They were stabled across the street from each other in New Jersey. They began their racing careers in the same race in Delaware. They each won graded stakes in New York.
Saturday, by running in Grade 1 stakes in different states, Call Paul and Mind Control hope to punch their tickets for a reunion of sorts in Kentucky in next month’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.
Call Paul, unbeaten in two starts, drew post 5 in a field of 10 horses entered Wednesday for Saturday’s $500,000 Champagne Stakes at Belmont. Mind Control, a winner of 2 of 3 starts, drew post 13 in a field of 14 entered Wednesday for Saturday’s $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. Both are Win and You’re In races for the Juvenile.
Call Paul, trained by Jason Servis, and Mind Control, trained by Greg Sacco, were stabled across the road from each other at Monmouth beginning in May. When a maiden race failed to fill at Monmouth in early summer, both colts wound up in the same 5 1/2-furlong maiden race July 5 at Delaware Park.
Servis said he chose the race in part because Call Paul was Delaware-certified – meaning he spent at least 90 days on a Delaware farm as a weanling or yearling – and thus was eligible to run for 25 percent more money. Servis also thought it would be an easy race.
“Whatever it was, it was no pressure,” Servis said. “I liked the fact we got to [ship] him somewhere. I thought it was a softer spot, and if you break your maiden, you can then wind up in a stakes.”
Sacco said he chose to run Mind Control at Delaware because a race at Monmouth had failed to fill and he, too, thought it would be a good starting point for a horse Sacco said “wasn’t cranked to the moon.”
Sacco remembers being in the paddock when his 17-year-old son Will saw the early odds.
“He said ‘Dad, I think we’re in trouble, Jason’s horse is 1-5,’ ”Greg Sacco said.
Mind Control broke on top and was soon tackled by Call Paul. The two were heads apart through a half-mile in 46.30 seconds with Call Paul, on the outside, drawing clear inside the final sixteenth to win by 2 1/4 lengths.
“We were disappointed we got beat; we realized we got beat by a nice colt,” Sacco said.
On Aug. 12, Mind Control and Call Paul were again in the entries. Mind Control cruised to a three-length maiden victory at Monmouth Park. About 3 1/2 hours later, Call Paul scored a one-length victory in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special.
Servis “said he watched us win, and we were tuned into him,” Sacco said. “We were happy to see him win the race. His horse ran a dynamite race. That put the wheels in motion for us thinking about the Hopeful.”
Sacco was even more bullish on the Hopeful, a Grade 1 seven-furlong race at Saratoga, when he talked to Servis, who said he wasn’t going to run Call Paul there.
In the Hopeful, Mind Control dueled inside of Nitrous, fended that one off as well as even-money favorite Mucho, and won by three-quarters of a length.
Sacco said he was torn where to run Mind Control next, eventually settling on the Breeders’ Futurity, hoping to get the colt some two-turn experience in the 1 1/16-mile race.
“If he runs well and comes out of it good, it makes sense to go to the Juvenile with a head of steam and confidence,” Sacco said.
Last year, Servis won the Champagne with Firenze Fire, beating Good Magic, who would come back and win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Firenze Fire, who had gotten sick after arriving in California, finished eighth in the Juvenile run at Del Mar.
Servis said having eight weeks between the Saratoga Special and the Champagne isn’t ideal, but squeezing another race in between “might have done more harm” than good.
◗ Game Winner and Gunmetal Gray, the 1-2 finishers from last Saturday’s Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita, are both headed to the Juvenile, their connections said out of the race.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
Visit DRF.com for additional news, notes, wagering information, and more.