Fulmineo carrying Maryland Breeders’ Cup hopes
Talk about a sneaky-good debut! Fulmineo was a distant third when he made his career bow in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight contest on the dirt at Delaware Park. That’s a result that was seriously flattered a little over a month later when winner Nutella Fella returned to blow up the toteboard in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga.
While Nutella Fella has gone to the sidelines with what trainer Gary Contessa said is a “hairline fracture in his ankle,” Fulmineo headed west on Sunday to Santa Anita. The Bolt d’Oro colt is 20-1 on the morning line in Friday’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
“We kind of knew going 5 ½, that’s not going to be his game,” acknowledged Fulmineo’s trainer, Arnaud Delacour. “But at that time of the year, it was very hard to find a suitable race going longer. So we thought, ‘Let’s give it a try.’ He was clearly outrun, but he got plenty out of the race.”
With Victor Carrasco In the irons, Fulmineo was in mid-pack throughout, finishing nine lengths behind the winner (and seven behind runner-up Linzer) while clear of the rest. Five weeks later he broke his maiden nicely going two turns on the turf at Colonial Downs.
“In order to go longer, we had to try the turf because you have more options,” Delacour said. “But he did so well, we decided to keep him on the turf. I’m not opposed in the future to run back on the dirt, because I think he can handle it as well. But he performed so well on the turf, right now we don’t want to change anything.”
In his third and most recent start, Fulmineo rallied nicely for second in the Grade 2 Pilgrim at Aqueduct October 4, finishing a length behind winner Agate Road. That runner is 8-1 on the morning line in the Juvenile Turf.
Since then, Fulmineo has breezed a pair of half-miles on Fair Hill’s all-weather surface, cruising the distance in 49 2/5 October 19 and then in 48 2/5 October 27.
“I got what I wanted,” Delacour said of the most recent work. “He went a half in company. He’s kind of a tricky horse because he doesn’t do much alone. He’s kind of light, and I don’t want to do too much with him. It was just a good maintenance work, came back not blowing, so very happy with him.”
Tyler Gaffalione will be in the irons in the Juvenile Turf, his first time to ride the horse. The duo will leave from the 10-hole in a 14-horse field.
Fulmineo was bred in Maryland by Country Life Farm and Starr of Quality LLC. They purchased his dam, Starr of Quality, in foal with the colt that became Fulmineo, for $72,000 Keeneland mixed sale in November 2020. Starr of Quality, by First Dude, was a stakes winner and earner of more than $300,000 in her career.
The partners then sold Fulmineo in August 2022 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sale, where he fetched a winning bid of $90,000 from Starlight Racing, who owns him now in partnership with Mark Grier.
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“He has always been a really handsome colt with a big walk,” said Josh Pons, who co-owns Country Life with his brother Mike. “We took him to Saratoga, and he just had some minor vet issues; at Saratoga, they didn’t forgive him too much for that. But we were really happy that Arnaud Delacour bought him and he would be at Fair Hill.”
Country Life took another of Starr of Quality’s progeny to the Saratoga sale again this past August. This time her Gun Runner filly brought a top bid of $775,000.
While he’s a longshot, Fulmineo’s presence in the Breeders’ Cup certainly has his breeders excited. As they say, you’ve got to be in it to win it, after all, and two-year-olds do make sudden advances.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Pons, who with wife Ellen is this weekend celebrating their wedding anniversary and the recent birth of a grandchild. “All my partners are texting me that they’ve never been this excited. Win, lose, or draw, they’re just happy to be in it.”
Delacour, meanwhile, will saddle two in the Juvenile Turf. In addition to Fulmineo, he’ll also send out Laurel Futurity winner Air Recruit, who is owned by Fulmineo’s part-owner, Mark Grier.
Air Recruit, an Air Force Blue colt, won at first asking sprinting on the lawn at Colonial Downs before running a credible third behind ultra-speedy No Nay Mets in the 5 ½-furlong Rosie’s Stakes at that same track. No Nay Mets is the 4-1 co-second choice in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
“He’s got tactical speed, but he doesn’t have the speed of No Nay Mets,” Delacour acknowledged. “Therefore, we decided to stretch, and it’s always nice to have tactical speed, especially when you are stretching out to a mile.”
Sent off as the 5-2 second choice in the 1 1/16-mile Laurel Futurity over a turf course rated good, Air Recruit burst away from the field in the lane to win by over five lengths, kindling his connections’ Breeders’ Cup dreams.
Like Fulmineo, Air Recruit is 20-1 on the morning line. Luis Saez will ride, and they will break from the rail.
Delacour, originally from France, has started four horses in Breeders’ Cup races. Chalon finished second in the 2018 Filly and Mare Sprint, while A. P. Indian was third in the 2016 Sprint. He’s won numerous graded stakes in his career, including four Grade 1 events, and would relish the chance to add a Breeders’ Cup win to his resume.
“It would mean a lot because it’s a recognition on the international scene,” the trainer said. “That’s such a great event, really coming from all over the world, so it would definitely be a great achievement. But we know they have to win, so at the moment, we are just happy to be part of it.”