Protonico Finally Finding His Stride
Protonico Finally Finding His Stride: Not all horses hit their peaks as two- and three-year-olds, and instead some get rolling later in their careers. At age four, there is one colt in particular who seems to just be getting started. After Protonico won his debut at age two, he jumped right into stakes competition in the Grade III Nashua Stakes but finished in sixth place behind a hyped-up Cairo Prince. Dropping in class after a lengthy layoff, Pletcher sent Protonico into the allowance ranks where he won again in his third start. With an easy win, Pletcher once again sent the colt to the stakes ranks. His next start was in the Curlin Stakes (Listed) at Saratoga in which he finished third to eventual Travers Stakes (GI) winner V. E. Day. This race set the colt up for his first graded stakes win in the Grade III Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx before a start in the Pennsylvania Derby (GII) where he finished a troubled seventh. Bouncing back, he moved on to win the Grade III Discovery Handicap. While his win came over no one of significance, he went on to finish a competitive second in the Grade I Clark Handicap, losing only to Constitution.
While Protonico’s 2015 season did not start out with a bang as he did not finish in the Grade I Donn Handicap, he recently returned to his winning ways in the Grade III Ben Ali at Keeneland on Saturday, April 11, 2015. His win came over 2012 Travers winner Golden Ticket and stakes winner Irish You Well. Where Protonico goes next is still up for discussion in the Pletcher barn, but the horse’s talent is obviously on the rise, indicating he may take a stab at another Grade I soon.
Protonico is bred to run all day and to be highly competitive. The son of Giant’s Causeway was bred by International Equities Holding, Inc., and born in 2011. He is raced in the silks of Sumaya U.S. Stable, the same owners of Newfoundland, a son of Storm Cat who excelled on the turf.
As a son of Giant’s Causeway, some would expect Protonico to excel on the turf, but he has actually never tried the grass. While Giant’s Causeway raced on turf his entire career, his lone start over the traditional dirt surface was in his U.S. debut in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2000. He finished second to Tiznow before retiring to Coolmore to lead the General Sires List in 2009, 2010, and 2012, and in 2006 he stood for a career high of $300,000. Giant’s Causeway has stood stud in Ireland, Australia, and the United State at each of Coolmore’s divisions. Giant’s Causeway is the sire of multiple millionaire offspring, including Take Charge Brandi, Carpe Diem, Shamardal, and Giant Oak.
Protonico is out of an unaccomplished A. P. Indy mare, Alpha Spirit. She was unplaced in two starts before being retired to the breeding shed. A. P. Indy, however, is an accomplished racehorse and stallion. A. P. Indy won not only the 1992 Belmont Stakes after missing the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness but also the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Classic. After his racing career, A. P. Indy was retired to Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky where he would establish himself as one of the most important stallions in recent memory. Included in his arsenal of offspring are the 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini and 2007 Belmont winner Rags to Riches. He also sired the important stallion Pulpit, who in turn sired the 2014 Leading Sire, Tapit.
Protonico is injury free and finally winning important races. Now that he is older and more mature, Todd Pletcher is likely to have a threat to the handicap division if Protonico can stay sharp. Look for this Pletcher trainee to target bigger races throughout the year.