Wednesday, March 23, 2022
By Alan Carasso
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES —
He’s A Little Bit Country…
Though less accomplished than Life Is Good, Country Grammer (Tonalist) gives WinStar–and partners Zedan Racing Stable and Commonwealth Thoroughbreds LLC–a live second chance in the World Cup.
A $60,000 Keeneland September purchase in 2018, Country Grammer was sold by Wavertree Sales to Bradley Thoroughbreds, agent for the late Paul Pompa, Jr., for $450,000 at OBS April in 2019. For trainer Chad Brown, Country Grammer won two of six starts, including the 2020 GIII Peter Pan S., but–following Pompa, Jr.’s untimely passing late that year–was purchased by WinStar for 25% of his 2-year-old sales price. Lane’s End handled the Pompa dispersal.
“We were prepared to go to $250,000 or so for him and I was very surprised we got him for $110,000,” Walden said. “We really liked his race record. We felt that he could be a good handicap horse and we bought him with the intention of sending him to Bob [Baffert] in California because that division out there seemed a little bit short on numbers and it’s worked out well.”
Bred by Scott and Debbie Pierce, Country Grammer has done nothing wrong in three runs to date for his new connections. Narrowly beaten in the 2021 GII Californian S. by Royal Ship (Brz) (Midshipman), he reversed form in the GI Hollywood Gold Cup last May before going missing. Set what seemed to be a lofty task returning to action in the G1 Saudi Cup Feb. 26–with Amr Zedan now part of the ownership–Country Grammer came to win the $20-million test late, only to be run down by Emblem Road (Quality Road).
“Bob did an outstanding job of getting him there off a 270-day layoff,” Walden said. “He had been training lights out in the days leading up to the [Saudi Cup] and I don’t think Bob would have put him on the plane if he didn’t think he was going to run well.
He continued, “At the eighth pole, I thought he was going to win it. [Emblem Road] was in the middle of the racetrack and I’m not sure he ever saw him until it was too late and then he tried to gallop out back in front. He really ran a tremendous race.”
Country Grammer, for whom Saturday’s trip is definitively not a question mark, has been much handier to the pace in the three starts since his acquisition and Walden sees him sitting a similar sort of trip this weekend.
“He’ll be close I think. With Bob he has shown a little bit more speed,” he said. “Leading up to the Saudi race, he had three gate works, really wanted him to be ready off the layoff. He doesn’t have the kind of speed that Life Is Good has, but he should be in the first flight somewhere.
“He looks good. He bounced out of Saudi well,” Walden continued. “He was maybe a little bit tired the first week, but he’s come back well, good energy. He’s had a couple of easy breezes over here and Bob has been happy.”
Country Grammer carries the Zedan colors this weekend.
In 2009, two years after finishing 11th to Discreet Cat (Forestry) in the G2 UAE Derby and having finished third to Curlin (Smart Strike) one year prior, Well Armed (Tiznow) gave WinStar its first World Cup, gliding home by some 14 lengths. Walden would be thrilled to see the farm’s name engraved on the trophy at least once more.
“It would mean a lot. It’s great race. A race that if you’re in the horse business, this is the kind you want to compete in and try to win. It would be a great honor to have one of these two horses win the World Cup,” said Walden.
“Or run 1-2, that’s what we’re hoping for.”