Kentucky HBPA release (Photo above: Wayne Catalano after Aloha West’s victory. Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders’ Cup)
DEL MAR, Calif. — One of the most popular victories of the Breeders’ Cup came in the $2 million Sprint won by the Wayne Catalano-trained 4-year-old Aloha West, who never even race until this past Feb. 7. But he bested a field that included top sprinters Jackie’s Warrior, Dr. Schivel, Following Sea, Forenze Firenze Fire, C Z Rocket and Special Reserve.
Not that it was easy. Aloha West needed every inch of the Sprint’s six furlongs to win by a tight nose in nailing California-based Dr. Schivel, who took command in midstretch as 1-2 favorite Jackie’s Warrior faded. It was Aloha West’s first stakes victory in only his second graded-stakes start, having finished second to Special Reserve in Keeneland’s Grade 2 Phoenix.
“I liked the bob at the end when they put my number up,” Catalano said. “But boy was it a tough one.”
Catalano has trained since 1983 and at 2,931 wins through Saturday is getting close to the 3,000-plus he won as a jockey, including 349 victories in 1977. Still, his greater success has been as a trainer.
“Wayne has just done and incredible job developing this colt,” said Aron Wellman, founder and president of the Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners syndicate that won its first Breeders’ Cup race. “He only ran for the first time in February this year as a 4-year-old, and (nine) months later he’s a Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion. That takes master horsemanship to be able to accomplish something that monumental.
“But Wayne told me two weeks ago — and this man has had his hands on some pretty serious horse flesh in his day — that ‘this might be the best horse I’ve ever had my hands on.’ The way he’s managed and developed this horse is clearly brilliant. To do what he did today is just magical.”
Eclipse Thoroughbreds bought Aloha West privately off Catalano’s long-time clients Gary and Mary West after the Hard Spun colt finished fifth in an Oaklawn allowance race in his second start.
“I was talking to Wayne shortly thereafter about a horse I was sending him and I said, ;What about that horse Aloha West? That horse that ran sneaky good,’” Wellman recalled. “And he said, ‘That horse can run.’ I had bought some horses off the Wests in the past that had similar profiles because their program is predominantly geared toward the classics. This is a horse that had missed his 2- and 3-year-old season. With the kind of volume that they got, he’s the kind of horse that they need to turn over to make sense of their operation. So Wayne took the lead, we cut a deal and the rest is history.”
It was the Louisville-based Catalano’s fourth Breeders’ Cup victory and first since Stephanie’s Kitten took the Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2011.
“Right now is a good time to win a race like this,” Catalano said. “We’re a little low on horses. We’ve been around a long, long time, and it’s not easy. I’ve reinvented myself so many times — 50 years and counting. I just want to settle down and have a handful of nice horses in one spot and enjoy the rest of my life with the grandkids.”
Overall, four Kentucky-based trainers won five of the 14 Breeders’ Cup races: Catalano (Aloha West, Sprint), Brad Cox (Knicks Go, Classic), Steve Asmussen (Echo Zulu, Juvenile Fillies) and the Keeneland-based Wesley Ward (Golden Pal, Turf Sprint, and Twilight Gleaming, Juvenile Turf Sprint.