By Bill Finley
Sometimes, you just have to go for it.
Having won all ten of her starts since being claimed for $12,500 by trainer John Martin and owners Troy and Maritza Onorato, Mended (Broken Vow) might just be able to keep winning forever if her connections kept aiming low. She remains eligible for starter allowance races, spots where her losing would be close to impossible. Instead, she will put her wining streak on the line in by far the toughest race she has ever competed in, Saturday’s GII La Canada S. at Santa Anita.
“Obviously, this race is a lot tougher than the ones she’s been running it, but I don’t know how good she is and I know she will try and I know she won’t embarrass herself,” said Martin, who is based at Golden Gate Fields. “I think she has a chance but she’s not going to be a huge favorite because it’s better horses this time.”
Martin admits that he and his owners are not always in agreement and that was the case when Troy Onorato asked him to claim Mended out of a Jan. 6, 2017 race at Golden Gate, a $12,500 conditioned claimer.
“The owner picked the horse out, which he does a lot looking for claims,” Martin said. “I thought the horse was just ok. She did not win the day we claimed her [she finished fourth] so I was a little concerned as to the value of the horse. Basically, when we claimed her I just thought we were getting a ‘twelve-five’ horse to put in the barn. I didn’t think it was a good claim.”
He could not have been more wrong. In her first start for Martin, Mended won another $12,500 claimer at Golden Gate and has not lost since. She worked her way up the class ladder, winning a couple of $20,000 claimers and, eventually a optional claimer-allowance at Del Mar. The same horse that had run a 59 Beyer figure in her last start for her previous connections was consistently running in the high eighties.
“I think what happened is that I took advantage of the synthetic surface here at Golden Gate, where you can really train a horse,” Martin explained. “We got her super fit and she has a lot of stamina. Maybe the jockey [Ricardo Gonzalez] also figured her out, the right tactics to use when riding here.”
Mended came east for the Dec. 2 Claiming Crown at Gulfstream and whipped 13 rivals to win the $110,000 Claiming Crown Glass Slipper by 6 3/4 lengths. That not only extended her winning streak to 10 but gave her 10 wins on the year. That tied her with a horse named Cantchaco (Ochoco) for most wins by any horse on the year, but Martin resisted temptation to give her one more start before the end of December and instead geared her up for the La Canada.
There was a $12,500 starter allowance run Jan. 5 at Golden Gate that Mended was eligible for and likely would have won by a couple of poles while extending her winning streak to 11. Martin hints that if it were up to him, that’s where Mended would have run, instead of the La Canada.
“The owner believes the horse is a really good horse, so I’m getting pressure to run the horse in better races now,” he said. “It’s nice to run in the easier sports, but eventually you have to upgrade and take a shot. We don’t know how good the horse is, truthfully. The win streak is definitely a concern to me but eventually you have to do the right thing and go for the better value.
“I’m with the horse every day so I won’t feel good if she gets beat. I try not to overmatch her. I’ve always been that way. There were some easier spots to run in but obviously the purses were a lot less. But, to me, personally, making close to $200,000 a year [Mended earned $186,620 in 2017] is not a bad year. Sometimes I have to deal with the client who thinks otherwise. I could sit there and pick off a lot more cheap ones if I desired to. The owner isn’t comfortable with that.”
On paper, particularly when taking Beyer numbers into account, Mended looks to be up against it in the La Canada. She ran an 87 and an 85 in her last two races. Likely favorites Majestic Heat (Unusual Heat) is coming off figures of 94 and 91 and the last two numbers for Mopotism (Uncle Mo) were a 94 and a 90.
But since Mended has won most of her recent races so easily there is the chance that she is capable of running faster if the need arises. There’s also the intangible, that she has a will to win that might be enough to overcome the obvious obstacles that come with facing class horses for the first time.
“It’s very important as a horse trainer to have a horse in a mental condition where they’re trying to go out there and win,” Martin said. “It’s a good feeling to know you have a horse that wants to win badly, regardless of the class level. I realize this won’t be easy, but it could happen. She could pull this off.”