Fans of gray horses have long had the sharp, iron-gray Pavel (by Creative Cause) at the top of their lists among good-looking horses with talent. A winner of the Grade 3 Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx as a 3-year-old, Pavel had next finished third in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont.

Since then, the grand gray had continued to impress work watchers on the West Coast but had not added another stakes to his resume, finishing fourth in the G1 Malibu in late December. Even so, earlier this year, Pavel seemed ready to deliver on the massive talent he had advertised in his morning works.

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— Pavel, shown galloping at Santa Anita on June 22, has been a striking feature of morning works since coming to the races. (Photo courtesy of O’Neill Racing Stable on Facebook)

Shipped to Dubai for the World Cup, Pavel ran a decent race to be fourth, and then he returned to his base at Doug O’Niell’s barn at Santa Anita and ran a fairish fourth to Accelerate in the G1 Gold Cup Handicap.

After that series of fourths, perhaps it was fitting that Pavel was the fourth choice in the G1 Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs on June 16. He won by 3 ¾ lengths in 1:49.21 for the nine furlongs, and now he is a G1 winner.

Bred in Kentucky by Brereton C. Jones & WinStar Farm LLC, Pavel is by the Airdrie Stud stallion Creative Cause, a son of Giant’s Causeway out of the Siberian Summer mare Dream of Summer. Pavel was produced from the unraced Maria’s Mon mare Mons Venus, who previously produced G2 winner Coracortado. The breeders sent their colt to the sales at Keeneland in November. There, breeder and bloodstock agent Mike McMahon picked him out of the lineup as one who was likely to succeed. McMahon & Hill Bloodstock bought the colt for $90,000, which was the high price for a weanling by the stallion in 2014.

McMahon said, “Pavel was a quite attractive foal, although he was always on the smallish side. I thought we got him a little cheaply because it was a foal share.” The new owners took the colt to the McMahons’ Spruce Lane Farm near Versailles, Ky., and put him in with the group they were raising for the following year’s auctions.

At the 2015 Keeneland September sale, however, “Pavel wasn’t the physical that the yearling buyers wanted at that time,” McMahon said. “This horse was a little thicker type, maybe a little heavy even, but he definitely has more of a Quarter Horse body than a lean body. As a yearling, I thought lack of scope was his Achilles’s heel.”

Since the partners were not planning on racing the colt themselves, they sought out a partner and found one in Ciaran Dunne, who trains horses for the sales of juveniles in training and consigns as Wavertree Sales.

McMahon continued. “After the yearling sale, Ciaran Dunne bought half of the horse, and we pointed the colt to the Fasig-Tipton sale at Miami. Pavel was an extremely easy horse to take to a 2-year-old sale because of his easy-going mental attitude and because of his physical soundness. We’d never had any issues with him. You wouldn’t know he was in the barn.”

The handsome gray progressed well in his training, and hopes grew high. Then, McMahon said, “He got cast in his stall just before going down to the sale, and it was a sufficiently serious situation that it took months to rehab him. Then he began showing so much on the training track that Dennis O’Neill bought him privately for Reddam Racing.”

Now, Pavel is a G1 winner of $1,175,000 from 10 starts. He is the second headline horse of 2018 for his sire Creative Cause. Earlier this season, the near-black My Boy Jack won the G3 Lexington Stakes and Southwest Stakes to be a prominent outsider among the colts in consideration for the Kentucky Derby.

A son of Giant’s Causeway who won the G1 Norfolk Stakes at 2, Creative Cause won the G2 San Felipe at 3, then was second in the G1 Santa Anita Derby and third in the Preakness Stakes. At stud, his offspring have shown more of a tendency to improve with age and distance like My Boy Jack and Pavel.

Pavel is expected to contest many of the premium events for older horses this year, and McMahon noted that the gray “was in the same yearling crop as Mopotism and Union Strike, all Grade 1 stakes horses from a group of 14.” In addition to this colt, McMahon & Hill bought Mopotism (Uncle Mo) $135,000 as a weanling, then sold the filly for $200,000 to J.J. Crupi, agent, at the Saratoga select yearling auction, and Crupi then sold her to Reddam for $300,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida March sale. Mopotism has won the G2 La Canada and finished third in the G1 Santa Margarita, La Brea, and Starlet. Union Strike (Union Rags) was a weanling purchase by McMahon & Hill for $170,000 as a weanling, was bought back as a yearling, and then sold for $375,000 to Ruis Racing at the OBS April sale of juveniles. She won the G1 Del Mar Debutante as a maiden.

McMahon & Hill clearly like nice horses, and they have another to cheer for with the good-feeling gray Pavel.

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