Not a lot of American horses nowadays are bred to run long distances well, particularly on dirt.
Solar Maximus (Solar Colony, by Pleasant Colony) is one of those horses. The five-year-old gelding’s breeding screams stamina, and his recent performance had suggested he could run to that. January 26 at Mahoning Valley, Solar Maximus had won a nine-furlong starter allowance over the dirt there by daylight. It was the first race in the Half Moon Series, a series of increasingly long $5,000 starter allowances that go beyond the everyday distances run by most dirt horses here.
Solar Maximus had entered the second leg, a 1 1/4 mile race on February 25, but it was cancelled due to weather. He re-entered March 3 a 1 3/16 mile race, but was a stewards’ scratch. In that race, Brite Sabbeth scampered off to win by 16 3/4 lengths. Brite Sabbeth had been in the first leg, too, but a blown start erased any chance of a real matchup between Brite Sabbeth and Solar Maximus that day.
That matchup happened Saturday, in the third leg of the Half Moon series.
On the strength of his last-out victory, Brite Sabbeth was sent off as the 3/5 favourite in the 1 1/2 mile test. Solar Maximus, who finished fifth going a flat mile in his most recent start, was the 5/2 second choice. Brite Sabbeth broke better than he did two starts back, though he did not get the easy lead that he had in his previous outing. Angelic Mia tried to give him pressure as the field headed into the first of three turns. Solar Maximus had broken well, but settled a few lengths back in third. Down the stretch for the first time Angelic Mia dropped out, and Solar Maximus inched closer to Brite Sabbeth. He gained the lead through the far turn, and struck the front by the time the field entered the backstretch.
Solar Maximus did not get an easy lead. Though Brite Sabbeth had dropped out, he faced a new foe in Freud’s Vale. Freud’s Vale came up on outside, getting as close as a neck behind Solar Maximus, but never got closer to the front. Going into the third and final turn, rider Luis Martinez, Jr. finally asked Solar Maximus for some run. He had plenty left to give. He asserted his lead, kicked away, and won in hand. The final margin was 7 3/4 lengths ahead of Brite Sabbeth, who had eclipsed the fading Freud’s Vale late. Solar Maximus’s victory was just as commanding as that margin would suggest.
This sets him up well to go long again, and he could get that chance: there is one more race in the Half Moon Starter Series. The Mahoning Valley meet closes on April 25, and the card that day features a two-mile race. Hopefully Solar Maximus will run in it and show his distance abilities once again.