January 22, 2020
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL –It took the colt five starts before he won his first race, he missed the Triple Crown series due to a breathing problem, and he performed brilliantly in his comeback after a full recovery.
This would describe Omaha Beach.
It would also describe the horse who just might have the best chance of knocking off the likely favorite Saturday in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup presented by RunHappy at Gulfstream Park. His name is Spun to Run, and though he might not be as familiar to racing fans as his more heralded rival in the Pegasus, he has one accomplishment on his record that could give bettors pause.
He defeated Omaha Beach in their only meeting, the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (Gr. I) in November.
“Omaha Beach is getting all the hype,” said Spun to Run’s trainer, Juan Carlos Guerrero. “But I’m okay with that. I don’t see why we can’t beat him again.”
For Guerrero, a 49-year-old trainer who was born in Mexico and started out on the race track as a hot walker before working his way up, Spun to Run has been the horse of a lifetime.
“This horse gave me my first Grade III win and my first Grade I,” Guerrero said. Purchased for $64,000 by Robert Donaldson out of a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale for 2-year-olds in training, Spun to Run has far surpassed his modest price to amass more than $1.1 million in earnings.
But success did not come quickly and easily for the horse, any more than it did for his trainer, who was born in Mexico City, arrived in the U.S. at age 14, and lied about his age in order to work on the track in New Jersey. Guerrero began as a hot walker, then became a groom, and later spent some time on a Pennsylvania horse farm to learn more about Thoroughbreds.
“When I was 19, I started training on my own,” he said. “It was a good struggle for 10 years. I struggled for years just having cheap horses.”
Guerrero was a one-man operation.
“I used to rub 10 horses myself, galloped 10 horses myself — I did everything by myself,” Guerrero said. “By the time I was done at the end of the day, I was so beat up.”
The hard work eventually paid off. Operating out of Parx Racing in Pennsylvania, Guerrero’s career took off in 2010 when his barn totaled $2.5 million in earnings. But until now, he has never had a horse like Spun to Run.
“This is my best horse for sure,” Guerrero said.
Spun to Run lost his first four races, two at Parx and the others at Aqueduct. Guerrero said part of the reason for the slow start was the colt’s immaturity. Spun to Run’s eyes wandered in his races, resulting in the decision to add blinkers.
“One day he was galloping by me and he was actually looking at me,” Guerrero recalled. “I thought ‘What the heck?’ He’s actually looking at me and the pony. It was time to put blinkers on. The next day he galloped and my exercise rider was, like, wow. He was a rock. He was pulling and pulling. He wasn’t paying attention to nothing. He was 100 percent training into the bit.”
Guerrero began to map out a schedule for the colt that included a prep in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park before taking a stab at the Preakness (Gr. I). But those plans fell by the wayside after it was discovered Spun to Run had an entrapped epiglottis that required surgery.
Just as the procedure derailed Spun to Run’s 3-year-old campaign, it did the same to Omaha Beach.
Both horses recovered, though, and returned better than ever.
Spun to Run ran third to Maximum Security in his first race back, the Haskell Invitational (Gr. I) before winning the Smarty Jones Stakes (Gr. III) at his home track. On Nov. 2 at Santa Anita, Spun to Run prevailed by 2 3/4 lengths over Omaha Beach in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
“He opened up 10 lengths in front of him galloping out,” Guerrero said.
Next up for Spun to Run was Aqueduct’s Cigar Mile (Gr. I), in which he finished second to Maximum Security. Now comes the Pegasus going 1 1/8 miles and another showdown with Omaha Beach.
Win or lose, Guerrero said he proud of the horse that put him on the national map.
“This horse has done everything for me,” Guerrero said.