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HORSE RACING: Neusch perfect so far at Colonial

HORSE RACING: Neusch perfect so far at Colonial

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A rainbow has appeared above Crozet, but this time it's not for the ark in Evan Almighty. It curves over the Braeburn Training Center, the home of the Neusch stable.

Since Colonial Downs opened on June 15, trainer Patrick Neusch has yet to return a horse back to his barn without first stopping at the winner's circle. At the home of the first two legs of the Jacobs Investments $5 million Grand Slam of Grass, its Neusch that has captured a grand slam of his own, undefeated with the first four horses he has saddled.

"We're enjoying it for the moment. I don't know how much longer it can last. It's certainly been nice," Neusch said. "Everybody takes notice when you have success. It helps generate new business and new clients."

Neusch operates Braeburn with his father, Felix Neusch, who owns two of his son's four winners. The blitz of early success has been surprising for many because Neusch wins at their homestate racetrack haven't come easily or often since Colonial opened in 1997. Perhaps most surprised of all is Neusch himself, especially with his first winner of the meet.

"The first one we didn't expect was the mare that paid $69.80 to win," Neusch said. "That surprised us."

That mare, appropriately named Spreadin Joy, surprised many - not even getting a call until inside the 16th pole. She was the only horse Neusch started the opening week.

During the past week, Neusch saddled winners Sleeping Potion, Just Say Boo and Dacleanupman.

Once could be lucky, twice may be coincidental, three is a trend, four is almost supernatural, especially in Colonial full fields with an unknown jockey aboard.

Jonathan Joyce who has delivered Neusch's four winners has five total wins for the meet. Joyce broke into racing by riding thoroughbreds at Braeburn.

Neusch wasn't as surprised with the following three wins. Taking a new approach on where to place his entries has been the difference between chicken and feathers.

"Horses were coming off layoffs or liked the grass," Neusch said. "Everything came together pretty well and they were in the right company to win. That's the most important aspect of it. Horses have to be happy and healthy - relatively fit and feeling good.

"The key is putting them in the right spot to be a group where they're competitive."

Next up was Sleeping Potion, who has shown his love of the Colonial turf in winning for the third time in five Colonial starts, this time by a half-length. The 8-year-old gelding now has nine wins in 28 career starts.

It's been such a good early season for Neusch that with one win in 26 attempts, Just Say Boo, one of Felix's hard luck favorites, came home to win by a neck in another close finish.

Dacleanupman rounded Colonial's bases on Tuesday evening, winning by a length to keep Neusch's record spotless. Although he started his racing career last year finishing last, beaten by 12 lengths on Colonial's "Big Red Green," this 6-year-old gelding reached the wire in front in a maiden claiming race.

Neusch is taking his newfound success with about as much guarded optimism as any horsemen could expect to have, as none of his four wins were by more than a length.

Despite how the rest of the meet ends up, he appreciates the unique opportunity Colonial offers with turf racing at maiden and claiming levels.

"The grass has moved them up," Neusch said. "There's more opportunity at Colonial even with cheaper horses to race on the turf because they have a wide turf course that can accommodate a large number of races over the course of the meet."

Neusch goes for the thumb Saturday at Colonial Downs with two horses entered - April Foolishness in an allowance race (seventh race) and Lunar's Serenity in the $60,000 Brookmeade Stakes (eighth race). However Neusch will likely scratch Lunar's Serenity out of the Brookmeade, thinking that the 4-year-old filly may be overmatched in her first attempt on the turf in nine starts.

Don't doubt his judgment or his strategy. When it comes to his horses, a trainer has every right to pick and choose their battles.

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