Long before he ever made his career debut at Saratoga Casino and Raceway on June 28, David Menary had some high hopes for He’s Watching.
A June 13 foal, the colt sold for $3,000 at the 2012 Standardbred Horse Sale, and was the last baby his conditioner and co-owner had in the barn to be broken. But when He’s Watching finally got hooked to the cart he could already pace in 2:28 free-legged, which was well ahead of some of his more mature colleagues.
The son of American Ideal and the Real Desire mare Baberhood, He's Watching is also owned by Brad Gray and Michael Guerriero. He was always in the first set and had impressed Menary by the time he could go in 2:14, as well as the week before he qualified on June 1 at Mohawk Racetrack.
Naturally, the trainer was excited about his colt’s first start in the New York Sire Stakes on that late June evening, but that quickly changed to abject horror, when He’s Watching, who had never made a break while training down, spotted the field 20 lengths by going off stride shortly after he left the gate.
“My heart dropped,” Menary said. “I knew we might have to teach him how to race and there’s always next week, but then when he was on the backstretch I said, ‘he’s still going to win if he doesn’t run again.’“
And win he did, crossing the wire in a time of 1:55, with a final quarter in :27.4.
It’s already been a quite a season for this youngster with tying a track record, setting a track record, and establishing a world record while remaining a perfect seven for seven, but Menary hopes He’s Watching delivers in what the horse’s goal has been all year and that is to triumph in the $225,000 New York Sire Stakes final for his age, gait and gender on Saturday (Sept. 28) at Yonkers Raceway. He will leave from post position one with his regular pilot, Jim Morrill, Jr., holding the lines.
“When the sheet came out I had to give a little woohoo,” Menary said. “The gods are smiling on us. I have another nice colt in there, Major Trick, and he drew right beside him in the two. Hopefully they get the job done and we have no bad luck. They have no excuses with the draw.”
But let’s look back on what He’s Watching has accomplished so far this year as frankly, it is beyond impressive and is more akin to spectacular.
After his performance at Saratoga, the colt moved on to another $37,862 New York Sire Stake contest at Buffalo Raceway on July 10. Once again, He’s Watching broke stride leaving the seven hole and was in last, but after a hair raising first over brush had the lead at the half in :59. He went on to win in 1:55.4, lowering the track standard of 1:56.2 set by Heston Blue Chip.
The colt qualified at Mohawk on July 31 and made his next appearance at Tioga Downs on Aug. 9 in a $27,090 New York Sire Stakes race. Thankfully, he managed to maintain his gait and the result was a world record of 1:50 by a little more than six lengths. The previous record was 1:50.3 and was held by Rock N Roll Heaven.
“Jim Morrill said live in his interview that night at Tioga that he probably could have gone in (1):49,” Menary said. “He also told me in conversation he would have went better than 1:49 if he had asked him for speed, but you don’t get paid for going fast. Everything he has done he has done it all himself and we have brought home a good horse every week. He even had a foot problem prior to Tioga and raced right through that. I think his speed is unreal and I don’t think we have really topped the max yet.”
In his next four starts, all in New York Sire Stakes company, He’s Watching has stayed pacing for the entire mile and collected four more wins. His bankroll now stands just shy of $180,000 and in his last start, a $78,629 New York Sire Stakes contest on Sept. 16 at Yonkers Raceway, he hung on by just a nose after drifting out a bit down the stretch.
His conditioner does not see the issue as something problematic.
“He had too much speed for his knowledge,” Menary said. “He was like a 16-year-old kid driving a corvette that wanted to go from second gear to fifth. He’s matured and is probably the best conditioned 2-year-old in my barn. He is all muscle with just a touch of fat.
“We sure haven’t taken anything out of him and I haven’t even seen him blow. He has impressed me in stages and even though he was small as a baby, he was a flawless individual and I scored him high.
“He has brought home a percentage of his purse every time and we were looking for a few good New York bred colts as we are just a stone’s throw away from Buffalo, Batavia and Tioga. We have made the best of a good opportunity.”
After He’s Watching completes his mile on Saturday evening, Menary isn’t exactly sure what his future plans consist of, but is leaning towards turning him out and focusing on next year.
“He’s done from 20 lengths back, from the front, from first over and he has re-moved,” he said. “He’s done everything we have asked him to and that hasn’t been very much. Hopefully we can end the year on a high note with this race because we are pretty excited about next year.
“He was lightly staked because he was a late foal and $3,000 (yearling purchase) and the Matron is too late, too far and too much money for what they go for.
“I think we will have the advantage on our competition by getting him into the green grass while they are in Lexington, the Breeders Crown, the Matron and the Governor’s Cup. We have never pushed this colt and nearly every race he has been shut down without being asked for speed.
“He’s not just a good horse, he is a special horse, and winning the Sire Stakes final would be icing on the cake.”
by Kimberly French, for USTA