'Rising Star' Conquest Warrior Earns Possible Florida Derby Ticket In GP Allowance Romp

Conquest Warrior | Lauren King

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The defection of big-figure maiden winner Speak Easy (Constitution) to Saturday's GII Coolmore Fountain of Youth S. made the task at hand for 'TDN Rising Star' Conquest Warrior (c, 3, City of Light–Tea Time, by Pulpit) that much easier on paper, and the Courtlandt Farms colorbearer made light work of the six rivals that stuck around to likely punch his ticket to the GI Curlin Florida Derby in four weeks' time.

Away only fairly, the 3-5 chalk was handy enough to the early pace of 5-2 second pick Merit (Mastery)–rerouted from the Fountain of Youth–banking around the first turn and was settled nicely in fourth by Jose Ortiz through early sections of :23.79 and :47.62. Traveling a path or two away from the inside down the backstretch as the pacesetter opened just a touch of daylight, Conquest Warrior was ridden along just a bit 3 1/2 furlongs out, and when Raguel (Justify) failed to go on from a three-wide position, he had dead aim on the pacesetter. Claiming that one more or less on his own courage at the three-sixteenths, Conquest Warrior quickly opened up and was under a full-nelson for the final sixteenth of a mile, stopping the clock in a very respectable 1:50.52 for the nine furlongs on a fast strip.

“I thought there was a couple horses in there that might show a little speed. He wanted to be a little keen going into the first [turn] but then he settled perfect for [Ortiz]. I thought it was a perfect race for him,” winning trainer Shug McGaughey said. “He got to settle in behind horses, eat a little dirt, make his run the way you'd want him to and finished up on his own. When those horses came to him galloping out [Ortiz] said he wanted to go with them, so he let him do it. I'm pleased.”

A debut third to giant-figure El Capi (Maclean's Music) going seven furlongs in the Aqueduct mud Dec. 2, Conquest Warrior was pinched at the start of a local mile maiden Jan. 13 and was steadied a couple of more times in transit, but nevertheless managed to overcome all that to graduate by a half-length. The runner-up on that occasion, Centennial Farms' Antiquarian (Preservationist), backed up that effort with a maiden-breaking victory of his own on the Risen Star undercard at the Fair Grounds Feb. 22.

McGaughey was non-committal about the colt's next start n the immediate aftermath of the race.

“We'll see,. The timing's good [to the Florida Derby],” he said. “We can take him there, Kentucky or New York. He's got two wins over this track. We only have to travel and hour and a half [from Payson Park] [unlike] the other places. I'll watch [the Fountain of Youth]. I'm looking forward to it.”

Betz Thoroughbreds acquired the three-time stakes-winning Tea Time for $250,000 in foal to Union Rags at the 2019 Keeneland November Sale and that produce, a filly named Soul Play, was purchased by Don Adam's team at Keeneland September in 2021 before signing for her half-brother 12 months later. Tea Time's dam Asian Empress (Empire Maker) is a full-sister to GI Juddmonte Spinster S. winner Acoma and a half to five other winners, including the late Grade I-winning sire Arch, as well as the unraced dam of two-time Eclipse Award and dual Grade I winner Covfefe (Into Mischief) and Japanese MGSW/MG1SP Albiano (Harlan's Holiday). Tea Time is responsible for the 2-year-old colt Brodeur (Nyquist), a $110,000 FTKOCT yearling purchse by D J Stable, and is due to Justify this season.

7th-Gulfstream, $73,420, Alw (NW1X), Opt. Clm ($75,000), 3-1, 3yo, 1 1/8m, 1:50.52, ft, 5 lengths.
CONQUEST WARRIOR (c, 3, City of Light–Tea Time {MSW, $279,966}, by Pulpit) Sales history: Lifetime Record: 3-2-0-1, $96,000. Click for the Equibase.com chart or VIDEO, sponsored by FanDuel TV.
O-Courtlandt Farms (Donald Adam); B-Betz/B & K Canetti/J Betz/CoCo Equine/D J Stables (KY); T-Claude R McGaughey III.

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