Instead, John Scott went to the sidelines, first with a fractured cannon bone, and again in 2010 and last year with minor ailments. “It was one thing after another,” Gaines said.
John Scott finally returned to racing earlier this year, finishing fourth in an optional claimer at Santa Anita in April.
On May 6, John Scott, 5, won for the third time in his five-race career in an allowance race over seven furlongs at Betfair Hollywood Park, a win that left Gaines and owner-breeder John Harris encouraged about the gelding’s future.
“We’re looking forward to running him longer distances,” Gaines said.
“If he stays sound, he’s definitely stakes quality.”
The lengthy layoff worked to the gelding’s benefit. He was rested at Harris’s farm in Coalinga, Calif., Gaines said. John Scott had the early training of his comeback there before returning to Gaines’s stable.
“The beautiful thing is they have that big farm,” he said. “They can put him in the back 40 and forget about him.
“It was his lengthy spa stay. It’s what you do when you do the right thing by a horse.”
John Scott won his first two starts – a maiden race for California-breds and the I’m Smokin’ Stakes for California-bred 2-year-olds – at Del Mar in the summer of 2009. He was beaten 2 1/4 by Lookin At Lucky in the Norfolk despite a wide trip.
Gaines’ expectation that John Scott was worthy of the Kentucky Derby may not have been wide of the mark. Lookin At Lucky was the champion 2-year-old male of 2009, and the champion 3-year-old male of 2010, the year he won the Preakness Stakes.
John Scott is by Bertrando out of the Deputy Minister mare Henlopen, who was second in the Grade 2 Rare Perfume Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Belmont Park in 1996. Henlopen has also produced Distant Victory, a Distant View mare who won the 2008 California Cup Distance Handicap on turf at Santa Anita in the last start of her six-race career. Owned by Harris, Distant Victory won four times and earned $199,596.
Those bloodlines have left Gaines encouraged to try a turf race with John Scott, possibly this summer. “Next time, we’ll go two turns,” she said.
And one of these times, John Scott may have his second stakes win.