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Barn Notes: Saturday, January 10

 

IN TODAY'S NOTES: BRADLEY: CATALANO'S HIGHBALL PROBABLE, INFINITE MAGIC POSSIBLE; NATES MINESHAFT BACK TO TWO TURNS IN LOUISIANA; WEST COAST BELLE READY FOR HER SOPHOMORE BOW

 

BRADLEY:  CATALANO’S HIGHBALL PROBABLE, INFINITE MAGIC POSSIBLE

            Trainer Wayne Catalano’s formidable stable could have two chances to win next Saturday’s Grade III $100,000 Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap.  In a race expected to be headlined by Gainesway Stable’s graded stakes winner Villandry, Catalano is seriously considering the race for the talented and lightly raced Highball, while also keeping it on the radar of the more accomplished Infinite Magic.

            Owned by Gary and Mary West, Highball exits a game runner-up finish in the off-the-turf $60,000 Woodchopper Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course on Dec. 27.  In his first attempt on a sealed and sloppy surface – and any surface other than grass – the son of Lemon Drop Kid closed from 11 lengths back to finish less than four lengths behind winner Rise Up in second.

            “He spotted that horse a lot the other day,” Catalano said.  “He ran good, though.  He’s training great and working good.  We’re going to enter and look at the race.”

            A winner of two races – including a rich allowance at Kentucky Downs in September –Highball has kept capable company in his septet of starts.  He was a late-closing fourth in the Grade III $100,000 Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 15 two starts back, a game fifth in the Grade I $500,000 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington International this summer and third beaten 1¼ lengths in the Grade III $200,000 American Derby one race prior to that.

            “I watched his last work and liked how he did it,” Catalano said.  The Kentucky-bred 4-year-old colt worked an excellent four furlongs on Jan. 7 in :48.80 – second best of 62 moves at the distance. 

            Catalano also mentioned that Grade III winner and Grade II-placed 5-year-old ridgling Infinite Magic is also possible for the first major open turf stakes of the meet.  Owned by Team Valor International, Infinite Magic has yet to win in three starts for Catalano, but ran a plucky race when fourth last out in an allowance at Churchill Downs going a grassy flat mile.  The son of More Than Ready won the American Derby in 2013 and followed that effort with a valiant second in the Grade II $250,000 Del Mar Derby while under the care of former Team Valor private conditioner Rick Mettee. 

            “He’s doing okay and training good right now,” Catalano said.  “We have been trying to find an allowance.  He ran a good race last time.  We’ll see how the (Bradley) comes up and make a decision.”

NATES MINESHAFT BACK TO TWO TURNS IN LOUISIANA

            Windy Hill Farm’s 8-year-old ridgling warrior Nates Mineshaft put the final touches on his preparation for a return to what was once his greatest stage – two turns on the Fair Grounds Race Course dirt.  The son of Mineshaft – between Jan. 2011 and April 2012 – won all five of his starts at the local course from distances of one mile and 70 yards to 1 1/8 miles, including two graded stakes.  To this date, the bay nine-time winner is the track record holder for the latter with a time of 1:47.64 earned in the Grade II New Orleans Handicap in 2012. 

Next Saturday, ‘Nate’ – as he is known at the barn of trainer Anne Smith – will line up once again in front of the New Orleans oval’s stands in an attempt to win the Listed $75,000 Louisiana Handicap – the only race of Fair Grounds’ triad of handicap division stakes that he has not won.  On Saturday morning he continued his preparation when working a half-mile in :49.80 over a deep surface – good for 12th-best of 68 four-furlong moves.

            “He worked really well this morning with Brian (Hernandez, Jr.),” Smith said.  “We feel ready to stretch him out.”  Hernandez is likely to ride the three-time graded stakes winner in the 69th renewal of the Louisiana. 

            A bona fide front-runner in his best performances, the earner of nearly three-quarters of a million dollars will most likely fill that role again next week. 

“I’m not going change anything as far as that goes,” Smith continued.  “He’s doing just fine now.  He’s an older horse who always needs a little tinkering, but he’s a warhorse and been through so much.  We treat him like a NASCAR team and make sure every part of him is perfect.”

Since returning from a lengthy layoff, Nates Mineshaft has started in three sprints – an allowance victory at Remington Park, a second in the $58,000 Bet on Sunshine Stakes Nov. 1 at Churchill Downs and a third last out in the $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap behind Delaunay on Nov. 27 at Fair Grounds. 

“It would mean the world to me have him run well,” Smith said.  “It would be amazing to win.  He tries so hard for everyone.  Every day to see his face and be around him is a privilege and to train him is a pleasure.  He means a lot to us.”

WEST COAST BELLE READY FOR HER SOPHOMORE BOW

The current star of the Wayne Catalano barn, Gary and Mary West’s West Coast Belle will take center stage for the two-time Breeders’ Cup-winning conditioner on next Saturday’s card when she co-headlines the Listed $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes with Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Grade I $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up Top Decile. 

“I’ll be staying here with her through the race,” said Catalano, who also trains divisions at Oaklawn Park and Gulfstream Park.  “She went an easy two miles (Saturday) morning and is training great.  Her last work was very good.”

Fresh off two consecutive stakes victories at Churchill Downs – including the Grade II $200,000 Golden Rod Stakes in November – the undefeated three-for-three homebred daughter of Tapit worked five furlongs on Jan. 5 in 1:01.80.  Shaun Bridgmohan, who was aboard for the filly’s last victory, has the return mount in the Silverbulletday.