Getting to know: Obviously, the toast of the West Coast
JUL 23, 2014 12:13p ET
Obviously made history on June 14 as only the fifth horse, and first since 2000, to win the Shoemaker Mile in two consecutive years.
Though there were some things different about his victory this year, one thing was the same; the win earned him a free spot to the Nov. 1 Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita Park through the “Win and You’re In” program. So without further ado, it is time to get more familiar with perhaps the most dominant turf miler in California.
Starting his career with two wins in three starts in Ireland at age 3, Obviously made his U.S. debut in March 2012 and finished second. He proved to be a useful runner over the next four months with a win and three other on-the-board finishes, but a move to running at a mile proved to be just what he needed to become a standout in the state.
Trainer Mike Mitchell entered the gelding in his first career 1-mile race, an optional claiming event at Del Mar. Obviously made sure everyone knew this was his preferred distance by winning the race by five lengths in a time of 1:32.41. He backed that up with a victory in the Del Mar Mile 24 days later, setting a course record when running a scorching time of 1:32.10. His final prep before the Breeders’ Cup was the Arroyo Seco Mile Stakes, where he won by a half-length, breaking the 1:32 mark in the race and earning a 119 speed figure.
Obviously wasn’t able to keep that three-race win streak alive in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile but definitely didn’t embarrass himself. Wise Dan set a Santa Anita course record when winning the race, and Obviously finished just two lengths behind him, beating out the highly regarded Excelebration for third and earning another 119 speed figure.
Last year, Obviously stepped up his game even more with wins in three graded stakes races, including a repeat in the Del Mar Mile and his first victory in the Shoemaker. The gelding seemed to tail off at the end of the year, running a fourth and fifth to end his season.
But this season, he’s back on track with two victories in as many races for new trainer Phillip D'Amato, who took over Mitchell’s stable when the trainer retired earlier this year. Obviously started off the year with an easy 5½-length victory in the American Stakes, setting himself up perfectly for the Shoemaker Mile win, which came at Santa Anita this year after the closure of Hollywood Park. Following the Shoemaker, regular jockey Joe Talamo was full of praise for the gelding.
“I knew Pulpit’s Express had a lot of speed and would try and go to the front with us and Winning Prize too, but I didn’t really think we would go as fast as we did. We were rolling right along,” Talamo said. “He’s all class. He was going fast, but he was doing it fairly easily. With him, you didn’t have a choice though. His thing is going to the front. If I would have taken him back, we wouldn’t have won. You give him his head and let him do it. He is one of the best I’ve ever sat on. I just waited as long as I could to make my move because I knew we had closers coming after us. It’s amazing he could still accelerate after running as fast as he did.”
Showing how speedy he is, all of Obviously’s victories at one mile have come from his leading wire-to-wire. Even more impressive is he has won all of those races, with the exception of his 2014 debut, in under 1 minute, 33 seconds. It is important to remember that he is a need-the-lead type when looking to bet him in his races, however his ability to race at a high cruising speed is an asset when facing other frontrunners.
From a speed figure point of view, it should also be noted that Obviously hasn’t run an Equibase Speed Figure lower than 109 since his first Del Mar Mile victory in 2012.
“I just waited as long as I could to make my move because I knew we had closers coming after us. It’s amazing he could still accelerate after running as fast as he did.”
By Choisir and out of the Montjeu mare Leala, Obviously has a truly international pedigree.
Choisir isn’t as well-known a name in the United States as some other sires, but looking at his race record it is easy to see where Obviously’s speed comes from. Choisir was a sprint champion in Australia and proved to be durable as well when winning two group stakes within five days of each other at Royal Ascot.
As a sire, most of Choisir’s best offspring have been at the sprint and mile distances with champion Starspangledbanner winning Group 1 races between five furlongs and a mile leading the charge. However, Choisir has proven that he can produce runners over longer distances with Kushadai winning a Group 1 race over about a mile and a half and Historian winning a Group 1 at nearly 10 furlongs.
As for Obviously’s female side, his dam Leala can be credited for providing him with a stamina boost. The unraced mare is by Montjeu, who won Group 1 races at up to 12 furlongs. Leala’s dam never raced but is a full sibling to three graded stakes winners. Included in that count is the popular Hawkster, who won three American Grade 1 events.
Obviously will follow his usual path at Del Mar with A’Mato confirming after the Shoemaker Mile that the Breeders’ Cup Mile is the ultimate goal: “We’ll give him a little breather, look for his usual prep down at Del Mar, one race, then maybe another prep at Santa Anita before the Breeders’ Cup (Mile).”
If Obviously can keep the form that he has shown early in the year, it’s not hard to imagine his upping the performance he put in to finish third in the 2012 edition of the Mile.