Smartest Horse in the Barn Is in Secretariat Stakes? Sheldon

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Jill Byrne and Michael Adolphson check in on contenders for the Secretariat Stakes on Arlington International Festival Of Racing Day.

Ninety North Racing Stable named Sheldon after Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory, and the racing partnership hopes its Purim colt will put his smarts to good use on Saturday in the Grade I $500,000 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington International Racecourse.

“We call him the smartest horse in the barn because he does his work in the morning then takes a nap,” said Ninety North President Justin Nicholson. “My wife is a big fan of the show, and she was an astrophysics major in college, so she just loves Sheldon. We wanted to name a horse Sheldon, but not just any horse. This horse is playful and goofy, so he’s Sheldon.”

Sheldon Cooper would likely love the challenge of figuring out the optimum path for his equine namesake to navigate in the 1¼-mile Secretariat, but with Jim Parsons unable to make weight, Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellano has the call instead.

“Javier got to work him last time, and it was just what we were looking for and gave Castellano some confidence,” Nicholson said of the bullet :59.60 move for five furlongs on the Saratoga turf Aug. 8. “Every day his neck is bowed, and he moves right into his gallop and is really, really moving well. It feels like a lot of things are falling the right way.”

Sheldon took seven starts to break his maiden, but Nicholson said that was more a function of distance than talent, as the colt was second when finally stretching out to the American classic and Secretariat distance of 1¼ miles before breaking his maiden in his second try at that distance. Then he was fifth, beaten just 4½ lengths by Mr. Speaker, in the Grade I Belmont Derby, a race in which runner-up Adelaide is the morning line favorite for the Secretariat.

“If we never got that 1¼-mile grass race, he might still be a maiden,” Nicholson said. “We expected him to be a long price in the Belmont Derby off just the maiden win, but he proved he belonged with some nice horses at [35.25-to-1], and with a little bit of trip help he might have been third.

“This is the last stop for 3-year-olds going long on turf for a Grade I and nice purse, so we’re taking our shot.”

Sheldon has won one of eight starts and has earned $127,280.


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