Junior Alvarado aboard, Mr. Buff broke sharply and went out to lead the field through sensible splits of :23.50 for the opening quarter-mile, :47.56 for the half, and 1:11.50 for three-quarters. While he readily yielded a soft lead in the stretch of the Whitney in his most recent outing, the Friend Or Foe gelding had no such trouble Saturday as he powered home a 3 1/4-length winner.

Mr. Buff completed the distance in 1:48.75 and returned $9.40 on a $2 win wager. The win gave the millionaire his 15th victory from 40 starts for the Bromans.

Friend or Foe stands at Robin Mellen’s Smallwood Farm in Crozet.

“He’s a 17.1 (hand) horse with a huge stride length,” Kimmel said. “The key is to get to the top of the lane and switch to his outside lead turning for home. I knew then it was over and there was no way they were going to beat him at that point.”

Alvarado said he was determined to make Mr. Buff’s challengers work for a shot at defeating the defending champ.

“The big horse is back. I couldn’t be any happier for him. I really wanted to do it for him. He deserves it. He’s the best older New York-bred,” said Alvarado. “I like him when he takes a hold of the bridle. That’s how he likes to be ridden. I just got out of there running. I wasn’t intending to get to the lead. I just wanted to get him out of there going forward and take my position, whatever it will be.

“He’s a horse that can go :22 and :45, too, but I just gunned him out of there to get a good position. If anyone else wanted the lead, they were going to have to work hard to get it. I wasn’t going to give it to them easily today.”

Mr. Buff’s win in the October 24 Empire Classic pushed his bankroll over the $1.2 million mark. Photo by Janet Garaguso.

Bankit came out on top of the host of pursuers that lined up to take their shots at Mr. Buff in the stretch. The son of Central Banker  trained by Steve Asmussen had similarly gone off form in recent starts after a promising start to his 4-year-old campaign, but he closed strongly on the inside and finished a clear second by three lengths over Sea Foam.

Heavy favorite Funny Guy had to settle for fourth in his return to the state-bred ranks. The John Terranova II trainee beat Mr. Buff in the June 12 Commentator Stakes at Belmont and won the John Morrissey Handicap at Saratoga Race Course against New York-breds, but he couldn’t get back to his best form and finished a neck behind Sea Foam.

Winston’s ChanceChestertown, and Evaluator completed the order of finish. Our Last Buck was scratched.

Mr. Buff is out of the graded stakes-placed Speightstown mare Speightful Affair, who among her six foals has a 2-year-old full sister to Mr. Buff named Miss Buff and foaled an Accelerate  colt this year. All four of her starters are winners.

Also on the Saturday card, Lucky Move won the $175,000 Empire Distaff Handicap, Laobanonaprayer took the $150,000 Maid of the Mist Stakes, Brooklyn Strong won the $150,000 Sleepy Hollow Stakes, Myhartblongstodady took the $150,000 Ticonderoga Stakes, Tribecca won the $125,000 Hudson Handicap, Somelikeithotbrown took the $150,000 Mohawk Stakes, and Collegeville Girl schooled the field in the $125,000 Iroquois Stakes.