By T. D. Thornton
Six Ninety One (Congrats) assertively stalked outside then pounced on the pacemaker entering the far turn to win his ninth race of the year Tuesday at Arizona Downs.
The victory augmented the 9-year-old gelding's lead as the winningest horse in North America for 2021. No other Thoroughbred on the continent has won more than six so far this year.
The most noteworthy aspect of Six Ninety One's achievement is that he has racked up those nine wins in just the first six months of the season from 12 starts.
In all of 2020, four horses tied with eight victories apiece to lead the continent–but it took 12 full months of racing to win that many.
In 2019, seven horses shared the year-end honor with nine wins.
Over the last decade, the number of most annual victories has ranged between eight and 12.
Six Ninety One's June 22 score came in a 4 1/2-furlong $4,000 optional-claimer with starter-allowance conditions that protected horses from being claimed if they had started for a $2,500 tag price since 2019 (the gelding met that condition).
Under jockey Karlo Lopez, Six Ninety One broke running, but was parked three wide into the bend, which can be a disadvantage in short sprints that start on the backstretch so close to the far turn.
He took over three furlongs out, cornered several paths wide into the lane, then kicked on with gusto in the straightaway as Lopez looked over his right shoulder for competition, which was 2 1/2 lengths behind by the time the 1-5 favorite hit the wire in :51.82.
Trainer Alfredo Asprino owns the gelding in partnership with Jesus Vielma. They've had Six Ninety One for his last four wins since claiming him for $5,000 Apr. 20.
Six Ninety One was bred in Kentucky by Edwin and Melissa Anthony. He sold for $75,000 at KEESEP in 2013, then hammered for $59,000 at OBSOPN eight months later.
The gelding has now won 14 races from 39 lifetime starts while racing in Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. A speed specialist in abbreviated sprints, two of Six Ninety One's victories in 2019 came against Quarter Horses in 870-yard dashes.