Village News Reporter
Back On Track was foaled in California, sold at a Kentucky yearling sale, and returned to California after being claimed by Paula Capestro. The two-year-old filly was at the San Luis Rey Training Center between the time she was brought to California and Dec. 1, when she was shipped to Del Mar for the third race that day. She won that six-furlong race by 5 1/2 lengths.
"This is what we hoped would happen," said Capestro, who is both the owner and the trainer of Back on Track.
Prospect Park, who sired Back On Track, won four races during his career including the August 2015 La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar. Back On Track's dam, Peg's Journey, competed in one race and won that 2014 contest at Santa Anita Park. Carole Fernandez, whose farm is in Gilroy, was the breeder of Back On Track. The filly was foaled on April 3, 2021, and sold for $1,500 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale in October 2022.
Back On Track first raced on July 30, 2023, at the Ellis Park track in Kentucky and finished fourth in that 5 1/2-furlong dirt race. Her next race was a five-furlong dirt competition Aug. 23 at the Horseshoe Indianapolis track (which is actually in Shelbyville) and she was the fifth horse across the finish line.
Horseshoe Indianapolis was also the site of a Sept. 11 race which was 5 1/2 furlongs on the dirt. Back On Track finished first among the eight horses with a winning time of 1:06.48 and a winning margin of 7 3/4 lengths.
The Fasig-Tipton fall yearling sale was in Lexington, where the Keeneland track is also. Back On Track returned to Lexington for an Oct. 11 claiming race and was third in that six-furlong dirt contest.
Capestro noted that Back On Track was a Cal-bred horse in Kentucky. "That caught my eye," she said.
The claiming price for horses in the Oct. 11 race was $40,000. "She had an impressive win in Indiana and I thought why not, so I took a chance. I love bringing horses to California," Capestro said.
Some tracks have a "claiming jail" rule which keeps horses from running elsewhere for a specified time. "When you claim at Keeneland there's no jail," Capestro said.
That made claiming a horse at Keeneland attractive to Capestro, but there was another obstacle. "There's lots of people trying to do the same thing," she said.
Those other owners overlooked Back On Track. "There wasn't anybody in for this one," Capestro said. "We just got lucky."
Back on Track was taken to San Luis Rey in late October. "Bringing Cal-breds back, that's always a fun thing to do," Capestro said.
The filly stayed at San Luis Rey until the morning of her Del Mar race. Capestro and her husband, Andy, left for Italy on Nov. 11 and returned Nov. 28. Martin Meza, who is Capestro's assistant trainer, took over Capestro's 16-horse barn in her absence. Meza's activity increased when exercise rider Alex Casanada and his wife had a baby, which kept Casanada away for two weeks. "Martin had to do all of the horses," Capestro said.
"Martin did everything along with our grooms and our foreman," Capestro said. "He really was super busy when I was gone, but he is a superb perfectionist and professional."
After Capestro's return, she began working with Back On Track again. "She's easy to get along with in the barn," Capestro said.
Back On Track was more aggressive during the timed workouts at San Luis Rey. She had five workouts at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington between June 17 and Sept. 30 and had her first timed workout in Bonsall on Oct. 30. She ran three furlongs in 36.0 seconds in that workout and had a four-furlong timed workout Nov. 13 and a five-furlong workout Nov. 20. "I could tell she was on the edge of doing something explosive. That's her nature," Capestro said.
Getting the filly out of San Luis Rey was somewhat difficult, as it took approximately 45 minutes to get her into the trailer Dec. 1. "She was fine when she was in the trailer," Capestro said. "She relaxed once she got here."
The third race Dec. 1 was for two-year-old fillies who had started for a claiming price of $50,000 or less and who hadn't won two races. The jockey weight was 123 pounds with non-winners of a race since Sept. 1 allowed a weight of 120 pounds. California rules for apprentice jockeys provide a five-pound allowance for an apprentice jockey with at least 40 victories.
Apprentice jockey Armando Aguilar won his 54th career race with Back On Track. The weight of 118 1/2 pounds was one reason Capestro chose Aguilar to be the jockey. "The weight is a consideration because she is a small filly," Capestro said.
Capestro had another reason to desire Aguilar for the mount. "He's very successful on babies," Capestro said.
"Babies are tricky," Capestro said. "You never know what they're going to do."
When the morning odds were set, Back On Track was the longshot at 8:1. "I'm never disappointed at being a longshot. I love being a longshot," Capestro said. "I don't like being much higher than 10:1."
The final odds are adjusted based on the relative wagering handle. Back On Track had final odds of 6.6:1; three of the other five horses had higher odds. Some of the bettors may have based their decisions on Back On Track having the outside post position.
"I like our post position. That made me happy," Capestro said.
Aguilar maintained the outside throughout the race, giving him and the filly room when passing another horse was appropriate. "He let her do her thing," Capestro said.
Capestro wasn't concerned that Back On Track broke last out of the starting gate. "She actually broke with everybody, but they ran off," Capestro said. "They all gunned out to the lead."
That wasn't a concern for Aguliar. "Armando just let her settle out of the gate and luckily we were on the outside," Capestro said.
The leader a quarter of a mile into the race, Beau Soleil, took 22.70 seconds to reach that distance. Back On Track had moved into third, a head behind Borntostaythirsty and half a length in behind Beau Soleil.
"I love the way Armando rode her. He let her settle and get into her stride," Capestro said.
"She seems to get real brave," Capestro said. "She doesn't have to have the lead. She's just a runner."
During the next two furlongs, Aguilar and Back On Track moved into second. With half a mile elapsed, they were a head behind Beau Soleil, who needed 46.37 seconds for those four furlongs, and half a length in front of Borntostaythirsty, who maintained third for the rest of the race.
Back On Track took over first place in the turn just before the stretch. "I was pretty excited at that point, because that's the way she won the other race in Indiana," Capestro said.
Back On Track entered the stretch 58.74 seconds after the starting gate was opened. She had a 2 1/2-length lead on Beau Soleil, who was a length in front of Borntostaythirsty.
The winning time for Back On Track was 1:11.54. Beau Soleil finished 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Borntostaythirsty.
"I was hoping for a win like this," Capestro said of the 5 1/2-length margin of victory.
The race had a total purse of $45,000 not including $5,400 in incentive money for Cal-bred horses. As a first-time California starter who had previously run elsewhere, Back On Track was also eligible for Del Mar's "Ship and Win" program which provides a $3,000 bonus for the horse's first start and a 30% bonus to a horse's position earnings. Back On Track thus earned $27,000 for the win, $5,400 for the Cal-bred bonus, $3,000 for the shipping bonus, and $8,100 for the Ship and Win purse bonus for a total of $43,500.
"This pays for our meet," Capestro said.