Texas Air upset a field of favorites in the $200,000 Texas Mile on Friday at Lone Star Park, turning a fit of ill humor and annoyance into apparent motivation, according to the one who knows him best.
“He loves peppermints,” trainer Allen Milligan said. “If he doesn’t get one he gets real mad … pins his ears and goes to the stall and pouts.
“He’s pouted all day because he didn’t get one. He’s about to get a bunch.”
Suffice to say, the 24-1 steed had his fill after rallying under strong urging by jockey Quincy Hamilton in the final two furlongs in a fast-paced race to edge Hip Four Sixtynine at the finish and earn owner Paul J. Rigali Jr. of Eustace $110,000.
Texas Air ran the one-mile race for 3-year olds and up in 1:37.31.
“It was going fast just like we had hoped for,” said jockey Quincy Hamilton, who had Texas Air five or six back at the halfway point.
When Hamilton made the final turn and got Texas Air clear, “he knew exactly what to do. He’s a real race horse.”
The winner paid handsomely, $51.40, $16.80 and $7.80. Hip Four Sixtynine paid $7.80 and $5 while Rise Up paid $4.20 for show. The $2 exacta earned bettors a whopping $351.20 while the 9-6-5 trifecta returned $1,173.40.
Odds-on favorite, Sr. Quisqueyano, whose owner, Dallas resident Ron Paolucci of Loooch Racing Stables, shares an interest in Kentucky Derby entrant War Story, finished as an also-ran, in sixth, as did another betting favorite, One King’s Man, who was fifth.
The 19th edition of the Grade 3 stakes race was originally set to run on April 24 but was postponed when storms washed out almost all of the race card. All but one of the original 11 horses were re-entered, the exception being Evan’s Calling.
The race was re-drawn Sunday for new post positions. Texas Air moved from the fifth post to an unenviable spot on the outside at nine.
“A little disappointed we didn’t get to race last week, but it didn’t look like the week off bothered him any,” Milligan said of the 7-year-old. “He’s just getting better and better.
“The older he gets the more mature he gets. He came in super. You couldn’t ask for him to come in any better.”
In an earlier race Friday, Another Kite Flyer, trained by Bret Calhoun and ridden by Cliff Berry, was upset as the heavy favorite in a 4-1/2 furlong maiden race for 2-year-old fillies.
Another Kite Flyer was taking the same first step of her half-sister, Promise Me Silver, another Calhoun-trained filly who stayed undefeated by striding across the finish line first at the Eight Belles at Churchill Downs on Friday. Unlike Like Another Kite Flyer, Promise Me Silver won her debut at Lone Star as a 2-year-old in her debut a year ago by six and three-quarters lengths.
“Quincy did perfect,” Milligan said. “He got him over before the [last] turn. We had plenty of horse when he turned for home.”