Morello is being pointed to the Gotham Stakes after winning the Jimmy Winkfield
Dave Lyon of Blue Lion Thoroughbreds is beginning to experience a high level thrill of ownership with Morello and Fromanothamutha, who are slated to make their next start in the Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham on March 5 at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park, NY
The one-turn mile Gotham offers 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
Owned by Blue Lion Thoroughbreds in partnership with Craig Taylor and Victoria Taylor, Morello was victorious in his stakes debut on last Sunday’s seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield, winning by five lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
The son of Classic Empire maintained stalking position down the backstretch and was hand ridden by Jose Lezcano through the final furlong, recording an 84 Beyer Speed Figure. The victory built on a 4 1/4-length debut win sprinting six furlongs in November at the Big A, defeating next out winner Inevtabl Conection.
“We thought it was a logical next step,” Lyon said of the Gotham. “His breeding doesn’t say sprinting and seeing him gallop out was impressive. It Iooked like he had a lot left in the tank and we’re excited to see what he can do next. I don’t think we’ve seen his best yet. Jose didn’t really touch him, so we’re pretty excited about how he’s headed next.”
Lyon said he named the chestnut colt after Tom Morello, the lead guitarist for Rage Against the Machine.
“We’ll see how far Morello takes us,” Lyon said. “I had this name reserved for quite some time and wanted to make sure it was something special.”
Lyon, co-owner of Manhattan-based real estate appraisal firm Metropolitan Valuation Services, was raised in Saratoga Springs, NY An alumni of Saratoga Springs High School, Blue Lion Thoroughbreds’ blue and white silks are a nod to his alma mater.
When Lyon was younger, he spent several summers working at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga where he recalls delivering breakfast to Thomas and Elizabeth Valando, the owners of multiple Grade 1-winner Fly So Free. Lyon said it was this experience that piqued his interest in thoroughbred ownership.
“I spent every morning bringing Elizabeth Valando breakfast. But I had it in my head that I had to meet these people one day,” Lyon said. “I’ve always been a fan growing up. If you grow up in Saratoga and don’t catch the bug you aren’t paying enough attention.”
Lyon recalled fond memories of attending the races at the Spa, but said it was the “Sultan of Saratoga”, the New York-bred gelding who won at least one race each year at Saratoga from 1987-’94 that made him fall in love with the sport.
“Fourstardave really captured my heart, and not just because of being my nameake,” Lyon said. “Winning all those years at Saratoga and the way he did it was remarkable.”
Launched in 2016, Blue Lion Thoroughbreds didn’t hit the ground running until 2018 when partnering with several other owners on different horses. In addition to founding Blue Lion Thoroughbreds, Lyon has also been a part of several racing syndicates including West Point Thoroughbreds, Belladonna Racing and Little Red Feather Racing, with whom he owns a piece of multiple stakes-winner My Boy Tate.
Lyon expressed a desire to keep his ownership group small. Right now, Blue Lion Thoroughbreds owns five horses in training.
“The group consists of mostly people I grew up with, and some newer people I met just in the business by going to the sales,” Lyon said. “We’ve been able to expand our small group, but I’m not looking to be a big outfit. We want to keep a small group of people that know each other and have a good time at the track.”
In addition to Morello, Blue Lion Thoroughbreds also is co-owner of the Ray Handal-trained Fromanothamutha, who broke his maiden on Jan. 13 at Aqueduct at sixth asking in a seven-furlong maiden special weight. The son of Unified kept salty company through the maiden ranks, finishing behind left stakes winners Mo Donegal, My Prankster and Chattalot.
Fromanothamutha, who worked a half-mile in 49.07 seconds Sunday over the Belmont dirt training track, is also targeting the Gotham.
“A lot of the focus is on Morello but Fromanothamutha deserves a lot of credit,” Lyon said. “He’s a very durable colt, we think he’s a really nice horse. We raced him five times as a 2-year-old and he’s run into some nice horses like Mo Donegal and My Prankster. I’m not sure how far he can go, but he likes to get on the lead and he’s a powerful animal.”
Other horses owned by Blue Lion Thoroughbreds include the Handal-trained Monshun, a Unified sophomore filly who broke her maiden defeating eventual stakes-placed Morning Matcha in August at Saratoga. She was initially targeting the Grade 1 Frizette in October 2021 at Belmont, but was ultimately put on the shelf and returned to training at the end of last year.
Other Blue Lion Thoroughbreds trainees include maidens Union Dolly [Handal] and Family Band [Asmussen].