Photo: Chelsea Durand/NYRA
With no intention of aiming for races such as the Pegasus or Dubai world cups, Juddmonte Farms prescribed Hofburg 90 days off over the winter, hoping to have a rested older horse at the right time in 2019.
“We didn’t see any reason to rush him,” said Garrett O’Rourke, general manager at Juddmonte, who this week named New York’s Grade 1 staples — the Whitney, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup — as upcoming goals for the 4-year-old Tapit colt.
“Hopefully that culminates with the Breeders’ Cup,” O’Rourke added. “I think bringing him back fresh in the summer and peaking in the fall would be best suited for the opportunities before him.”
Hofburg ran his best races as a 3-year-old earlier in the season, the nature of abiding by the calendar, as he broke his maiden March 3, went straight into the Florida Derby (G1), then ran in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. The Bill Mott trainee scored his second career victory in Saratoga’s Curlin Stakes, meant to be a local prep for the Travers (G1), but missed that race due to a fever.
Hofburg finished his sophomore season fourth in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1) before running seventh against older horses in Keeneland’s Fayette Stakes (G2).
“He obviously was pushed along faster than maybe we wanted to, and we went all the way with him through the Belmont — ran well,” O’Rourke said. “If he hadn’t picked that schedule — if we’d been following the lead of the horse — yeah, we probably would have been on a different schedule and maybe might have gotten a little bit more out of the year.
“The good thing is, we’ve got a sound horse, and this year we’re following the schedule of the horse.”
A nuclear scan after Hofburg missed the board in the Fayette revealed no major ailments, as O’Rourke said “he was just off in a few places.” Since then, the colt has resumed “full exercise” at Juddmonte’s Lexington, Ky., facilities, which include Polytrack and grass courses.
When Mott relocates the bulk of his runners to New York for the spring, he’s expected to take Hofburg with him to begin a series of works leading to the races.
“He’s been going for a while now, and he looks absolutely magnificent,” O’Rourke said. “He feels his cheeky self — at his very, very best. It’s about time for Bill to take him back now so Bill’s grooms can get bruises on their arms and elbows. He likes to take a little bit of a nip, but all in a good sense.
“He’s a very good-feeling horse and high-energy horse. He definitely has done very well based on his looks. We have very high hopes for a big year with him.”