It was clear from the beginning that Hit the Road was a talented horse. He was a stakes winner and Breeders’ Cup participant as a juvenile in 2019 and though he raced just twice as a three-year-old, he won both starts including the Oceanside Stakes. He thrilled his owners by capturing the Thunder Road (G3) in his first start in 2021, a victory that also marked the first graded stakes win of trainer Dan Blacker’s career.
Hit the Road entered the starting gates for his next race following the Thunder Road, the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1), on a three-race win streak. It was just his second attempt in Grade 1 company after his run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf two years prior. The only horse the betting public favored above him was four-time graded stakes winner Smooth Like Strait, a horse that had also yet to win a Grade 1.
When the gates swung open, jockey Florent Geroux immediately placed Hit the Road in a ground-saving stalking position on the rail. There was little room for Hit the Road to begin his winning drive as the field reached the top of the stretch - just a small seam between leaders Smooth Like Strait and Flying Scotsman. With a bit of bravery, Florent Geroux pushed Hit the Road into the opening and asked him to give him everything he had.
Hit the Road moved forward with powerful strides, immediately taking the lead from the hard-running Smooth Like Strait. He continued to inch forward until he was a full neck in front, but Smooth Like Strait refused to be put away easily. Smooth Like Strait desperately fought back against Hit the Road, but Hit the Road refused to give way. He held on by a short neck to win a thrilling edition of the Frank E. Kilroe (G1).
Just as the Thunder Road (G3) marked the first graded stakes win of Dan Blacker’s career, the Frank E. Kilroe Mile marked his first Grade 1. "When I came here from England I said I wanted to give myself 10 years to win a grade 1 stakes and I did it in nine," Blacker told BloodHorse. "But I don't want to make this about me. This is all about the horse. He's a true racehorse. We're fortunate to have him with such a great group of owners."
"He proved best today," Blacker continued. "It's a credit to the owners. They've been so patient with this horse. They've given him time to get over a little issue he had last year and reach his potential. That was the key thing. To win these big races, you have to give horses time to reach their potential.”
This race was the first time that Florent Geroux piloted Hit the Road. He had previously been ridden by the likes of Victor Espinoza and Umberto Rispoli, the latter of which rode Hit the Road to victory in the Thunder Road but was aboard Smooth Like Strait in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile.
“The trip made the difference, we got very lucky with the trip,” said Florent Geroux. “It opened up at the right time and the horse got the job done. It was all heart. Sometimes when you have to go through a tight spot, the horse doesn’t necessarily cooperate, but he did great and did everything I asked him to…I liked my horse and the one horse (Smooth Like Strait), and I thought it was going to be very tough between those two. I was able to follow him all the way around and got through on the inside.”
Geroux piloted Hit the Road to third-place finishes in the Del Mar Mile (G2) and City of Hope Mile (G2) later in 2021.
The Frank E. Kilroe (G1) has been the highlight of Hit the Road’s career. Since this victory, he has also taken his owners to Keeneland for the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) and to Gulfstream Park for the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1). He has provided us with many thrills throughout the years and we look forward to even more from him as this year progresses.
Visit Hit the Road’s page on our website to read more about his career and watch race replays!