Another Great Navigator, Another Star?


Great Navigator | Equi-Photo


The minute owner Vincent Annarella of Holly Crest Farm named a New Jersey-bred he owned and bred Great Navigator (Sea Wizard), the colt had a lot to live up to. The name was borrowed from the first Great Navigator (Gulch), who was trained by a longtime Monmouth Park stalwart, the late John Mazza, and won the 1992 GI Hopeful S. at Saratoga. Could this one be as good? It's not out of the question.

Running in an open-company maiden special weight race on the June 4 card at Monmouth, Great Navigator won by 5 3/4 lengths, covering the 4 1/2 furlongs in 52.34 seconds.

“I don't know how good he is,” winning trainer Eddie Owens, Jr. said. “I know he's a nice horse. How far will he go? I don't know. He's going to grow and is only going to get bigger. After he passed those horses, the jockey pretty much eased up on him. He might be a lot better than I think he is.”

The first Great Navigator was owned by Ron and Rosemary Shockley. He was bred in Kentucky and was bought for $70,000 at a Fasig-Tipton 2-year-old sale. After breaking his maiden at Monmouth by eight lengths, he finished second in the Tyro S. and third in the GII Sapling S. before registering the upset in the Hopeful at 24-1. He would go on to win three more stakes and finish second in the GII Fountain of Youth. He had to be euthanized after breaking down in the 1993 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup at Atlantic City. He was later buried in the Monmouth Park infield.

Mazza passed away in May of 2020 at the age of 82. In what was one of the final chapters to his training career, he trained New Jersey-bred Horse of the Year Horologist (Gemologist) through the first part of her career and won the GIII Monmouth Oaks with her in 2019. He also trained Sea Wizard (Uncle Mo) during his brief career.

Though Annarella did not own the first Great Navigator, he was closely connected to Mazza throughout his long training career, as Mazza served as the private trainer for Holly Crest for about 50 years. To name a horse in honor of the best horse Mazza ever trained was a fitting way to remember a person who was beloved on the Monmouth backstretch. When Mazza passed away, Owens, his former assistant, took over as Holly Crest's trainer.

“John was a good friend of mine” said Owens, a Long Branch, NJ, resident. “I was the assistant to Joe Orseno for 17, 18 years. We were in the barn next to John's and then in the same barn. He was the nicest guy. We talked almost every day and he always asked me to come to work for him. When Joe didn't send any horses to New Jersey in 2019, I took John up on his offer.”

Owens said he would have preferred to run Great Navigator first time out in a Jersey-bred race, but there weren't any scheduled for 2-year-old maidens until the last week of June. Knowing his horse was ready to run, he opted for the open- company maiden.

With Jairo Rendon aboard, Great Navigator, sent off at 17-1, settled into third early. He started rolling coming out of the far turn and rushed past the pacesetters in mid-stretch to win easily.

“I wouldn't have ran him in that race if I didn't think he could compete against those horses.” Owens said. “I thought he would run well and I wasn't surprised that he did run well. I was surprised that he finished so strong. I was wondering if I had him tight enough. I guess I did.”

It was a big day not only for Great Navigator, but also for his sire. Sea Wizard was picked out by Mazza at the 2015 OBS March 2-Year-Old Sale, where he sold for $190,000. For Mazza and owner Mac Nichol, he finished second in his debut in an Oct. 11, 2015 race at Belmont before winning a March 27, 2016 maiden at Gulfstream by three lengths. Mazza had big plans for the colt but he was injured and never ran again after the maiden win. He never got a chance to show what he could do on the racetrack.

Sea Wizard stands at stud at Sam Fieramosca's Colonial Farms in Colts Neck, New Jersey, for a stud fee of $1,500. On the same day that Great Navigator won so impressively, Owens and Holly Crest sent out another first-time starter by the sire, the 2-year-old Jersey-bred filly Carats Forever (Sea Wizard). Also facing open company, she flashed some early speed before finishing third, 3 1/4 lengths behind the winner.

“I knew she would run well,” Owens said. “What surprised me with her was that she was on the front end battling. I was hoping she would relax a little more.”

Great Navigator and Carats Forever were the first two horses by Sea Wizard to make a start. It's early, but Sea Wizard showed a lot of promise during his brief career and his first two foals ran beyond expectations in their debuts. He is an interesting sire.

Owens isn't sure what is next for Great Navigator and said he will look for a stakes race for him. With few options available in the early summer months for 2-year-olds that have broken their maidens, Great Navigator's next race could come in the July 16 GIII Sanford S. at Saratoga. The Sanford, of course, is a prep for the Hopeful, run this year on Sept. 5, 30 years and six days after the original Great Navigator won the race.

“How good is this horse?” Owens said. “We're going to find out.”


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