Millionaire Pat On the Back, who won the Kelso Handicap (G2) and the Empire Classic Handicap, has been retired by his ownership group, which is hopeful of securing a stallion deal for the 6-year-old New York-bred son of Congrats .
"He was super special to us," said Harold Lerner, who owned Pat On the Back in a partnership with Adriana and Wayne Cutler of AWC Stables and Jack Cohen's Nehoc Stables. "He kept giving his best all the time. I've been in this game for a while, and I don't believe I've had another horse run as good as he did for as long as he did."
Pat On the Back won the Kelso and two state-bred stakes for trainer Jeremiah Englehart a year ago at 5, but after his first two 2020 starts resulted in unplaced finishes, the decision was recently made to retire him.
"He's fine physically but we never thought of dropping him into a claimer and racing against lesser company," Lerner said. "He's been so good to us. It was time to stop. He's by Congrats, who is a full brother to Flatter , and with his record, perhaps there's a farm that will be interested in standing him."
If they cannot secure a stud deal, the owners say they will find a suitable retirement home for the son of the Awesome Again mare Accomplished, who was bred by Sugar Maple Farm.
"We will make sure he has a good home, one way or the other," Wayne Cutler said. "It was beyond our wildest dreams to enjoy the success we had with him. He had so much heart and a great personality. He gave us more than we could have ever imagined, and we will do what's right for him."
A winner of nine races from 30 starts with four seconds and six thirds, Pat On the Back earned $1,144,545. He registered eight stakes victories, and won stakes in each racing season from 2 through 5.
Aside from winning the graded Kelso in 2019, he triumphed in a pair of state-bred stakes, the Affirmed Success Stakes and the Commentator.
"No matter what was put in front of him, he always tried and gave us 110%. He was a favorite around the barn because of the way he always showed up in a race, " Englehart said. "Once we saw he wasn't running as well as he used to, we knew it was time to retire him."
Pat On the Back was sixth in both the Commentator and then the July 30 John Morrissey Handicap at Saratoga Race Course in his last two starts.
He was bought by original trainer Ken McPeek for $70,000 from St George Sales' consignment at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Preferred New York-Bred Yearling Sale. He moved to Englehart's barn in the spring of 2018, when McPeek did not send a string of horses to New York.