Highland Sky targets Pan American after winning return

Highland Sky1HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – A long layoff, a bad post, an eventful trip – in the end, none of that mattered to Highland Sky, who made an impressive return from a 7 1/2-month vacation with a game three-quarter-length triumph over a strong optional-claiming/allowance field here last Saturday.

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With Paco Lopez putting in a fearless ride, Highland Sky dove to the inside following a tardy beginning to save ground early, raced in some traffic down the backstretch, swung about seven paths wide rallying into the stretch, and still was able to outfinish Ice Cutter and Hockey School. It was his first appearance since running second, beaten a neck, last July in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby.

“He had some little, minor problems, one after the other, following the Belmont Derby, so we just said the heck with it, we’ll give him the rest of the year off,” said Barclay Tagg, who trains Highland Sky for a partnership that includes his breeder, Joyce B. Young. “We had a nice couple of months to get him ready again, and he came into this good. We thought about running him back in the stakes, but this race was in the book, and the timing was perfect, so I decided why not start him out here?”

Tagg said winning the 1 1/16-mile race on Saturday was a bonus for him.

“He had a bad post, and I certainly don’t think this is his best distance,” Tagg said. “He really wants to go a lot farther. I wasn’t really worried about winning it. I just wanted to get a race under his belt and not get him hurt, and Paco did a super job.”

Tagg said he’ll likely point Highland Sky for the Grade 3 Pan American at 1 3/8 miles here April 1.