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Guided Tour at Belmont
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Guided Tour
by John McEvoy

Guided Tour, highweight and favorite for Sunday’s Grade III National Jockey Club Handicap, is a work in progress—and the progress has been very, very good.

A relatively ordinary allowance performer until about a year ago, the 5-year-old son of Hansel since then has blossomed into a graded stakes winner with a string of triumphs stretching from Canada to Ohio to Louisiana to California.

When he takes to the track Sunday under regular rider Larry Melancon, Guided Tour will become the first starter ever in a Sportsman’s stakes race to have made his last start in a million dollar event—the March 3 Santa Anita Handicap, in which he was beaten eight and one-half lengths by 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow.

All this has served to delight Northbrook, Ill., resident Mort Fink, who purchased Guided Tour from Chicagoan Billy Teinowitz in March of last year, then leased the horse to a partnership made up of himself and four friends.

Fink has been in racing “since 1971,” he said, and has enjoyed notable success. He was a partner in the ownership of the mare Producer, a major stakes winner here and in France who subsequently sold for a then-world record $5.25 million as a broodmare at Keeneland in 1983. Fink also bred and sold in partnership 1986 Melbourne Cup winner At Talaq and a Lyphard colt that brought a then-record $1.7 million at Keeneland in 1980.

Fink’s “best horse,” he said, was the grand racemare Annoconnor, a multiple stakes winner in the late 1980s. “She was multi-dimensional,” he said, “good both on turf and dirt.

“We sold all of the colts we bred,” Fink continued, “racing only the fillies. So I would say Guided Tour is the best male horse I’ve had. He’s also by far the worst work horse I’ve ever had. You can barely get him to go five furlongs in 1:05. But that’s okay—he saves himself for competition. And believe me, I’ve had a number of ‘morning glories’ that didn’t do anything in the afternoons.”

Under the guidance of trainer Niall O’Callaghan, Guided Tour scored his first stakes win in the Seagram Cup at Woodbine last August. Having gotten the hang of it, he took Thistledown’s Hall of Fame Breeders' Cup 'Cap in his next start a month later. After a runner-up finish in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, Guided Tour went unplaced in the Breeders' Cup Classic, then concluded his 2000 campaign with a win in the Louisiana Handicap at the Fair Grounds on Dec. 30.

Guided Tour launched his 2001 campaign with a triumph in the Grade II San Antonio Handicap—his “best race to date,” in O’Callaghan’s opinion. Then came his fifth-place finish in the Big 'Cap. Said Fink: “I take the blame for that. I thought Tiznow might be not quite himself for that race, and I underestimated (runner-up) Wooden Phone. I thought the worst we could be was second.”

O’Callaghan said that Guided Tour “came out of the Santa Anita 'Cap quite stiff and sore. The racing strip had an effect on him. So I didn’t do anything with him for three weeks, but he’s been back training steadily the last month—or at least as he good as he trains,” added the affable native of Cork, Ireland.

“As a young horse,” Callaghan continued, “Guided Tour was very big and very immature. He was such a poor work horse he wouldn’t get himself fit. He still trains terrible, but maybe the fact that he conserves himself is what enables him to stay sound and perform so well in his races. With most of the horses I’ve trained, I’ve had a pretty good idea early on as to how good or bad they were going to be. Not Guided Tour—he’s been a pleasant surprise to me.”

With six wins and two seconds in his last nine starts, Guided Tour brought his career bankroll to $780,033. That’s a nice number, and particularly when placed alongside his price when sold at auction as a yearling: $102,000.

In going after the fifth stakes success of his career Sunday, Guided Tour will also be attempting to extend a neat streak compiled by O’Callaghan. The 36-year-old conditioner has won at least one Sportsman’s Park stakes race in each of the last five years. The skein began in 1996 when Ginny Lynn and Adhocracy captured the National Jockey Club Oaks and Sportsman’s Breeders’ Cup Handicap, respectively. Witchful Thinking and Victorica proceeded to win the next two renewals of the NJC Oaks, Baytown took a thrilling renewal of the NJC 'Cap in 1999 (when the Sportsman’s meeting was conducted at Hawthorne), and Nite Dreamer won the BC 'Cap a year ago.

“Stakes wins here in six straight years would be fine with me,” said O’Callaghan. It would be fine with Mort Fink and his partners in Guided Tour, too.

 

Guided Tour at Belmont
Click to enlarge

 

  Breeders' Cup 2001 profile
  DRF profile 2001

  Interest in Guided Tour sold to Buckram Oak Farm (10/25)
  Guided Tour ready for second try at Classic (10/24)
  Trainer thinks 'Tour' up to challenge (10/23)
  Morton Fink: Modesty becomes him (10/16)
  Guided Tour works towards Classic (10/15)
  Guided Tour confirmed for Breeders' Cup Classic (10/9)
  Victory Tour (7/24)
  Guided Tour wins $400,000 Washington Park Handicap (7/21)
  Guided Tour becomes $1-million earner with Foster upset (6/16)
  Hawthorne Gold Cup results (3rd) (5/19)
  NJC 'Cap results (2nd)
  NJC 'Cap preview
  NJC 'Cap preview - DRF

  Breeders' Cup 2000 profile
  Sun-Times profile 2000
  Hawthorne Gold Cup results - 2000 (3rd)

 
Guided Tour before the Stephen Foster
Click to enlarge - photo courtesy Allison Pareis
Guided Tour wins the Stephen Foster
Click to enlarge - photo courtesy Allison Pareis

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