Hit the Road really tried living up to his name during the second half of the 2021 racing campaign. And trainer Dan Blocker tried getting his newly minted Grade 1 winner on the road — and on the track.
He’ll finally hit that long and windy road in next weekend’s Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf. And Blocker said that’s been the goal all along.
But four months between starts? Yeah, that wasn’t in Blocker’s blueprint.
There was the Breeders’ Cup, sitting there as the season’s juiciest plum for Hit the Road. Blocker said after Hit the Road won the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita last winter, the Breeders’ Cup immediately went on the table.
An untimely fever removes Breeders’ Cup start
“We were prepping him, then he had a fever the week before the race and we had to scratch him,” Blocker told Gulfstream Park. “To prepare a horse for that amount of time and to have to withdraw at the last minute was really disappointing.”
So, after Blocker put Hit the Road back on the training road, it was on to Plan B. That was the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes on Santa Anita’s Dec. 26 opening day. This would have satisfied several of Blocker’s goals.
It would give Hit the Road his first taste of 1 1/8 miles, the same distance as the Pegasus Turf. It would give Hit the Road the perfect Pegasus prep in a strong Grade 2 turf race, and it would give him desperately needed racing reps going into what is the season’s first tough turf test.
Hit the Road defines ‘true miler’
Hit the Road hasn’t raced since finishing third in the Oct. 2 Grade 2 City of Hope at Santa Anita. That came by only a half-length to familiar West Coast turf nemeses Mo Forza and Smooth Like Strait, who Hit the Road beat by a neck in the Kilroe Mile.
The City of Hope was Hit the Road’s 11th consecutive mile race, which made the San Gabriel particularly important. Could Hit the Road handle that extra furlong?
“And then that race came off the turf and we had to scratch out of that race,” Blocker said. referring to the weather that pulled Santa Anita’s opening day races off the grass. “So, we’re just coming in here. It’s a bit of an unknown, but the horse is training really well.”
Blocker wants to see more before hitting the road
How well? A strong 58.40 bullet over five furlongs last Sunday at Santa Anita. That was Hit the Road’s sixth workout since Dec. 4. Yet, Blocker isn’t quite convinced he wants to take Hit the Road on the road — even for a $1 million race.
“Everything needs to go perfect, really,” he said. “It’s a lot of tests that he has to pass in order to make the trip. It’s a long trip, it’s very expensive, and I don’t want to take him unless he’s ready to fire his absolute ‘A’ game. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do it. But it’s up to the horse. We’ll just have to see over the next two weeks. Right now, he’s doing great and I’m really happy with him.”