By Steve Sherack
With the team at Juddmonte still “floating on air” after a pair of wins on Breeders' Cup Saturday, the blue-blooded Mullion (c, 3, Into Mischief–Brooch, by Empire Maker) added to a banner weekend for the international operation with a 'TDN Rising Star' performance at Churchill Downs Nov. 5.
Sidelined for more than 14 months following a strong debut second–beaten just a nose–going six furlongs at Ellis Park in late August of his 2-year-old season, the full-brother to promoted GI Kentucky Derby winner and Juddmonte stallion Mandaloun proved well worth the wait with a jaw-dropping, 10-length maiden victory for trainer Brad Cox at second asking beneath the Twin Spires.
With nine breezes on the worktab for his comebacker, Mullion was favored at 3-5 while facing six rivals with first-time Lasix going a one-turn mile. He was bumped slightly from both sides at the start after exiting from post three. Unfazed by the minimal contact, he was keen in the early stages while hard held in second. Mullion tugged his way to the front as the half went up in :46.09 and traveled beautifully leaving the quarter pole. He put on a show from there down the stretch beneath a motionless Florent Geroux and stopped the timer in 1:34.69. He earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.
“As much time, patience and effort as we put into Mullion, we were expecting a big performance, but to do what he did was beyond our expectations off that kind of a layoff,” Juddmonte USA General Manager Garrett O'Rourke said. “It shows the talent that the horse has and hopefully he keeps it together now and can be a big player next year. He ran a 4 on the Ragozin Sheets, which is just off the charts.”
O'Rourke continued, “He injured himself after his first start–he had a soft-tissue injury, then he had a few other little issues– and we gave him all the time he needed. It was always something just holding him back after that–upper respiratory infection, sore shin, foot abscess, etc. I always felt like the talent was there and all the extra time was only going to be to his benefit. We knew how nice he was. He's a gorgeous-looking horse with the pedigree to match and Brad (Cox) had a very high opinion of him, even as a 2-year-old.”
Mullion got back to business since earning his diploma with a four-furlong breeze in :48.80 (8/40) at Churchill Downs Nov. 26. He will winter at Fair Grounds, O'Rourke reports.
“All of the targets for him will be next year,” O'Rourke said. “I just felt like we didn't need to be in a rush with him. Brad (Cox) agreed and he'll try and go through his conditions down at Fair Grounds, then we'll look about jumping him up in mid-to-late spring. He definitely looks like he could hopefully be a (Grade I) Carter-Met Mile type of horse.”
Mullion was produced by the Empire Maker mare Brooch, a Juddmonte homebred and two-time group winner in Ireland. In addition to Mullion's aforementioned full-brother and fellow 'Rising Star' Mandaloun, the Into Mischief x Empire Maker cross is also responsible for Laurel River, who carried Juddmonte's famed green-and-pink silks to a win in the 2022 GII Pat O'Brien S. at Del Mar; and GSW & MGISP Occult.