About this time last year Colonel Liam announced himself as one of America’s best turf horses with a determined $1 million win Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1). Things will be a little different this time, but again, the Todd PletcherLiam’s Map-trained son looks like the one to beat in the rich grass race.
After an impressive win in the Tropical Park Derby, Colonel Liam was ready for a big effort in the Pegasus Turf a year ago, delivering a strong late finish to finish the 1 3/16 mile race with a measured neck. to win.
There are no preparations for this season’s edition as the 5-year-old has been absent from the races since a disappointing eighth place finish in Manhattan (G1) at Belmont Park on June 5. The distance of this year’s Pegasus will also be different, as it was shortened to 1 1/8 miles from 1 3/16 miles last year for Saturday’s race.
The distance change shouldn’t be a problem for the gray horse who has won five of his seven career starts on the grass, including both attempts on the Gulfstream Park lawn, but the nearly eight months off could be a bigger concern.
According to Pletcher, the return in such a big race was no accident for Colonel Liam, saying he needed some time off after the only poor performance of his career.
“We kind of had in mind that our best approach for him to try and defend his Turf title is to train for it. He had some spare time and he’s a horse that we think will run well fresh,” said the Hall of Fame trainer. “He’s put enough into his training so hopefully we can have him ready to put in a good race after the break.”
The last time Colonel Liam had a break supported his stance to run good fresh was when he came back after 4 1/2 months away to win the Tropical Park Derby by 3 1/4 lengths. That victory, the day after Christmas in 2020, propelled Robert and Lawana Low’s horse to an impressive streak of victories.
After his two wins at Gulfstream Park, Colonel Liam went to New Orleans and was clearly the best in the Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) over future Grade 1 winner Two Emmys. He then drove another big race in the Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs.
He did the dirty work of wearing off an extreme play and stylish Smooth Like Strait, he had just enough to hold on for a dead-heat win against Domestic Spending’s powerful closing kick. It was the culmination of four strong performances in a row, and none of them were bigger than his Pegasus Turf win last year.
The big horse overcame traffic problems, swung out and put it into high gear. He looked like an evolving turf – and it was, until his 2021 season ended abruptly.
a son of Liam’s cardHe seems to have inherited many of his father’s traits, and his grandfather’s for that matter. You will recall that Colonel Liam’s father was an extremely talented son of Unbridled’s Song, who was himself a unique talent.
At its best, Liam’s Map was almost unstoppable. Evidence of this was underlined with a dominant, track record win in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland. Unfortunately, like his father, he was full of talent, but not the most solid athlete. Also trained by Pletcher, that standout win in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile was his last race of a career that saw just eight career starts.
Colonel Liam has already done one better. Saturday Pegasus Turf will be his 10th career start. Perhaps the friendlier surface of the turf will keep it going longer, but after more than eight months away, it’s reasonable to wonder how many more starts we’ll see from the talented turf horse.
Clearly the best in last year’s Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, it was a long wait to see what Colonel Liam could do once he was back on the track. The wait is over and I expect great things. Now a grown 5 year old, he could be even better this year.
As the horse to beat in this season’s million-dollar race, it’s not about how good Colonel Liam is, but how many more races we’ll see the talented son of Liam’s Map run.