After 28 starts over five years in Europe, Optimus Prime transferred his form to the US and turned heads from his very first the start, in the G1 2018 New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga. Racing for George Mahoney’s Rosbrian Farm and trained by Ricky Hendriks, the French-bred son of Deportivo rebounded from a third in the Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park to stablemate Zanjabeel to post a sensational 18-length victory in the G2 Zeke Ferguson Stakes at Great Meadow, which made him a finalist for the 2018 Eclipse Award as champion jumper. He began his 2019 season as he finished 2018, with an eye-popping 9-length tally in the G2 David Semmes Memorial, also at Great Meadow.
But Optimus Prime was as star-crossed as he was talented. Suffering a suspensory injury that put him on the shelf for a year at the height of his powers, the now 8-year-old signaled he would be a formidable foe when he gave Moscato all he could handle in the AP Smithwick at the Spa in July.
On Thursday, Optimus Prime’s luck ran out again, suffering another suspensory injury in the NY Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga.
Tonight, trainer Hendriks said Optimus Prime is back in Pennsylvania in his stall. He’ll remain with Hendriks before heading to retirement at his owner’s farm.
The statistics will show that Optimus Prime won three of six NSA hurdle starts, but if you had the privilege of watching him at his best, it’s tough not to be a little bit sad at what might have been. Here’s a tribute to Optimus Prime’s NSA career. Tod Marks has some of Optimus Prime’s best moments below.