Spotlight-stealing Whereshetoldmetogo looks to take bite out of older runners

by Jan 29, 2019Breaking, Features, Maryland, MD Breeding

Firenze Fire

Whereshetoldmetogo narrowly missed winning — and taking a chomp out of Firenze Fire — in the G3 Gallant Bob last September. Photo By Taylor Ejdys/EQUI-PHOTO

by Teresa Genaro

Last fall at Parx Racing, Andy Warhol’s observation about 15 minutes of fame might reasonably have been applied to 3-year-old Whereshetoldmetogo.

Making his 15th start and second in a graded stakes race, the chestnut son of El Padrino, who stood at Northview Stallion Station before dying from colic in 2017, broke from post nine in the Gallant Bob (G3) on Pennsylvania Derby day. Racing wide and to the rear of the field under Jeremy Rose, Whereshetoldmetogo commenced a swift challenge halfway up the backstretch, drawing even with the leaders coming around the final turn.

A longshot at 17-1, Whereshetoldmetogo continued his wide run down the stretch, three across the track with Seven Trumpets and favored Firenze Fire. Taking dead aim on the favorite, Whereshetoldmetogo kept within a neck of the eventual winner, a neck that he couldn’t resist trying to bite steps before the wire, a thrilling stretch run made the more noteworthy by the attempted savage.

Owner Mark Esposito could sympathize.

“He was cool, calm, and collected as a yearling and a 2-year-old, but when he turned 3, he started to get a little bit of an edge,” he said. “I don’t turn my back to him. He’ll take a chunk out of my shoulder. And he has.”

Named for a song by Eric Church, Whereshetoldmetogo was purchased by Black Cloud Racing for $7,000 at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Fall Yearling Sale. Founded in 2011 by Esposito, Black Cloud is a small partnership with horses trained primarily by Delaware-based Anthony Pecoraro, in whose barn Whereshetoldmetogo began his career.

Bred by David H. Wade in Maryland, the colt didn’t attract much attention at the yearling sale; according to Esposito, prospective buyers were put off by his size, saying that he was too heavy.

“I could see that,” said Esposito. “But he had so much leg to grow into.”

What impressed Esposito most, though, was Whereshetoldmetogo’s demeanor, which was hardly a harbinger of behavior to come.

“At the sales, I like to get up in their eyes,” he said. “I like to see how they react, if they jerk their head. He was as cool and calm a horse as I’d seen in a long time. He could have cared less.”

Black Cloud had owned a Wilburn half-brother to the colt who had a similar body build but who was, as Esposito put it, “scared of everything.” He hoped that the better mind combined with the same physical attributes would add up to a successful racehorse.

While initial workouts were promising, Whereshetoldmetogo wasn’t exactly a speed demon, and Esposito and Pecoraro made the call to start him in a $40,000 maiden claimer at Delaware Park.

“He broke really bad, he ran really slow, he kind of walked out of the gate,” Esposito remembered. “I said ‘Oh my God, this is a disaster.’”

Then the big chestnut found his stride, hooking up with another horse down the stretch before pulling away to win by 2 1/2 lengths.

Since that début win, Whereshetoldmetogo has added five wins to his résumé, four of them in stakes races; he’s earned more than $323,000, and he was successful enough to draw offers from prospective buyers, the first few of which Esposito declined.

“We had offers at the beginning of his three-year-old year,” Esposito said, “in January and again in March. Things just didn’t pan out with numbers.”

But late this past summer, after a three-race winning streak, Sol Kumin came calling, and Esposito accepted the sizable bid Kumin and his partners offered, along with the condition that the horse be moved to a high-profile trainer—Brad Cox.

While Pecoraro at the time remained the trainer of record, the Gallant Bob was Whereshetoldmetogo’s first start for for his new owners, which also include Ten Strike Racing and Michael Kisber. While the colt didn’t win, he certainly raised his profile, almost certainly getting more attention in defeat than he would have in victory.

As Esposito tells it, the first thing jockey Rose said when he brought the horse back to be unsaddled was, “If you can’t beat ‘em, bite ‘em.”

Within days, Whereshetoldmetogo’s unofficial slogan was on a T-shirt, available on the Black Cloud website for $15.

And last month, the colt got to bask in the spotlight one more time, when Barbara Livingston’s photo of his attempt to savage Firenze Fire won an Eclipse Award, his image plastered across racing publications and websites, preserving for posterity his not-quite-finest moment.

Whereshetoldmetogo has been off since the Gallant Bob; he had some minor physical issues addressed and some down time on farms in Kentucky and Florida before shipping to Cox’s barn at Fair Grounds to resume training.

For the horse’s fans, out of sight has not meant out of mind; Esposito has come across a social media accounts dedicated to him, and Black Cloud maintains an active Twitter account, on which one can find updates, newsletters, podcasts, and, occasionally, an original poem inspired by horse racing.

Esposito is hopeful that Whereshetoldmetogo’s profile will continue to rise this year, as the horse takes on the challenge of facing older horses, admittedly a difficult task in the sprint division.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” acknowledged Esposito. “For a $7,000 yearling, people have really been kind of surprised. My question is, how did I get him for that price?”

 Note: An earlier version of this story included the price paid by Kumin and his partners. The price has been removed at the request of the owners.