Home of the Louisiana Derby

Barn Notes: Friday, December 26

 

IN TODAY'S NOTES: ERAMIA OUT ADDITIONAL FOUR WEEKS; SHARP AFTER FIRST STAKES WIN WITH AZTEC BRAVE; WARD HIGH ON HIGH WIRE KITTEN; LITTLE PUMPKIN RUMBLE LOOMS LARGE IN WOODCHOPPER; AMOSS TO RUN ONE OF HIS TWO IN PAGO HOP


ERAMIA OUT ADDITIONAL FOUR WEEKS

            According to agent Rick Mocklin, popular jockey Richard Eramia will be out an additional four weeks.  The multiple graded stakes-winning rider and regular pilot of Louisiana champion Sunbean was injured during the gallop-out following the completion of the fourth race at Fair Grounds on Nov. 29 when his mount – Shadwell Stable’s Atoof – spooked and dumped the rider, injuring his shoulder. 

            “He goes back to the doctor in two weeks and will then start a two-week therapy program,” Mocklin reported.  “(Richard) is healing, but not as fast as we had hoped we would.  We are hoping to be back for the last week in January.”

            Expected to be a key factor in this year’s Fair Grounds jockey race after finishing third in last season’s standings, Eramia came into the meet batting nearly 21% on the year and with more than $4.7 million in purse earnings.  He is closing in on 1,500 career wins and will ultimately have 219 victories on the year, ranking him 13th nationally.  If he is not passed by anyone, it will equal his ranking from 2013 – despite losing over a month of mounts. 

SHARP AFTER FIRST STAKES WIN WITH AZTEC BRAVE

            When asked earlier in the Fair Grounds meet if there were any horses in his barn about whom he was especially excited, 30-year-old fledgling trainer Joe Sharp quickly mentioned Brad Grady’s Aztec Brave.  A good-looking, high-energy horse with an attractive blaze down his face, the son of Grade III-winning grass horse Pyrus substantiated that fervor with a five-length drubbing of a grass allowance field going 7½ furlongs on Nov. 28 – earning him an 89 Beyer Speed Figure – in what was his first start for the Sharp barn after being claimed at Keeneland on Oct. 8. 

The next step for the talented French-bred will be a start in Saturday’s $60,000 Woodchopper against a field that includes five stakes winners and two stakes-placed charges among the nine other entrants.        

“He’s doing really well right now and has had a couple of good works since the race,” Sharp said.  “I worked him myself and he’s working really nice. The race should set up pretty decently for him.  The only question or concern is if we get too much rain at this point.”

With rain scheduled in the forecast, the course being downgraded to good or yielding should not hurt the colt’s chances.  As a juvenile in France, he broke his maiden over good-to-soft going at La Teste de Buch Racecourse outside of Bordeaux.  An additional advantage is his tractable speed if the going comes up wet.

“He was a victim of a pace-less race last time, so he went to the lead,” Sharp said.  “He can sit off horses.”     

            The Woodchopper will be Sharp’s third attempt at a first stakes win since going out on his own this fall.  The former assistant to Mike Maker and Mike Stidham was second in the $75,000 Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate Fields with Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Broughton Kitten on Dec. 6 (his 30th birthday) and was an adjudged second with the Ramsey’s One King’s Man in the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic on Dec. 13. 

“Mr. Grady, the owner, will be in town for the race and we’re hoping we can both get our first stakes win,” Sharp concluded.  Considering Sharp is striking at a 42% rate (eight of 19) at the Fair Grounds, such should logically not be too far off in the future.

Aztec Brave will start from post four under Miguel Mena and has been assigned morning line odds of 8-1.

WARD HIGH ON HIGH WIRE KITTEN

            When Wesley Ward ships in a horse to any track in the country, it is worth respecting.  For example, the veteran trainer started six horses in a total of three races at this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita Park (five of those shipping in from Keeneland) and came home with two wins, three seconds and a third – including a one-two finish in the Juvenile Turf and a two-three finish in the Turf Sprint.

            The Ward show brings its career-year momentum to New Orleans for Saturday’s $60,000 Pago Hop Stakes when the barn starts Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s homebred filly High Wire Kitten.  A daughter of Kitten’s Joy, she has won a third of her nine starts, including an allowance victory last out at Keeneland in which she showed a resolute closing kick.  She has not started since that Oct. 23 one-mile turf event.

“She’s a developing filly and we gave her some time after that race,” Ward said.  “She came right from Turfway (Park) on Christmas Eve to the Fair Grounds and ate up the last couple days.  She’s doing great.  The only question is the weather.  If it comes off the turf, we won’t run.”

            As to what has turned out to be a deeply competitive renewal of the Pago Hop in its 50th running, Ward was pragmatic.

            “There are limited opportunities this time of year on the grass,” he said.  “Turf racing (fields) will be tough because of the lack of spots.  I’m very happy with this filly.  We’ll look to jump into more stakes down the road with her.  Kittens Joys often become better with seasoning – hopefully that happens with her.”

            High Wire Kitten starts from post six under Ward’s go-to jockey Rafael Hernandez and has been assigned morning line odds of 6-1. 

LITTLE PUMPKIN RUMBLE LOOMS LARGE IN WOODCHOPPER

            Trainer Gary Scherer has a great deal of respect for his starter for the $60,000 Woodchopper, Al and Bill Ulwelling’s Pumpkin Rumble.  Slight in stature, but mighty in his closing kick, the son of champion English Channel enters Saturday’s event with the highest last-out turf Beyer Speed Figure (91) of any of the 10 entrants. 

            “He’s a little bitty horse who over-excels,” Scherer said.  “You get a lot of horses with talent who don’t try – but he’s a horse who has talent and gives it all he has when he runs.  This race is a little tougher than I thought it would be for $60,000, but our horse will run as far as you want him to and seems to handle most everything you put him on, surface-wise.  He’s coming in really well.”

            In his nine starts, the chestnut gelding has finished in the top-four eight times, including a pair of fourths in stakes company in his last two races.  In September’s $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, the winner Long On Value went on to score next out in the Grade II $200,000 Twilight Derby and starts Friday as one of the favorites in the Grade II $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile.  Both of those races are Santa Anita Park fixtures. 

            In Pumpkin Rumble’s last race – fourth beaten 2¼ lengths in the Grade III $500,000 Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont Park – he ran into multiple graded stakes winner Ring Weekend at his best, but still ran on to finish well on the soft going. 

“We claimed him last year at the Fair Grounds and the plan was to put him on the grass,” Scherer reflected.  “After he broke his maiden at Arlington, we knew we had a very good horse and we ran him in some stakes against some tough horses.  (Trainer Bill) Mott’s Long On Value has turned out to be a really good horse and last time at Belmont they might have gone by him, but he never gave up and stayed on.”

            Scherer also hinted that he would not be averse to the weather being a little wet, but the race still staying on the grass.  In addition to his fourth in the Hill Prince over soft going, he was second in the $125,000 Toronto Cup at Woodbine in July over good turf. 

“The softer the grass, the better he seems to run,” Scherer said.  “When he won at Arlington it was really soft and he ran good last time at Belmont.  If it rains and they keep it on the grass, it won’t bother us.  We’ll have to think about it if they take it off – but he has run well on everything we’ve put him on.”

Scherer is already having a stellar meet at Fair Grounds, including striking at a 28% rate and being one of five trainers tied for third in the standings with seven wins.  A win by Pumpkin Rumble would be the cherry on top of a month that has already seen him win a stakes for the Ulwellings with Wind Chill Factor in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie.

“He’s a good little horse – actually if you put me up next to him, I’m probably wider,” Scherer laughed.  “Hopefully he runs big here and we can look at the (Grade III $100,000 Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap on Jan. 17) next and the series leading up to (Grade II $300,000 Mervin H.) Muniz (on Mar. 28).”

Pumpkin Rumble will be ridden by Florent Geroux – who was aboard for the gelding’s maiden win – from post seven.  His 9-2 morning line makes him the third choice.

AMOSS TO RUN ONE OF HIS TWO IN PAGO HOP

            Leading trainer Tom Amoss is rolling the weather dice with two talented Maggi Moss-owned fillies for Saturday’s Pago Hop stakes.  And why not – last week he played the part of a brilliant weatherman when entering Grand Contender into the grassy Buddy Diliberto with hopes that a pending rain storm would wash the race off the grass – and it did, but only hours before the race was to commence.  The result was the 6-year-old gelding swimming through the sealed slop like a hooved Michael Phelps to win by a measured length and a half.

            On Saturday he has talented and quickly developing allowance filly In My Time as well as stakes-winning multi-surface specialist Kiss to Remember both entered in the $60,000 Pago Hop Stakes.  While the former enters off two solid grass allowance scores in Kentucky, the latter has finished second in her last five races – including four stakes – and done so on sloppy dirt, fast dirt and firm turf.

            “Only one is going to run,” Amoss said.  “If it gets taken off (the turf), Kiss to Remember will run.  A lot is going to depend on the weather.  Both are entered here and at Delta.

            “With Kiss to Remember it’s more about distance limitations,” he continued.  “If it goes to the dirt and they have the shorter stretch, that will work well for her.  In My Time is going to sell at Keeneland in January and this will most likely be her last start with us.”