Speaking Scout, who once sold as a yearling for $3,000 and then was purchased privately out of a maiden race at Colonial Downs when second on debut, became a grade 1 winner in the Dec. 3 Hollywood Derby (G1T) at Del Mar. It's been a journey that has encompassed 11 racetracks in eight different states.
While trainer Graham Motion does well sending horses from his Eastern stable to the West Coast for major races, he had never before won the Hollywood Derby. He brought three to this year's edition, with Script and Evan Harlan joining Speaking Scout. But it was Speaking Scout, aided by a canny ride from jockey Juan Hernandez, who gave Motion his first win in the race.
Ten lined up for the $402,500 turf event over 1 1/8 miles after War At Sea was scratched. Evan Harlan and Spycatcher vied for the early lead at a reasonable pace, Evan Harlan completing the first quarter-mile in :24.51. Ryan Curatolo on Spycatcher was content to let Evan Harlan remain on the lead until the half-mile pole, when he urged his mount to move up between horses and challenge for the lead around the final turn.
Speaking Scout, with leading Del Mar rider Juan Hernandez in the irons, broke seventh and was next to last in the early going. Hernandez felt his mount was traveling well behind splits up front set by Evan Harlan of :49.86 and 1:14.40
"He put himself in a good spot and I was happy," Hernandez later said.
Nevertheless, Speaking Scout had to negotiate his way through a wall of horseflesh when the field approached the final turn. Hernandez later credited the gelding, but the jockey did a terrific job finding a hole between St Anthony to his inside and Cabo Spirit on his outside, splitting horses with finesse.
Speaking Scout responded to Hernandez's urging, ranging up alongside of Spycatcher at the sixteenth pole. They drove past Spycatcher to hit the wire three-quarters of a length in front and stopped the clock in 1:49.34. Wit, favored at just less than 2-1, was closing fast down the stretch after running sixth early and nearly caught Spycatcher, who managed to hold off Wit for second by a nose.
Spycatcher is fast becoming one of the most accomplished maidens on the racetrack. Before the Hollywood Derby, the colt finished third in the Let It Ride Stakes and second in the Del Mar Derby (G2T). A nonwinner in six starts, Spycatcher has earned $174,912.
Motion trains Speaking Scout for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, which bought the gelding after that initial start at Colonial Downs. Speaking Scout finished second that day, and Aron Wellman of Eclipse put together what he calls a "newcomer partnership" on the horse, something available only for those people who had never before invested in an Eclipse runner.
"For these newcomers to win a grade 1 with a horse like this is just absolutely spectacular," Wellman said. "He's traveled everywhere. I'm just so pleased for all the partners."
In his second start for Eclipse (and third race overall), Speaking Scout broke his maiden at Delaware Park, and before the end of his 2-year-old season in 2021, he finished second in the Pulpit Stakes at Gulfstream Park. This year Speaking Scout became a stakes winner when taking the Oct. 1 Hawthorne Derby Presented by BetMakers by five lengths.
Motion sent Speaking Scout to California for the Oct. 29 Twilight Derby (G2T) at Santa Anita, when Hernandez first rode him in a race, and they finished second.
"Last time (in the Twilight Derby), he broke really sharp," Hernandez said. "Today I was expecting the same thing. But he kind of broke a little slow. But a lot of credit to my horse."
Motion complimented Hernandez for the ride.
"I think it really helped that he rode him last time, and he knew him," Motion said. "I thought we were a little unlucky at Santa Anita last time. We just kind of got nailed. But Juan gave him a perfect, patient ride today."
Though Motion traveled to Del Mar for the Derby, he noted that his assistant Alice Clapham had been with Speaking Scout during his time in California this fall
"She really deserves the credit," Motion said.
Bred in Kentucky by Mike Abraham, Speaking Scout is by Mr Speaker out of the stakes-placed Pleasant Tap mare Miss Scout. He sold as a weanling for $10,000 to Joyce Santiago at the 2019 Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale out of the Ballysax Bloodstock consignment. Bobby Jones Equine then sold him as a yearling for $3,000 to Pedro Hernandez at the 2020 Ocala Breeders' Sales October Sale.