Joseph Allen’s Doswell first arrived at trainer Barclay Tagg’s barn with no wins and a ‘bad boy’ reputation. While the two subsequent years haven’t completely erased his idiosyncrasies, the 7-year-old gelding and contender in Saturday’s $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) at Gulfstream has learned how to co-exist and be successful just being himself.
“He’s gotten better, but that’s because we understand each other,” Tagg’s longtime assistant trainer and exercise rider Robin Smullen said. “I’m really the only one that gets on him except for breeze time. We kind of have a mutual respect for each other, and that’s really what it’s all about.”
Tagg is effusive in his praise for job Smullen has done with Doswell, whose career full of stops and starts began with renowned trainer John Gosden in England in the summer 2017. By the time he raced again in January 2019, he was in South Florida with trainer Chad Brown.
“Robin’s a superior rider and we’ve had no problems with him since [some] gate stuff early on. Now everything’s been fine. He’s a lovely horse. He gets along with her well,” Tagg said. “He’s a big, strong horse. He needs a strong bit for day-to-day galloping and things like that, but Robin could take him out there and gallop him on a loose rein if she wanted to. It all works out pretty well.”
Doswell ran second in each of his first four career races, never beaten by more than three-quarters of a length. He broke his maiden in his sixth start and first race for Tagg in August 2020 off an 11-month layoff and has never finished worse than third in seven tries.
His most recent race was his best, going gate to wire to capture the 1 1/8-mile Fort Lauderdale (G2) Dec. 18 at the same course and distance by 1 ½ lengths over Atone, who also returns in the Pegasus Turf.
Junior Alvarado, aboard in the Fort Lauderdale, will ride back from Post No. 7 in a field of 12. Doswell is listed at 10-1 on the morning line.
“Last time I said to Junior, ‘Just take him away from the pony and let him warm him up. That’s what he wants,’ and he was fine,” Smullen said. “I think if you just understand him and try to get along with him and let him do his own thing, that’s really all he wants.”
“He’s smart. He’s smart enough to know that he knows what he wants to do. He loves to run, he wants to run,” she added. “If you start getting in his face about you can’t do this, you can’t do that or you can’t gallop that fast, he gets very, very upset.”
Doswell was a picture of composure schooling in the paddock and walking ring during Thursday’s races, part of his regular pre-race routine. Smullen beamed as she watched him and took video to show Tagg.
“He’s not always good, so every chance that you can to help him be a better horse, you do. If that means schooling, that’s what it means. I’ll tell you, he’s [being] really good,” she said. “He was like this the last time he ran. He was pretty quiet. He loves to do it.”
Smullen was impressed how Doswell has bounced out his most recent effort, just his 12th career start and third in a graded stake, after finishing a troubled second in the Fort Lauderdale and third in the W.L. McKnight (G3) on the Pegasus undercard last winter.
“He’s great. He came out of the Fort Lauderdale great, which is surprising because he had such a jump up in number that you would have thought that maybe he was a little tired or this or that, but not at all. He came out of it really well,” Smullen said. “He’s carrying his weight well, too. That’s a good thing.
“He likes the track, he’s doing well and we just hope he gives a good performance and gets to show himself, and if he hits the board we’ll be tickled to death,” she added. “It’s nice to be part of such a big day, especially with a horse like Doswell, who is kind of an underdog.”
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