RACE 1; Nov 26th, 2016

From Insider Mike; this colt has a pedigree which is predominantly strong on the turf racing side.  'Combat Controller's' mother, Re Dream It, was a "stakes winner" on turf, but had Fred Flintstone feet on the dirt, and perhaps as many as 75% of Thoroughbred offspring tend to replicate the traits of their mother, as opposed to the stallion.  As a result, we have no illusion of Combat Controller winning on Saturday night.  For starters, his mind will be blown because it'll be his first race...(think of Day 1 of BMT or Selection School and do the math from there) ...he'll be running under the lights (Thoroughbreds train only in the early mornings)...and he'll be surrounded by eleven other mind blown "babies" (the industry nickname for 2-year-olds) and is breaking from the 3 hole.  Unless he has blinding speed (which his workout pattern suggests that he does not,) then he'll quickly get "covered up" by a bunch of horses and have a dumptruck amount of dirt kicked back in his face...always an unnerving experience the first time.

All told, a warning to anyone who might be able to watch:  This race, on the dirt (again: prob not where his career success will come) is to be a 100% "learning experience."  We just want to see him "compete / stay with the pack."   While it wouldn't be the end of the world, what you hope not to see first time out is your horse trailing the field for the entire race.  We're looking for something to build on.

From Insider Mike; For those who saw the race, his first career start, you could see that it was a nightmare.   Unnoticeable from the standard side-view/pan shot, was:  the instant the starting gates swung open, Combat Controller, the #3 horse, got impeded by the #4 horse.  He came "down & over" on him and disrupted his path.  (This is not uncommon in a "maiden" race.  CCT could've just as well come out and interfered with a horse next to him!  At this stage of their careers, every single day is a learning process; it's like the first days & weeks of kindergarten.)  But reality is, that event caused our horse to lose valuable, initial momentum.  He was shuffled back, forced down to the rail and compelled to "rebreak," as we say in the business. (Never good in a horse race)

From that point, as suspected, he shied horribly (pulling his head up, backward and to the right) from having dirt kicked back in his face.  He then fought the jockey---who sought to wheel him to the outside to clear passageway.   Combat Controller had other ideas.  He wanted to stay put on the rail and dig up inside and travel with the pack.  (Why? That's what they do.  At their core, the Good Lord made horses pack animals.)  It's the trainer and jockey's job to teach young horses that they're not in charge.  Again--very similar to a young child. 

After a quarter-mile of fighting the bit, the jockey finally got him to the outside but by then, he'd lost what's called his traveling action and, in turn, contact with the field on the far turn.  By example, think if you were running hard and smoothly but out of nowhere, someone snatched the back of your shirt? 

All told, Murphy definitely visited the horse in his first race.  The good news is, once the jockey "gathered him back up" mid-way around the turn, he began to concentrate again and took off after the field.  He beat only one horse, but was traveling nicely - and fast - at the end. Jockey Corey Lanerie, one of the best jockeys in America, told trainer Kenny McPeek that Combat Controller was easily 12-15 lengths better than he showed.  Corey said he only truly ran hard for about a quarter-mile of the 7 furlong (7/8's-of a-mile) race!   The rest of the time he was in traffic, goofing off and fighting him.

Race 12 at Churchill Downs on

  • MSW
  • 7 furlongs
  • $58,000
  • 2 yo
  • Dirt
  • 6:24 PM
  • 1:23.85
  • Watch Video
Pos Draw Dist Horse Weight Jockey Trainer Age SP
1st (1) Hollow Point (USA) 8-6 J R Leparoux Mark Casse 2 9/5
2nd (2) Local Hero (USA) 8-6 Ricardo Jr Santana Steven Asmussen 2 6/5
3rd (8) Ty Man (USA) 8-6 Jon Court William Fires 2 30/1
4th (4) Ladakh (USA) 8-6 Joseph Jr Rocco Donnie Von Hemel 2 20/1
5th (5) Kid From New York (USA) 8-6 Florent Geroux Nicholas Zito 2 20/1
6th (6) Indy Hill (USA) 8-6 Ty Kennedy D Lukas 2 15/1
7th (9) Rad Red (USA) 8-6 Chris Landeros Ian Wilkes 2 20/1
8th (7) Flash Harry (USA) 8-6 Brian Jr Hernandez Ian Wilkes 2 20/1
9th (10) My Boy Lane (USA) 8-6 Channing Hill Aaron Shorter 2 30/1
10th (3) Combat Controller (USA) 8-6 Corey Lanerie Kenneth McPeek 2 15/1
11th (11) Daddy Bob (USA) 8-6 Calvin Borel William Bradley 2 15/1
NR (12) Quenlenny (USA) 8-6 Robby Albarado Dale Romans 2
NR (13) Watch Me Whip (USA) 8-6 Robby Albarado Dale Romans 2
NR (14) Bowman West (USA) 8-6 Declan Cannon Jack Van Berg 2
NR (15) Clearly Super (USA) 8-6 Corey Lanerie Kenneth McPeek 2
NR (16) Unbridled West (USA) 8-6 J R Leparoux Mark Casse 2

Looking ahead, Combat Controller's owner, Dr Carl Gessler, told me that the initial plan is to take him to Fair Grounds Racetrack in New Orleans.  He's a colt with "distance" and "turf "(grass) in his pedigree... where conversely, as a first-time-starter the other night, he was compelled by rules of the game to begin his career in a sprint race on dirt.  Kenny McPeek, one of the nation's premier trainers (and whose father-in-law was a former USAF Joint Chief in the Pentagon,) would like to race him in a 2-turn, one-mile-and-one-sixteenth race on dirt, and then begin to look for turf races.  Combat Controller's dad, Awesome Again, is a former world champion.  He won the world's premier race, the Breeders' Cup Classic in 1998.  So McPeek isn't prepared to give up on dirt racing just yet.  The colt's mom, however, ReDreamIt, was a 100% pure turf runner.  She couldn't stand up on the dirt...and it's my impression that Combat Controller is inheriting her traits....which is common.  In equine matings, the dam has much more influence on the offspring than the stallion.  Why?  Over the course of a year, a top stallion can "cover" a hundred mares or more; whereas a mare can drop only a single foal, of course. It's law of averages.

That's it for now.  I'm sorry that the horse didn't perform well.  Thoroughbred racing is a game of "hope," "optimism" and "tomorrow," so nobody's discouraged. But even if he turns out to be a total dud,  We gotta agree, this was one hell of gesture on Dr Gessler's part.  On pedigree alone--whether he ever stepped foot on the track-- this colt is worth somewhere between $75,000 & $100,000.  Dr Gessler, with no "military" anywhere in his family, could've named him anything; but a year ago told me he wanted to pay his respects to you guys.  ...Does it get any cooler than that?

I'll keep everyone apprised of the racing schedule.

All the best,
   Mike Geraghty
    father of John, a SSgt in the 21st at Pope

   RACE 2; Jan 26th, 2017

From Insider Mike; Ding...Ding...Ding !

Combat Controller finished a solid 3rd at....99:1 !   (In the above picture from the post parade he's 70:1, but a friend on hand at the track in New Orleans told me that he went off at 99...ha ha!)

A two dollar Show bet would've gotten you back 19 bucks. 

The colt is waking up! 

The winner of the race cost half-a-million dollars as a yearling and "ran out of the TV set" ... won huge; so there was no beating a future superstar like him-- who's perhaps even a springtime Triple Crown-event (Kentucky Derby, Preakness or Belmont Stakes) horse.  However, Combat Controller, after lagging in last place down the backstretch, kicked into overdrive around the far turn---and despite being impossibly wide (thus geographically forced to cover more ground than the others) --- passed every horse in the field down the stretch except one....and was gettin' to him when the wire struck!

Combat Controller's trainer, Kenny McPeek, just told me that the horse is only now beginning to figure things out.  While he'll never be a star like the winner (those type of horses disclose themselves from the "word go") ... McPeek thinks some good fun's to be had with Combat Controller once turf (grass) season arrives.  Today was his 2nd dirt race in as many starts.

In the game of Thoroughbred racing, you never "know what you have" until they race; and when a horse throws in a nightmare performance the first time out---as Combat Controller did on that November night at Churchill Downs---you fear you might have a skunk.  But when a horse can turn it around - even a little - after the 2nd or 3rd race, your optimism soars.

So tonight is a good night.  Because this horse was named for United States Air Force Combat Controllers of the past, present and future, Dr Carl Gessler, his owner, and I, of course, desperately want him to be a "good horse" ...a winner.

Race 7 at Fair Grounds on Full Results
  • MSW
  • 1 mile 70 Yards
  • $41,000
  • 3 yo
  • Dirt
  • 4:19 PM
  • 1:42.49
  • Watch Video

Closing Note:  Dr Gessler is a close friend of President Trump's new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (both Alabamans), as well as another Trump Cabinet appointee, Tom Price, of Georgia, (Health & Human Services)...and has been asked to consider joining the extended Trump Team in some medical regard.  Those guys are all horse racing fans and all know of Combat Controller, the horse.  It'll be sweet to announce that he 'hit the board" in his second effort.  Pretty cool stuff.

This ties it up.  I'll do better in the future with keeping everyone apprised of Combat Controller's races.  I'm sorry about today's late notification.  FYI...as a rule of thumb, a young horse will not race more than once every 2, possibly 3 months....so don't be looking for a notification at any time soon. 

Happy New Year to all,
                Mike Geraghty
                (dad of CCT SSgt John G, 21st STS- Pope)

ps/  I heard from many after Combat Controller's first race, and continue to welcome any communication from families inside the fraternity.  Please pass the word to everyone you're connected to about this horse.  Everybody should know about him.

  RACE 3; Feb 18th 2017

Favoritism may go to Combat Controller, based on his class lines and speed figures. In his past two races, he has chased Local Hero, who impressed many when romping by 7¼ lengths last out at this level and trip on Jan. 26. The Gessler Racing-owned and Ken McPeek-trained son of Awesome Again closed well to be third that day from well back.

Race 7 at Fair Grounds on Full Results

Combat Controller is the #4 horse in yellow, coming in 3rd A 12:1 odds
  • MSW
  • 1 mile 70 Yards
  • $41,000
  • 3 yo
  • Dirt
  • 4:07 PM
  • 1:43.59
  • Watch Video
Pos Draw Dist Horse Weight Jockey Trainer Age SP
1st (5) Souper Tapit (USA) 8-8 Florent Geroux Mark Casse 3 5/2
2nd (7) Multiplier (USA) 8-8 Brian Jr Hernandez Brendan Walsh 3 7/2
3rd (4) Combat Controller (USA) 8-8 Sophie Doyle Kenneth McPeek 3 6/1
4th (9) Off Road (USA) 8-8 David Flores Steven Asmussen 3 6/1
5th (3) Brookline (USA) 8-8 Jose Valdivia Jr Michael Stidham 3 6/1
6th (2) Grand Marais (USA) 8-8 Denny Velazquez Gary Scherer 3 20/1
7th (8) Sir Ballantine (USA) 8-8 Robby Albarado Kenneth McPeek 3 8/1
8th (6) Diamondmaze (USA) 8-8 Mitchell Murrill Neil Pessin 3 10/1
9th (1) Manning (USA) 8-8 Gabriel Saez Thomas Morley 3 12/1

  RACE 4; Mar 18th, 2017


This saga began 3 months ago, the day after Thanksgiving, at Churchill Downs in Louisville.  Combat Controller raced that night like he was blindfolded.  Since then, he's been coming around by the week and training well.  He went from trailing the field in the first race to finishing 3rd twice.  He's now doing everything a trainer hopes to see:  Eats every oat every day and has stayed sound / free of injury.  He's also not goofing off in workouts (well, as much. That may never fully subside until he's older.  In the sphere of horse racing, 3 years, 3 months (his age) is still quite young. He's literally a big, playful kid and last but not least---still has his testicles.  Don't laugh...in the equine world they're quick to come off if a horse refuses to concentrate, compete seriously, and/or becomes dangerous.  Combat Controller's dad, Awesome Again, was a world champion and his mom, a minor stakes winner on grass surfaces.  As such, a case could be made that Combat Controller is worth a hundred grand- or more -even if he never wins a race, as HE could pass on the abilities of his parents---even if that same DNA finds a way to by-pass him.

But I digress.  Most importantly--and this is huge--Combat Controller never gives a half-hearted effort.  He fights during every race and morning training session.  Still, while he has the mind of a champion, unfortunately, the Good Lord didn't give him legs fast enough to run with the best. 

In conclusion, this time, if Combat Controller won, I would not be surprised.  And for the first time--though he has to face another horse worth half-a-million bucks, this one named INSURGENT, I'm going to bet on the CCT.  

As a side note...as someone in the industry, the point above is just unreal to me.  It seems that every time Combat Controller is entered, he's tasked with facing at least one horse who's as well bred as ANY horse in America.  Insurgent is owned by one of America's wealthiest family's and one of the world's most successful breeding operations...Stonestreet Farm and the estate of Jess Jackson, of Jackson-Kendall Wines.  He's by a champion out of a champion. There's no ambiguity in his pedigree: Insurgent is expected to be special.  As for this Saturday, though, I don't care:  Insurgent better have his running shoes on!

In addition to Combat Controller's maturation and solid training, there's going to be a significant jockey change.  Trainer Kenny McPeek has named Robby Albarado to ride him.  Ironically, Albarado has been nominated to the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame this year.  He's been around for better than 20 years and has won almost every important race, excepting the Kentucky Derby---and might win that this year on a horse called J BOYS ECHO.  Unfortunately, Robby won't win the Derby on Combat Controller, who's strongest pedigree influence is on the grass racing side.


Believe it or not..... Jill signed us up so we can throw some money away on Combat Controller and we busted our cherry making our 1st wager on the horses and not the last, see left.  Combat Controller KICKED BUTT and we're happy to show our support.

We made our 1st foray into Horse Racing and INSIDER MIKE with COMBAT CONTROLLER will put us in
Best showing yet, and although my 1st wager didn't pay off......... Jill wager's we'll WIN NEXT RACE!

The horse is "almost there."  In the video, note how he isn't "headstrong" and fighting the jockey to be up with the leaders---nor no longer falling impossibly far behind the pack, as he did in his first 2 races.   He's now "rating" (comfortably settling into stride) beautifully down the backstretch and then, when the jockey gives the cue to kick-it-in for all he's worth, he attacked the leaders on the turn and wasn't satisfied until he made the lead.  

At that point, the race was his to lose, and he was simply run down by a little better horse on this date.  No shame there.  Fair Grounds Race Course has the longest stretch in horse racing and it's extremely difficult to lead the whole way there.  The stretch at Churchill Downs is known for being the longest due to hosting the Kentucky Derby, but Fair Grounds is actually 40 yards longer....and considerably longer than most other American racetracks.

Combat Controller is still very much a work in progress, but inside of 4 months, trainer Kenny McPeek and his team have done a phenomenal job with this horse.  After the debacle of his first race, I thought he might be pulling a plow by springtime..aye yi yi!   (What'd he get beaten, 25 lengths that night..?)  

Race 8 at Fair Grounds on

  • MSW
  • 1 mile 70 Yards
  • $41,000
  • 3 yo
  • Dirt
  • 4:50 PM
  • 1:42.34
  • Watch Video
Pos Draw Dist Horse Weight Jockey Trainer Age SP
1st (6) Multiplier (USA) 8-8 Brian Jr Hernandez Brendan Walsh 3 2/1
2nd (2) Combat Controller (USA) 8-8 Robby Albarado Kenneth McPeek 3 6/1
3rd (8) Brookline (USA) 8-8 Jose Valdivia Jr Michael Stidham 3 10/1
4th (10) Insurgent (USA) 8-8 Florent Geroux Steven Asmussen 3 3/1
5th (9) Elenzee (USA) 8-8 Jerome Lermyte Mark Casse 3 6/1
6th (3) Drago's Pearl (USA) 8-8 Francisco Torres Dallas Stewart 3 12/1
7th (7) Zaevion (USA) 8-8 C J McMahon R Moquett 3 20/1
8th (5) Big Ragu (USA) 8-8 James Graham Louie Roussel 3 10/1
9th (1) Mcpherson (USA) 8-8 Miguel Mena Grant Forster 3 20/1
NR (4) La Maquina Gris (USA) 8-8 David Flores Steven Asmussen 3

He's now looking great yet improvement still lies ahead.  We know this with confidence because, when he turned for home and dug for the lead, he was not traveling on the correct "lead" (the leg which strikes the ground first).  The first leg you should see strike the ground by a sound & professional racehorse in the homestretch should be his left leg.  In today's race, Combat Controller was reaching out with his right leg for half-the-homestretch.  

From Day 1, in order to optimize their energy output, racehorses are taught to "switch leads" everyday in training.  When they don't swap over to their proper leads as they travel around the course, they go off balance and tire much faster.  By human example, think of running through a giant airport with the heaviest piece of luggage you've ever carried.  At the point you switch arms, you receive a natural energy boost.  Same thing with a horse switching its leads. Combat Controller stayed on the wrong lead all the way down the stretch until the "eighth pole" ...which is 220 yards from the wire.  By the time he switched over, the eventual winner had the momentum---and CCT was passed.  We presume (hope?) that this deficiency will be corrected and he will switch to the proper leg at the very top of the stretch.  If he can do that, it'll make a significant difference in his stretch run.

From Insider Mike; Looking ahead....

The way it works in horse racing...after a win (called "breaking your maiden") a horse graduates and moves on.  So today's winner, Multiplier, now has to compete against other horses with one career victory, while Combat Controller remains with other maidens.  {As a sidebar to the hundreds of people reading this and just learning about the game through this horse:  I can't emphasize enough how difficult it is to win in the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing.}  

I talked to Combat Controller's trainer, Ken McPeek, after the race.  The thought now is to move the horse from New Orleans to Lexington, Kentucky. He'll race at the fabled Keeneland Race Course meeting in April.  (Personally I disagree with the move; but only for the reason that Combat Controller will face nothing but the absolute best maidens in America there...and that concerns me...ha ha!   At this time of year, Keeneland is THE track.  The wealthiest owners with the nation's best bred horses, greatest jockeys and top trainers compete there)  But, McPeek is stabled there, too.  He's a national class trainer in his own right who once won the Belmont Stakes and has finished 2nd in the Kentucky Derby.  So it's safe to say he knows a little more than I do; and said directly: "Combat Controller should win at Keeneland."   

So on that note---let's hope!

As always, I'll do my best to keep everyone apprised of the next race.  

People from all over America, Canada and parts of Europe are following the saga of the horse named in honor of the US military special operators known as Air Force Combat Controllers---and I'm grateful to everyone of you.  Finally, thanks once more to Dr Carl Gessler of Alabama - who has no familial ties to the military - for the naming honor.  Pretty cool gesture.

Take care & go well,
             Mike Geraghty