News & Barn notes

Did Asmussen-Trained Pneumatic Punch His Kentucky Derby Ticket With Impressive Victory In Pegasus Stakes?

August 15, 2020

Scott Blasi, the assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, said earlier this week that he and his boss would have to see the right signs from Pneumatic in Saturday’s Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park before making a decision about going forward with the lightly-raced colt.

If the horse’s impressive performance wasn’t enough, with Pneumatic rolling to a 2¼-length victory over Jesus’ Team in the $150,000 Pegasus Stakes, there was the ringing endorsement from jockey Joe Bravo that followed the race.

Sitting at No. 22 on the Kentucky Derby points list entering the Pegasus (though several horses ahead of him have already withdrawn from consideration) Pneumatic picked up 20 additional points with his Pegasus victory. The top 20 point-earners are eligible for the Kentucky Derby Starting gate.

Now it’s just a matter of making a decision: Is the son of Uncle Mo-Teardrop by Tapit Kentucky Derby-bound in three weeks?

“I don’t know what their plans are going forward with this horse but I’d like to say he did this very effortlessly and well within himself,” Bravo said.

Able to sit close to the pace-setting Arkaan through fractions of :24.17 to the opening quarter, :48.28 to the half and 1:12.80 to six quarters of the mile and a sixteenth race, Bravo nudged Pneumatic entering the final turn. Fourth in the Belmont Stakes in his last start, Pneumatic erupted with a surge to get to the front and then easily held off a rallying Jesus’ Team. It was another 2¾ lengths back in third to a tiring Arkaan.

Time for the mile and a sixteenth was 1:44.76. Pneumatic, winning for the third time in five career starts, all this year, returned $3.60 as the favorite in the field of eight.

“I talked to Steve and his assistant Scott Blasi this morning and they were really excited about the horse,” Bravo said. “But you never really know until you sit on them. He was just in full control the whole time. A very relaxed animal — he was going very smoothly.

“I give credit to the other two horses for hanging with him for second and third because we kicked so solidly turning for home and I looked and I said `okay, they’ve stayed with us for a little bit.’ ”

Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC, Pneumatic was able to take advantage of a shift in the racing calendar caused by COVID-19 that saw the Pegasus moved to be the final opportunity to earn points for the Kentucky Derby. The Pegasus traditionally serves as a prep for the Haskell Stakes.