Sleepy Eyes Todd winning the Mr. Prospector under Tyler Gaffalione
Some 12 months after trainer Miguel Angel Silva first thought Sleepy Eyes Todd ought to be considered for the $3-million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), he is preparing his star for the fifth running of the race on Jan. 23 at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla.
It is something of a better-late-than-never scenario for Silva and the 5-year-old son of Paddy O’Prado owned by David Cobb’s Thumbs Up Stable.
By late 2019, Silva, 45, was confident that Sleepy Eyes Todd was a graded-stakes caliber horse. He had come back from a five-month layoff recovering from an injury to win three of four starts. The lone loss was a second to Owendale in the Oklahoma Derby (G3). One of the horses that Sleepy Eyes Todd finished ahead of in the Oklahoma Derby was Mucho Gusto, who went on to win the 2020 Pegasus. Silva said he called to see if Sleepy Eyes Todd might be invited to the 1 1/8-mile race.
“We were trying to get in but it was too late, I guess, and, we didn’t have the earnings to get into the race,” Silva said. “Finally, this year, it’s a dream come true.”
Sleepy Eyes Todd added to his resume in 2020, winning four stakes at different tracks and earning $540,760. The most recent of his wins was a half-length victory over Firenze Fire in the seven-furlong Mr. Prospector on Dec. 19 at Gulfstream Park. All eight of his 2020 starts were at different tracks.
In his first trip to a Thoroughbred auction, the November 2016 Keeneland Breeding Stock Sale, Cobb, a resident of Pleasanton, Calif., spent $9,000 on the weanling out of a Wild Rush mare who grew up to be Sleepy Eyes Todd. The colt made his debut at Remington Park in Oklahoma later in his 2-year-old year in 2018 and came from well off the pace win by a half-length at 29-1. He has won eight of his 15 career starts at 11 tracks and earned $744,825.
“The horse has been great,” Silva said. “He’s a sound horse. He’s beautiful. He is easy to manage. He lets you have fun. At the end of the day we are in this business to have fun. This kind of horse gives you all that.”
Silva grew up in Mexico, where his father, also named Miguel Silva, was a famous trainer. After graduating from college with a degree in accounting, Silva entered the corporate world. It didn’t take him long to realize he wanted to return to horses and racing.
“I worked in some big companies in Mexico until I couldn’t take it anymore,” he said. “I’m just not a desk person.”
Twenty years ago, Silva emigrated to the U.S. and started working as a hot walker at the Bay Meadows racetrack in San Mateo, Calif.
“I was there for a few years then moved to Arizona and worked there as a groom. I started climbing the ladder. I worked for the (farrier), the tattooer. Helped the vet. Everybody. I was trying to do it all until I was able to get my license.”
Silva launched his career early in 2009 with a one-horse stable. He acquired that first runner, Glitternmeporridge, by using his tax return to claim the gelding for $6,250.
“We won several races with the horse,” Silva said. “From there it has been an amazing ride.”
Now operating on a circuit that takes him from Texas to Oklahoma, Arkansas, Minnesota and Louisiana, Silva entered 2021 with 722 wins from 4,209 starters. Thanks to Sleepy Eyes Todd, he had his best earnings year in 2020. Sleepy Eyes Todd gave him his first graded stakes wins, the Charles Town Classic (G2) and the Mr. Prospector. Silva has 43 horses in training at three tracks.
Instead of the Pegasus, Sleepy Eyes Todd opened his 2020 campaign in the John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes (G3) at Sam Houston. He ended up last in the field of 10.
“The turf race was a mistake on my part,” Silva said. “We ran him a mile and a half on the turf and the turf was really soft. For a first timer on the turf and a first timer going a mile and a half, I think that was on me.”
After Sleepy Eyes Todd finished sixth in the Mineshaft at Fair Grounds on Feb. 15, Silva decided to remove the blinkers. Since that equipment change, the horse has four wins, a second by a head in the Lone Star Millions and a tiring fifth in the Awesome Again (G1). Silva said the blinkers made sense for a while, but that after the two losses it was time for a change.
“He is too aware of what’s happening. He wants to see everything,” Silva said. “In the morning when we train him he can go to the track and stand for 20 minutes and just watch horses go by him and not move one inch. He just watches everything and wants to be aware. It’s something I took from him and he was asking me to give it back. I did.
“I always say that we lost that Oklahoma Derby because he never saw Owendale coming from far outside. When Mucho Gusto tried to put pressure on him and passed him, as soon he was able to see him, he came back and beat Mucho Gusto. He was asking for it and I was a little stubborn.”
Sleepy Eyes Todd has had a different jockey in each of his last nine races and that list will grow again when Jose Ortiz rides him in the Pegasus. While Silva said it is positive that the well-traveled horse has handled many tracks under an ever-changing lineup of jockeys, he said the downside is the lack of continuity can be a negative. Since his past performances show that he has speed, jockeys may try to put him in the race early. Silva said that approach hurt him in the Awesome Again.
“We believe that we don’t have the speed to beat those kinds of horses in the race, so we wanted to be in behind,” he said. “We were too close in that race.
Silva said the horse has matured and his versatility makes him effective coming from off the pace, the style he used in his last two races, both at seven furlongs. In the Lafayette on Nov. 7 at Keeneland he rallied from far back over a very fast track.
“Then we go to Florida in the same kind of race and tried not to be in the lead because they burn out,” Silva said. “Save the horse and finish strong. That’s what we like.”
With a win over the track in the Mr. Prospector and more experience, Silva said Sleepy Eyes Todd is ready for the Pegasus distance and another try in a prestigious Grade I race.
“I love the mile and an eighth,” Silva said. “He already won at that distance and he performed really good at that distance. We’re just hoping that we have a different kind of trip. We don’t want to be on the lead and hopefully we can pick up horses at the end.”
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