Battle Plan a reminder of Overbrook's regal past

Some grand horses have carried the white, green and blue silks of Overbrook Farm over the years, but Chris Young couldn't ask for a better current representative to wear his family's colors.

In graded stakes winner Battle Plan, Young sees a horse who embodies all the traits his late grandfather and Overbrook founder William T. Young valued in Thoroughbred racing.

Despite the setbacks that have plagued the 5-year-old son of Empire Maker in his career, Battle Plan has persevered to turn himself into a success story.

The lightly raced Battle Plan's designation as the 5-2 morning-line favorite for Saturday's Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs speaks volumes about his talent. That he is even in position to become one of the top handicap horses in the nation is a testament to both his ability and the patience shown by those who recognized his potential from the start.

Out of the champion mare Flanders, Battle Plan's career was nearly derailed before his career began after suffering a condylar fracture in his right front that prevented him from making his debut until November of his 3-year-old season.

After breaking his maiden by 73/4 lengths in his 4-year-old debut at Gulfstream Park last January, Battle Plan was sidelined for nearly another year when he developed a condylar fracture in his opposite leg.

No one could have faulted Overbrook if it had decided to send Battle Plan to the breeding shed or offered him at public auction when it was announced the operation was dispersing the majority of its stock last season.

But like his grandfather before him who campaigned such champions as Grindstone, Flanders, Cat Thief and Surfside, Chris Young was going to give the farm's top talent every chance to prove himself.

"I mean, what's the point if you're not going to try and run these horses," said Young, who manages the 17 remaining Overbrook horses. "We're in it to develop stallions and develop horses.

"He's one where we gave him so much time because of injury and he was a late-developing horse anyway. It only makes sense to kind of keep after it, and (trainer) Todd Pletcher has really liked him from day one. He very well could have been sold as part of the dispersal but Todd indicated if he had one horse to keep that he had been training, Battle Plan would be the one."

When the four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer tells you to keep a horse, it's often wise to listen. Even without Pletcher's advice, however, Young would have been hard pressed to let Battle Plan go.

As a teenager, one of Young's favorite horses to watch was the brilliant Flanders. He can still recall witnessing her stirring 21-length victory in the Grade I Frizette in 1994.

Flanders was sold last year to Coolmore Stud's John Magnier for $400,000 as part of the Overbrook dispersal, but she was euthanized in mid-February after complications from a paddock accident.

"Flanders has always been a favorite," Young said. "She was a horse where her temperament lent her to anything. She was such a kind-hearted horse ... and she seemed to pass that down to her foals. She must have had some hidden drive and determination in there and she passes that down, too."

After winning his first two starts in allowance company by a combined 81/4 lengths to start the year, Battle Plan led nearly every step of the 11⁄8-mile Grade II New Orleans Handicap on March 27 — just his fifth career start — defeating fellow Stephen Foster entrant and multiple Grade I winner General Quarters by 11/2 lengths.

While stablemate Quality Road is widely regarded as the leader of the older male division, a win on Saturday could vault Battle Plan further up the handicap ranks.

"When he won his first race back this year down in Gulfstream we started fielding a few calls from people wanting to purchase Battle Plan," Young said. "I called Todd just to see what his impression of the horse was and he said he thought he was the second-best older colt in the country behind Quality Road.

"If he wins a Grade I it takes it to another level, and with the Breeders' Cup being at Churchill this year, it's something to think about. But first things first, we have to get through Saturday and see where we are."