'He Could Be Anything' – Unbeaten Doncho Targeting Keeneland's Lafayette

Doncho | Hodges Photography


Unbeaten 'TDN Rising Star' Doncho (g, 3, Mo Town–Sassy Redhead, by Henny Hughes), an eye-catching winner in a pair of attempts going six furlongs at Fair Grounds this winter, is aiming to make his next start in the $400,000 Lafayette S. at Keeneland Apr. 5.

“We've got the Lafayette circled as his next spot opening day at Keeneland,” trainer Michelle Lovell said. “We'll see if he'll stretch out to seven furlongs. I think that he will.”

Gelded as a juvenile last September, Doncho lit up the tote board with a powerful, five-length tally in front-running fashion at 21-1 on debut Dec. 30. He earned his 'Rising Star' badge by 4 1/2 lengths–this time as the even-money favorite–with a press-and-pounce victory in an optional claimer Feb. 13. Both performances netted matching 94 Beyer Speed Figures.

“I think he could be anything,” Lovell said. “We've never really asked him for anything yet. Everything that he's done has been on his own.”

She continued, “He hasn't been a surprise because he's been a good horse, but it was a surprise that he went so fast, so easily, in his first race. To come back, I thought that he could win, but you never know, they're babies and they could make mistakes. But he's so professional. So far, everything has gone so well.”

As for the decision to geld Doncho as an unraced 2-year-old last year, Lovell added, “We just thought it was best for him physically and mentally at the time.”

Doncho brought $72,000 from Jose A. Lopez's JAL Racing following a :9 4/5 bullet breeze out of the GOP Racing Stable consignment at last year's OBS June sale. Bred in Kentucky by Susan Young, he was previously a $32,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by GGS Legal Racing. He RNA'd for $12,000 as a short yearling at Keeneland January.

The first 'Rising Star' for young Coolmore sire Mo Town, Doncho was produced by the unraced mare Sassy Redhead. This is the extended female family of GISWs Madcap Escapade (Hennessy), Mi Sueno (Pulpit) and Dubai Escapade (Awesome Again).

Members of the press haven't been the only ones ringing Lovell's phone to chat about Doncho.

“After his first race we got a ton of interest,” Lovell said. “Mr. Lopez thought about it. He definitely had some offers that would make you sit back and think for a bit. It took him a few days and he said, 'Nope, I'm keeping him.'”

Damon's Mound & Michelle Lovell following the 2022 Saratoga Special | Susie Raisher

She continued, “We're super excited about him. He's a young horse and is still developing and we're really proud of the way he behaves. He's a big bodied and very muscular horse and he's letting his front end catch up to his hind end the last couple of months. He's a lot of fun.”

Fellow Lovell-trained 'Rising Star' Damon's Mound (Girvin), meanwhile, is currently enjoying some “deserved downtime” at Apple Ridge Farm in Kentucky. The 2022 GII Saratoga Special S. winner and 2023 GII Gallant Bob S. winner was last seen finishing fourth in the GI Malibu S. at Santa Anita Dec. 26.

“We'll have him back at Churchill before too long,” Lovell said.


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