Slow Down Andy's Shining Moment

As his third season at the races approaches its sunset, Slow Down Andy has long established himself as a versatile racehorse.

A proven graded stakes winner, the Nyquist colt is a Thoroughbred we would all love to own. He has no trouble sprinting or routing, is able handle different surfaces, ship out of state and win, and is he ever consistent. The number twelve is a significant number when it comes to the career of Slow Down Andy. In fourteen starts, twelve signifies the number of times he has finished third or better.

But that figure also hardly conveys what Slow Down Andy has done going back to his debut in October 2021. Before Santa Anita's Autumn Meet got underway, Slow Down Andy had secured seven top-three finishes in graded stakes, including three victories (and he took third in last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile). Only a truly talented horse can produce a record like that. What's more, that is not even including his record in black type or listed stakes. If you add those to the list, then the record goes to eleven top-three efforts in thirteen stakes appearances. And that includes sprints and routes, as well as outings on dirt and turf.

But with his victory in Saturday's Grade I Awesome Again Stakes, it feels like the Cal-bred has finally gotten his due.

That might seem an odd statement, but let’s look deeper. In one respect, it might be argued that Slow Down Andy is an underrated horse. Specifically, it could also be argued that Slow Down Andy has been overshadowed by some of his contemporary Cal-breds.

Two horses born in the Golden State immediately come to mind. First, we have The Chosen Vron. Another versatile horse, the son of Vronsky put together one of the best stories of Del Mar's summer meet with his victory in the Grade I Bing Crosby in July. Though he was far from a longshot that day, The Chosen Vron defied the odds by defeating open company to net his first Grade I score while raising his winning streak to eight. But with his thirteenth victory in seventeen starts, The Chosen Vron managed to captivate the Southern California racing scene with his latest performance. Of course, this would be a story with any horse, but the fact that The Chosen Vron is a Cal-bred makes the tale even more personal.

Then there is Ceiling Crusher, who has had a fantastic 2023 campaign. She has won five of six races this year (and has six overall after winning her lone race in 2022), and is coming off a victory in the Grade I Cotillion Stakes at Parx. Like The Chosen Vron, Ceiling Crusher has an appetite for victory, and she has defeated rivals by no less than fifteen lengths on two occasions. With the season she has had, Ceiling Crusher is the firm leader of the Cal-bred three-year-old fillies division, and it can be expected that she will at the very least be a winner at the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Awards in the coming months like The Chosen Vron will be.

And that brings us back to Slow Down Andy. While The Chosen Vron and Ceiling Crusher have collected victory after victory during their respective careers, Slow Down Andy has always been more of a reliable horse than a win machine. Going into the Awesome Again, his record stood at four wins in thirteen starts, and the colt’s last photo had come more than a year earlier in the Grade II Del Mar Derby. In contrast, The Chosen Vron had triple that number, and Ceiling Crusher surpassed Slow Down Andy’s win total in the Torrey Pines on September 2.

Clearly, the two had generated more buzz than Slow Down Andy because of their recent form, but that is what made his victory in the Awesome Again all the more sweeter. It is like an athlete who has had a certain degree of success in a sport like baseball or tennis, but finally reached the pinnacle after waiting for so long. Those who watch such a story will say that athlete earned it and deserved it. The same can be said for Slow Down Andy.

After leaving the gate Saturday, Slow Down Andy went to the lead and let no one by. With his chestnut coat shining as he ran down the backstretch, the one-time Kentucky Derby hopeful took the occasion to demonstrate a new talent: being able to handle an off-track. And in the process, Slow Down Andy defeated a Santa Anita Handicap champion and Preakness Stakes champion. Combining that fact with the Awesome Again being a Grade I, Slow Down Andy enjoyed his grandest moment on track to date.

And how terrific was the moment.

It is very possible trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez had memories of Nyquist in their minds during that time, and understandably so. Nyquist was a talented and consistent horse during his brief career, and he has given those characteristics to Slow Down Andy.

But Slow Down Andy is also his own horse. Now reportedly on the way to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, only time will tell what the future holds for him. But with his first Grade I score thanks to his class and toughness (and being wisely sent to the front on an off track), Slow Down Andy finally earned his due on Saturday.

Published by Support California Horse Racing on October 1, 2023.