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Seize the Grey a Classic Graduate for Highlander

"It's the people doing the work, day to day, that deserve the credit," Hooper said.

Seize the Grey, under exercise rider Israel Alvarado, at Highlander Training Center

Seize the Grey, under exercise rider Israel Alvarado, at Highlander Training Center

Courtesy Highlander Training Center

Before trainer D. Wayne Lukas' horsemanship and jockey Jaime Torres' front-running ride propelled My Racehorse's Seize the Grey to victory in the May 18 Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course, the team at Highlander Training Center played a key role this winter in the colt's development.

In need of a break from racing after a juvenile campaign in which he won one of five starts, the last of which was a distant third-place finish in an October allowance optional claiming race at Keeneland, he was sent to Highlander in Sulphur Springs, Texas, for rest and recuperation, followed by training.

Joe Moran, racing manager for MyRacehorse, "kind of outlined what he hoped we'd be able to do, which would be to give the horse a little freshening with some turnout time in a paddock, followed by use of our therapy center and our Aquatred there," said Jeff Hooper, chairman and CEO of Highlander. "Then put him back in training here and put some breezes in him, up to a couple of half-mile works, and get him back to Wayne for Oaklawn."

And that is exactly what happened.

Seize the Grey arrives at Highlander Training Center
Photo: Courtesy Highlander Training Center
Seize the Grey arrives at Highlander Training Center

Hooper said the gray or roan Arrogate colt made a connection with "Chuy" Bibian, assistant manager of the fitness and therapy center at Highlander. "'Chuy' let me know that was her favorite horse, and he was going to do big things," he noted.

Hooper said others who worked closely with Seize the Grey included Jon Newbold, Highlander's general manager and trainer; Dakota Holmes, director of Highlander's fitness and therapy center; groom Eduardo "El Torito" Camacho; and exercise riders Israel Alvarado and "Saul" De la Rosa.

"It's the people doing the work, day to day, that deserve the credit," Hooper said.

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Their preparations with Seize the Grey, which included two three-furlong workouts and a pair of half-mile workouts at Highlander, resulted in the colt being near-ready to run when he arrived at Oaklawn Park in late January. Less than a month later, Seize the Grey won an allowance optional claiming race at Oaklawn Feb. 24.

Later, in advance of his Preakness triumph for Lukas, he would finish third in the March 23 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park, seventh in the April 6 Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland, and first in the Pat Day Mile Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby (G1) undercard, May 4.

He now has a record of 4-0-3 in 10 starts with more than $1.8 million in earnings.

Seize the Grey with Jaime A. Torres wins the Preakness (G1) at Pimlico in Baltimore, MD, on May 18, 2024.
Photo: Skip Dickstein
Jaime Torres celebrates a victory from Seize the Grey in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course

Seize the Grey is not the first success story to come out of Highlander: they have produced more than 600 graduate winners in the most recent 36 months, according to information provided by the training center. The multi-purpose facility, owned by Larry Hirsch of Dallas, breaks and trains yearlings and works with established racehorses and those coming off surgeries. Other horses there enjoy turnout time over Highlander's 11 pastures as well as 16 paddocks and turnout pens at its 190-acre facility 80 miles east of Dallas.

According to Hooper, 125-175 horses are typically stabled there depending on the time of year. Many will ultimately be sent out of state to locations such as Kentucky, Louisiana, and Arkansas—where Seize the Grey went following his stay. MyRacehorse has entrusted Highlander with numerous horses, Hooper said.

"To have a classic winner, a small role in Seize the Grey's Preakness victory means a lot to us, and it affirms what we're all about, which is doing the best for each individual horse and using the facilities and the tools that we're fortunate to have here and the horsemanship of the people on the team," Hooper said. "To be a part of a grade 1 classic winner is a big deal for us."