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BARN NOTES: December 4, 2015

  • ·        Brad Cox Loaded and Ready
  • ·        String King Seeking a Grand Slam Crown
  • ·        Smittys Cougar on Track for Champions Day
  • ·        Cash Back a Quick Return with a Star Pedigree
  • ·        Work Tab

 

BRAD COX LOADED AND READY

If there is one thing that rushes menacingly to mind when pondering the abilities of young trainer Brad Cox, it is ‘potential’. A conditioner who consistently sees untapped capability in his charges and often moves those equines he acquires up in capacity and class while under his care, the 35-year-old native of Louisville, Kentucky, has shown time and again over the last few years that he has a honed eye for promise.

A sweet example of such was on display last season at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots when John Wentworth’s Chocolate Ride, a $40,000 claim on the dirt in late November 2014, became a multiple graded stakes-winning and track record-setting force over the Stall-Wilson turf course by the end of March.

That son of Candy Ride topped a 2014-15 season that saw the Cox barn – piloted locally by assistant trainer Ricky Giannini – strike with 14 of 51 starters (27%), finish in the money with 28 (55%) and win with a third of its 24 grass starts. The outfit has more than doubled its stalls at the New Orleans oval from 13 to 30 with an eye on an even more successful 2015-16 meet.

“I try not to approach it too differently from last year, but obviously there are more horses and we have more chances,” Cox said. “We didn’t have expectations last year, but we won a Grade II and Grade III with Chocolate Ride and had other horses run well.”

So far this season, through Thursday’s card, the team has scored with three of 12 (25%) and finished in the exacta with five of those, tying for fourth in victories and a clear fifth in purses earned. With Churchill Downs closed and Oaklawn Park – another winter sanctuary for the Cox outfit – yet to open, expect December to be an active month for barn.

“We got off to a great start so far and we have a lot of quality,” Cox continued. “We’ve been focusing on getting better horses and we’ll continue to claim horses with a focus on quality. We have better horses in the barn than we’ve ever had and have had clients giving us more horses over the year. The Kleins (Richard and Bertram), for example, are giving us more horses and the Ulwellings (Al and Bill) started sending us horses six months ago.

Cox is winding down on a career year, but has no intention of letting up during the final month of 2015. After a 2014 in which the outfit had purse earnings of just under $2.4 million to place 71st in the nation, it has already eclipsed $3.4 million in 2015, while currently ranked 36th. To add some luster to the barn’s performance is an exceptional 27% strike rate that is the third-best of the top-50 trainers for purses-earned nationally – only Karl Broberg (31%, 14th) and Ramon Preciado (30%, 19th) rank better.

“I spent four winters here working for Dallas Stewart in the early 2000s and I really like it at the Fair Grounds,” Cox concluded. “We will try to split the barn half-and-half between here and Oaklawn and I plan on being down here a lot and I have an apartment in Metairie. We’re hoping for another good meet.”

 

STRING KING SEEKING A GRAND SLAM CROWN

Charles C. Smith is quick to remark that his charge String King deserves all the credit for their success together. A multiple stakes winner that the Shreveport-based conditioner also owns and bred, String King will race on Louisiana Champions Day, next Saturday, December 12th, for the fifth consecutive time and will seek a fourth victory in the $100,000 Turf after winning it three times (2011, 2012 and 2014), while placing a nose second in his lone start in the $150,000 Classic in 2013.

“I wish I could take full credit for how good he keeps performing, but I can’t,” Smith said. “I just try to keep him sound and happy. It’s not like he’s been raced to death, so that also helps. I give him time off in between races and that ‘R and R’ really keeps him on his game.

“He’s really just an amazing horse and a different individual that just loves to run,” he continued. “He loves to compete. As long as he does that and shows he has the will and the want-to, I’ll continue to race him. When he tells me he’s had enough, that’ll be enough to me. He deserves all the credit.”

In 38 career starts, the highly spirited 7-year-old gelding has 18 victories – 13 of those in stakes races. His biggest victory was arguably this past January when he won his first graded stakes – the Grade III $125,000 Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap – by 1¼ lengths. So far in 2015, he has shown little sign of slowing down, including a total of four stakes wins and a workmanlike victory last out in the Listed $75,000 Unbridled Stakes at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 12. On Wednesday, String King signaled his readiness with a bullet half-mile main track move in 48.20 at Fair Grounds.

“He came out of his work really good,” Smith said. “I don’t know whether I’ll walk him for three days or two. He’s feeling so good, we might not be able to walk him three.

“I could have nominated him to both the Classic and the Turf, but I just nominated him to the Turf,” Smith continued. “He’s a little older now and I think he’ll last a lot longer if I just leave the main track alone and focus on the grass. He could last another couple years with (only) grass racing. At my age, I can understand the wear and tear of getting older, which is also one of the reasons I likely won’t run him on an off track, either, if it happens that the race comes off the grass.”

Judiciously campaigned throughout his career, String King would become racing’s newest millionaire with a victory or second-place finish in the Turf. Currently with $980,552 in earnings, he has a record of 14-6-4-1 at Fair Grounds, dating back to his win in the Turf as a sophomore in December 2011. Over the past few seasons, he has raced with breaks between most races, while only performing six times in 2014 and five times so far in 2015.

“When Louisiana Downs closes, there’s really no place for him to run until the Fair Grounds opens, so we give him some time,” Smith explained. “We will likely give him a couple or three races at the Fair Grounds again this season and (jockey) Richard Eramia will be on him on Champions Day. We’d love to have James (Graham), but he’s in California and Eramia has done a great job with him this year.

“He’s ready to run, so hopefully he gets it done,” he concluded. “He’s just as good if not better than last year.”

 

SMITTYS COUGAR ON TRACK FOR CHAMPIONS DAY

A juvenile filly to watch for both her sheer good looks and talent on Louisiana Champions Day, December 12th, is Roger G. Smith’s Smittys Cougar. Trained by Ron Faucheux, the Pelican State-bred daughter of top Louisiana sire Half Ours and multiple stakes-winning turf sprint mare Smitty’s Sunshine followed up a third on debut with a 13¼-length romp at Delta Downs in open company on Oct. 17 and a state-bred first-level allowance victory at Fair Grounds last out on Nov. 19. She will now run in the $100,000 Louisiana Champion Day Lassie at the same six-furlong trip.

“She’s doing really good right now,” Faucheux said. “If you watch her last race, she was well rated by (jockey) Colby (Hernandez), even though she was going pretty fast. We’ll let her run her race and hopefully duplicate her last start. That’ll make us pretty tough in that spot.”

The homebred filly completed her preparations for Champions Day with a bullet five-furlong move on Friday morning in 1:00 flat.

 

CASH BACK A QUICK RETURN WITH A STAR PEDIGREE

When Cash Back went to post for her debut on Thursday, she had big shoes to fill. Being a half-sister to crack sprinters Good Deed, Country Day and Due Date, the expectations were cautiously optimistic in the Brad Cox camp that the daughter of Congrats would run well in the 5½-furlong turf dash. In the end, those hopes were affirmed and the compact bay daughter of graded stakes-winning top producer Hidden Assets won her first race in-hand by 1¾ lengths, while closing her final three-sixteenths in a sharp 18.25 seconds.

“She’s a nice filly,” Cox said of the Richard and Bertram Klein hombred. “We feel like there’s a little more in the tank. We didn’t crank too hard on her and we wanted to get a race in her. She comes from a really good family and hopefully she can be as good as they were.

“We may look at the dirt soon for her, but I’d like to keep her on the turf,” Cox continued. “We’re probably not looking to stretch her out much further than three-quarters, especially with the way she’s built. She looks like a sprinter and most are sprinters in that family, except for Cash Control – who’s also here (at Fair Grounds) – and is a daughter of Pioneerof the Nile, so that makes sense.”

 

WORK TAB

Christine and Phil Hatfield’s Zubi Zubi Zu continued her preparations for the $75,000 Blushing KD on Dec. 19 with a nice half-mile move in 48.40 for trainer Mike Stidham.

Stakes-winning turf gelding Pumpkin Rumble worked a half-mile in 49 flat for trainer Brad Cox and owners Al and Bill Ulwelling.

Fox Hill Farm’s well-bred and lightly raced allowance charge The Sandman returned to the tab after with a bullet three-furlong move in 35.80 for trainer Larry Jones.

Talented Bret Calhoun trainee More Than Most, a winner of the Listed $75,000 La Senorita Stakes at Retama Park last out for owner Douglas Scharbauer, worked a sharp five furlongs in 1:01 flat.

Roger G. Smith’s homebred filly Smittys Cougar, expected to be one of the favorites in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie on Dec. 12, worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 flat for trainer Ron Faucheux.

Earlier this week, Fox Hill Farm’s multiple graded stakes winner Cassatt threw a sharp bullet move in 59.80 for five furlongs with Florent Geroux up. The Larry Jones trainee could race next in either the $100,000 She’s All In Stakes at Remington Park on Dec. 13 or the $50,000 Tiffany Lass – a race she won last year – at Fair Grounds on Dec. 19.

 

-Michael Adolphson
Senior Writer, Media Specialist
@AdolphsonRacing