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Komodo Beach Hits His Stride For Ritchie

Published: September 15, 2021 6:59 pm ET

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There was a point in time that Hall of Famer Trevor Ritchie thought Komodo Beach would never make it to the races, but the retired reinsman has since watched one of the first horses he’s owned in a decade make an incredible turnaround and pace 1:48.4 as a three-year-old at The Red Mile on his way to this Sunday’s $250,000 Kentucky Sire Stakes Championship.

Komodo Beach heads into this weekend’s Kentucky final ranked second in the point standings behind Goldies Legacy after his August 22 speedy score and three runner-up finishes through the four preliminary rounds of the series.

Ritchie reports the connections of Komodo Beach are very happy with the way he came out of his last race this past Sunday when he followed Goldies Legacy, but was unable to reach the leader in spite of sprinting his final quarter in :25.3.

“He was second-best the other day, you know, he followed the winner and the winner got away on him a little bit,” Ritchie told Trot Insider. “I’m not going to say he's the best in the race, but he has beat this horse before, so I'm not going to say he can't win it either. He’ll have to get a little better than he raced the other day in order to beat Goldies Legacy. It'll be a short field and they go for a quarter-million dollars. We'll keep our fingers crossed.”

Ritchie, who retired from his Hall of Fame driving career in 2014, recently became involved in ownership for the first time in many years while wintering in Florida.

“We go to Florida every winter and our house is less than 15 minutes away from Sunshine Meadows Training Center. We hang around there sometimes on the weekend, you know, chat with different people, and I said, you know what, it would be interesting to have a piece of one so we could watch it and I could come in whenever I wanted and go for a ride on the jogger. It would just be kind of cool to have one down there and watch it progress and hopefully have some fun with it.”

For the past three years, Ritchie and his partners have bought one yearling, beginning with Captain Barbossa, a $70,000 acquisition from the 2018 Lexington Selected Sale that went on to win the Little Brown Jug. While Ritchie sold his share before the colt ever raced, the rest of the group stayed in for the ride.

The following year, the Acton, Ont. horseman loved what he saw when he came across Komodo Beach, a son of Somebeachsomewhere out of Imagine Dragon, and the group purchased him for $90,000 at the Lexington sale.

“I just thought he was a gorgeous looking colt. There was nothing about him that I didn't like, and he had some pedigree. He was my kind of horse.”

But their hopes for the promising pacer were dashed when Komodo Beach was sent down to Florida for his early lessons and came up severely lame.

“This was in late December and early January, so he had really never even trained. He maybe went one mile in about 3:15 I think, but he was basically untrainable,” recalled Ritchie, adding that Komodo Beach’s ailments left them puzzled despite multiple veterinarian examinations.

“It was a mystery lameness and nobody could find out what the issue was… We were kind of at the end of our rope and didn't know what to do.”

It was at that point that Ritchie decided to call his brother-in-law Bob Daer, a part-time trainer who works for Jeff Williamson at his training facility, to see if he would be willing to work with the troubled youngster.

“I told them the whole situation and I made a deal with them and so we sent the horse up to Bob and Jeff to do with what they wanted for part ownership of the horse,” explained Ritchie.

“I believe they swam him a fair bit and found what they thought were some issues with him and worked on him and got him so that he was trainable. And then, in the spring, he just seemed to get better and better and better. By the fall, he was racing at Mohawk and he won three of eight as a two-year-old.”

After winning in 1:53 and showing a strong effort when facing older horses in his last start of the season at Mohawk, most of the original partners were back in and connected with trainer Brett Pelling through co-owner David McDuffee to send the dual Pennsylvania and Kentucky Sire Stakes eligible stateside for his sophomore campaign.

Komodo Beach has added four wins and $92,165 to his resume this year for Ritchie, McDuffee and co-owners John Fodera and Steven Wienick.

The opportunity to race for six figures this weekend wouldn’t have been possible without Daer, and his assistant Danny LePage, who played an important role in Komodo Beach’s success early on.

“My brother-in-law took a horse that we all as a group thought may never race and he did a wonderful job,” noted Ritchie. “And by the fall of his two-year-old year, he had him winning in [1]:53 out at Mohawk, so I want to give him huge kudos for that. He deserves a lot of credit for the horse being where he is today for sure.”

Plans for Komodo Beach beyond Sunday have not been decided, but he remains eligible to a few events including the Liberty Bell (October 1) and Simpson (October 22), both at Harrah’s Philadelphia, the Matron (November 11) at Dover Downs, which is for the top eight money-winners this year, plus a pair of races for Kentucky-sired horses at Oak Grove in late October and early November.

As for Ritchie, he’s headed to Lexington and later Harrisburg in search of his next yearling prospect.

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