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Barn Notes: Saturday, February 7

 

IN TODAY'S NOTES: IMPERIA TEAM LOOKING FORWARD TO FAIR GROUNDS INVASION; WEST COAST BELLE SERVES NOTICE; DELAUNAY SETS TAB ABLAZE; HARD ACES PROBABLE, ALBANA POSSIBLE FOR MINESHAFT; GOLDEN SOUL TRAINING FORWARDLY FOR FAIR GROUNDS HANDICAP; CONTROL STAKE LIKELY TO STAY SHORT; HIGHLY REGARDED BROADWAY SHOW READY FOR NEXT BLOCKBUSTER

IMPERIA TEAM LOOKING FORWARD TO FAIR GROUNDS INVASION

            Godolphin Racing’s Imperia brings a great deal of class and talent to what is already expected to be a deep renewal of the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 21 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.  By Medaglia d’Oro out of two-time Grade I-winning Chilean Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic runner-up (to Zenyatta) Cocoa Beach, hopes have always been high for the Sheikh Mohammed homebred.

            “He’s doing really well,” reported trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.  “I spoke with Jimmy Bell, Godolphin’s racing manager, and early on we decided that Fair Grounds would suit him well.  At Gulfstream (Park) and in New York (at Aqueduct), you need to be forwardly placed.  He’s a horse who likes to come from well back.  We’re hoping he runs well so we can come back and run in the (Grade II $750,000) Louisiana Derby (on Mar. 28).”

            Second after a tough trip in his debut over 1 1/16 miles on the grass at Saratoga, the dark bay colt returned five weeks later to break his maiden in graded company in the Grade III $200,000 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park over the same distance.  Another five weeks passed and the Kentucky-bred was sent off at 9-2 in the Grade I $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and had a horrid trip – steadying at the eighth-pole running into serious traffic that prevented any kind of winning chance.  Such resulted in a 10th-place finish, beaten less than four lengths by Eclipse Award finalist Hootenanny. 

Next out came Imperia’s dirt debut – an interesting concept considering his mother was a multi-surface specialist and his sire has produced Grade I runners on virtually every surface imaginable.  Sent off as the 5-2 second choice in the Grade II $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club on Nov. 29, the late-running charge closed from nine lengths back to miss by a head at the wire to El Kabeir, in the process defeating subsequent Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes beaten favorite Eagle by three-quarters of a length. 

“We hope he’s a dirt horse,” McLaughlin said.  “He seems to like it, trains well on it and his race at Churchill was better than his previous races based on numbers.  We hope he stays on it and never runs on grass again, but if he winds up being better on grass we will look at races like the (Grade I) Secretariat (Stakes) this summer.”

            Imperia has had a steady series of works since the Kentucky Jockey Club, including a good five-furlong move on Jan. 31 over Palm Meadows Training Center’s deep surface in 1:01.60.  Said move was his third in weekly succession after a 17-day break from the worktab at the commencement of the year. 

“We’ve had a little rain here at Palm Meadows, so we pushed back his next work to tomorrow,” McLaughlin said.  “He’ll go five-eighths and then will work again next Saturday (Feb. 14) going a half-mile – then he’ll fly in the 19th to run the 21st.  Mike Smith will be in to ride.”


WEST COAST BELLE SERVES NOTICE

            West Coast Belle did not disappoint in the Listed $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes at 2-1 (second choice) as much as the previously undefeated filly simply did not seem as dominant as she was in her previous tries.  Finishing in a photo for the place with two other fillies and coming out fourth, she was outpaced by runaway winner I’m a Chatterbox, but by all intents and purposes could have been second-best – according to her trainer – on the day at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. 

            On Saturday morning, the Gary and Mary West homebred daughter of Tapit served notice that she may be a little fitter next time with a fierce move in :47.20 for a half-mile – second fastest of 85 and bested only by streaking millionaire sprinter Delaunay (:47 flat).  In fact, few horses this meet have pierced the :48 threshold and the diminutive diva did so with aplomb, according to trainer Wayne Catalano. 

            “It wasn’t designed for her to do anything fast,” Catalano said.  “We just wanted a good work out of her.  She worked very nice.  I’m really happy with her.  We’re going to look at the (Grade III $175,000) Rachel Alexandra (Stakes on Feb. 21) and, if all goes well, we’ll run her there.”

            Previous to her fourth-place finish in the Silverbulletday, the gray filly was a game winner of the Grade II $200,000 Golden Rod Stakes (Nov. 29) and a romping winner of the $68,000 Rags to Riches Stakes (Oct. 26) – both at Churchill Downs.  She broke her maiden closing from last – eight lengths behind – at Monmouth Park over 5½ furlongs six weeks prior in September.

DELAUNAY SETS TAB ABLAZE

            Maggi Moss’ warhorse Delaunay worked a bullet half-mile Saturday morning in a lively :47 – best of 85 moves at the distance – as he prepares to try to sweep all three main track sprint stakes of the meet.  Next up for the Maryland-bred son of Smoke Glacken is the $60,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes on Feb. 21 – a race he won in a torrid 1:08.36 in 2013 but lost last year to Rowell Enterprises’ Louisiana-bred champion sprinter Heitai in his only Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots defeat from seven local starts. 

“He’s on schedule and (the Kenner) is our plan,” said trainer Tom Amoss.  “I think he is doing really well.  I wish the race was this week.”

A runaway winner of the local $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap on Nov. 27 – earning a career-high 111 Beyer Speed Figure – and the rained-off $60,000 Bonapaw Stakes (getting his revenge on Heitai) by a neck so far this meet, a win would put the ageless 8-year-old on the possible course for a return to the scene of his greatest triumph – a resounding victory in the 2013 Grade II $400,000 Churchill Downs Stakes on Kentucky Derby Day.   The Kenner will be the bay gelding’s 50th career start and a top-three placing would put the 18-time winner over $1.1 million in earnings. 

“We are taking it one race at a time with a horse like him,” Amoss said.  “I try not to look too far ahead.”


HARD ACES PROBABLE, ALBANO POSSIBLE FOR MINESHAFT

            The first- and third-place finishing Larry Jones-trained duo from the $75,000 Louisiana Handicap on Jan. 17 are possible to team up again in the second major two-turn handicap of the meet, the Grade III $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap on Feb. 21.  Dreamchaser Thorobreds’ Hard Aces and Brereton C. Jones’ Albano – both homebreds – have exited their races three weeks ago in good form. 

Hard Aces, who was a dominant four-length winner at 9-1 odds, seems to be the proverbial ‘now horse’ of the local handicap division and is more likely for the Mineshaft of the two, according to Jones.  The son of Hard Spun has delivered the two best efforts of his 19 career starts in his last two races – both at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots – and is training well in what is his 5-year-old season. 

Albano, the beaten odds-on favorite in the Louisiana, exited the event in which he was 6½ lengths astern his stablemate with a slight inflammation in his ankle that has since quickly subsided.  If Jones decides to give the son of Istan more time, he may wait one more week for the Listed $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston Race Park on Feb. 28.  The goal for both charges, according to the conditioner, is the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap on Mar. 28.

GOLDEN SOUL TRAINING FORWARDLY FOR FAIR GROUNDS HANDICAP

            Charles Fipke’s homebred Classic-placed Golden Soul continued to train forwardly for his run in the Grade III $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap on Saturday morning at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, negotiating a half-mile in :50.60 – a full two seconds faster than his four-furlong move a week prior.

“He’s doing really well right now,” trainer Dallas Stewart reported.  “We will probably run him in the (Fair Grounds Handicap).”

            A closing fifth last time in the local Grade III $125,000 Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap at 1 1/16 grassy miles on Jan. 17, the son of Perfect Soul should appreciate the extra half-furlong of the 1 1/8-miles Fair Grounds.  A winner of his last two races at nine furlongs or longer on the grass, he also showed his considerable stamina when a charging second in the 2013 Kentucky Derby at the classic distance of 1¼ miles.  Stewart also has Brad Ray’s improving local allowance winner Knights Nation under consideration for the Fair Grounds. 


CONTROL STAKE LIKELY TO STAY SHORT

            After a 3-year-old wins a stakes race in Louisiana going two turns, one can imagine that aiming the well-bred colt toward the Louisiana Derby would be a viable option – if not a temptation – especially for a conditioner who is a New Orleans native.  Such is not the case for Tom Amoss and his impressive sophomore Control Stake. 

            Owned by Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, the Florida-bred son of Discreetly Mine toyed with five other 3-year-olds on Jan. 10 at Delta Downs going seven furlongs in the $75,000 Big Drama Stakes – winning by an easy two lengths after opening up by three at the top of the stretch.  Due to Delta’s configuration, the race was technically a two-turn event and the son of the Quiet American mare Be a Quiet Honey negotiated it with ease. 

            “He’s going to stay sprinting for now,” Amoss confirmed.  “I don’t know where that will be next, but it’s the game plan.”

            Sprinting has also treated the bay colt well.  One of the most impressive six-furlong winners of the meet, he won a Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots allowance race on Dec. 4 in a sharp 1:10.67 just 16 days prior to finishing a game third to multiple stakes winner Cinco Charlie and promising sophomore Bourbon Cowboy in a tough renewal of the $50,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes.  Both of those 3-year-olds have returned to win their next races – including Cinco Charlie’s runaway victory in the $100,000 Riley Allison Derby at Sunland Park on Jan. 24.

HIGHLY REGARDED BROADWAY SHOW READY FOR NEXT BLOCKBUSTER

            Fox Hill Farm’s well-regarded and -bred filly Broadway Show continues to train forwardly and will look to make her second start next week at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for trainer Larry Jones.  A good-looking winner of her debut on Jan. 8 going six furlongs, the daughter of Unbridled’s Song out of graded stakes winner Richiegirlgonewild has the look of a horse to watch and her connections are very high on her. 

            According to Jones, the plan is to sprint the gray Kentucky-bred one more time before stretching her out and aiming for stakes events.  On Jan. 28, she worked a routine half-mile in :50.80 and is one of five fillies the Jones camp believes could be Grade I $1,000,000 Kentucky Oaks material if all goes well.