This season we’ve profiled a promising 3-year-old each week who made an impression on the Road to the 2022 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. The goal of the Kentucky Derby Hopeful Snapshots blog is to introduce racing fans to horse racing’s next generation.
Who are the sport’s rising stars and what makes them special?
This year, fans are in for a real treat and America’s Best Racing is partnering with Terry Finley and West Point Thoroughbreds for a fun “A Stake in Stardom” initiative in which a newcomer to the sport experiences first-hand the roller-coaster ride of racehorse ownership.
For the 2022 season, brand ambassador Joey Mulinaro will join forces with West Point as a minority stake holder in Vinco, an eye-catching colt Finley purchased for $1.5 million at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale in Timonium, Md. In May 2021.
“He’s an easy horse to really love. I remember the first day they pulled him out at Timonium, saying, ‘if there is any way we can get this horse in our stable, we’ve got to do it.’ We loved him,” said Finley, who owns the colt in partnership with Gervais Racing and credits trainer Dallas Stewart with his steady development. “Dallas has really crafted this horse and turned him into a man under his tutelage.”
Mulinaro is an impressionist and digital content creator best known for his hilarious impressions of cultural icons like Nick Saban, Jimmy Fallon, and Colin Cowherd – read more about him here – but this profile is focused on Vinco, who has become quite popular in Stewart’s barn.
“Once a week Dallas puts Facetime on and Vinco is always the first stop. He loves mints and knows the crackle of the wrapper,” Finley said. “He’s a barn favorite, and it’s cool to see how the team in the barn with Dallas comes together and they get as excited as anyone about these horses. He fits really well with Dallas and his team.”
Racing Résumé: The Quality Road colt debuted Jan. 22 in a three-quarter-mile maiden special weight race on the main track at Fair Grounds. He broke from the inside post in a field of nine and got off to a reasonably good start under Brian Hernandez Jr., but in the first eighth of a mile he was steadied while in tight quarters along the rail and dropped back to last in the field.
In a racehorse’s debut, trouble that significant usually turns a race into a bit of afternoon exercise and a learning experience. It’s hard for a seasoned racehorse to lose 8 to 10 lengths and recover – much less a debut runner in a sprint – but Vinco showed resilience and tenacity in the face of adversity.
Still more than eight lengths off the pace with a quarter-mile to run and last of nine, Vinco accelerated willingly and weaved his way through traffic into contention the final furlong. He used one final surge to pass two runners in the final strides for a determined and eye-catching second-place finish.
“We went into his debut with a lot of optimism; Dallas was bullish about him,” Finley said. “Then, after a half-mile, you just hope he can beat a couple of horses and he comes home second and showed us something That was a really good turn of foot.”
Speed Figures: I’m not sure how much value the speed figures from Vinco’s debut provide given the circumstances. He earned a 74 Equibase Speed Figure, a 74 Brisnet speed rating, and a 59 Beyer Speed Figure. With a cleaner trip, I believe we’ll get a much better feel for Vinco’s true talent level in his next start Feb. 19 at Fair Grounds in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight race.
Running Style: It’s tough to make any judgments about his preferred running style given the circumstances of his debut race, but Vinco flashed enough speed out of the starting gate that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him stalk the pace in his next start on Saturday in Race 6 at Fair Grounds. In a two-turn race without a ton of early speed, I would expect Vinco to be much closer to the pace provided things go well in the early stages.
Connections: Vinco is owned by the partnership of West Point Thoroughbreds and Gervais Racing, which is run by Stewart’s friend Lori Gervais. Both West Point and Gervais Racing are part of the ownership group that campaigns 2021 Darley Alcibiades Stakes third-place finisher Sequist.
West Point Thoroughbreds has amassed 974 wins through Feb. 16 with more than $60 million in purse earnings and 133 stakes victories. West Point owned in partnership 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and also has raced alone or in partnership Grade 1 winners Awesome Gem, Decorated Invader, Dream Rush, Flashy Bull, Flightline, Hard Not to Love, Irish Smoke, Lear’s Princess, Macho Again, Ring Weekend, and Twilight Eclipse.
Trainer Dallas Stewart has won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff twice with Unbridled Elaine (2001) and Forever Unbridled (2017) and the 2006 Kentucky Oaks with Lemons Forever among more than 900 career victories. Stewart also has finished second twice in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, including a runner-up finish with West Point’s Commanding Curve in the 2014 Derby and with West Point’s Macho Again in the 2008 Preakness.
Brian Hernandez Jr. will ride Vinco again in his second start on Saturday; he has won 2,300 races through Feb. 16, including the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic on Fort Larned.
Pedigree Notes: Vinco is from the eighth crop of 2009 Florida Derby winner and leading sire Quality Road, whose top runners to date include champions Abel Tasman, Corniche, and Caledonia Road as well as 2019 Pegasus World Cup winner City of Light and standout fillies Bellafina and Dunbar Road.
Produced by the unraced Storm Cat mare Stormy Welcome, Vinco hails from a powerful family anchored by his third dam (maternal great-grandmother), 1992 Broodmare of the Year Weekend Surprise, by Secretariat. Weekend Surprise is the dam (mother) of 1992 Horse of the Year and breed-shaping sire A.P. Indy and 1990 Preakness winner Summer Squall.
Potential: Vinco is Latin for “conquer,” and while he has yet to win a race there is much to like about this exciting prospect. Vinco is a beautiful horse physically with a terrific pedigree, and he showed the ability to overcome adversity in his career debut.
“He does check all of the boxes,” Finley said. “We’re all trying to get good 3-year-olds that show up in the spring and we’re hoping he’s that kind of horse.”
Finley said Vinco has a good mind and a nice presence about him and mentioned that Stewart has been high on him from the start.
“When he gets totally fit I think he will be a bear, but right now we’re just taking it one step at a time,” Stewart said. “He is a really neat horse to train. He is not a run-off or one you have to worry about overdoing it, he just does what he needs to be done.”