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Barn Notes: Sunday, February 11


•              Pletcher Sends Noble Indy To Fair Grounds For Grade II Risen Star

•              Dance Caller Still Going Strong At Age 12

•              Cox Looks Ahead With Maiden Winner Beyond Blame



Trainer Todd Pletcher seems to always have his hands full this time of year with solid Kentucky Derby possibilities and this year appears to be no exception.

On Saturday, Pletcher’s army of Derby hopefuls will be represented by Noble Indy in the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ Grade II $400.000 Risen Star Stakes, the second of three local preps on Churchill Downs’ Road to The Kentucky Derby which awards the Top 4 finishers based off of a 50-20-10-5 scale.

Owned by WinStar Farm LLC and Repole Stable, the son of Take Charge Indy has won his two career starts, both of which took place at Gulfstream Park. He took his career debut in wire-to-wire fashion by 8¾ lengths on Dec. 3 going seven furlongs before defeating winners at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on Jan. 11.

“We were just looking for a logical prep timing wise,” Pletcher said by phone from his South Florida base. “He’s been doing really well and came out of last race well. There are essentially options every weekend but we feel like this is a good spot for him. He’s shown a tremendous amount of talent not only in the mornings but in both of his races. He’s a horse with a pedigree that suggests he’ll handle longer distances. Right now he’s at that stage of development in his career where it’s time to step up into the graded stakes ranks and see where he fits in the big picture. We think he’s a horse that belongs on the Derby trail and we’re hoping he handles each step up in class and so far he has.”

Since his most recent outing, Noble Indy has worked three times over the main track at Palm Beach Downs Training Center in South Florida, where Pletcher is based in the winter. His last breeze took place on Saturday morning when he drilled five furlongs in 1:01.00. Pletcher believes that Noble Indy has developed both mentally and physically as he continues to train.

“The one thing that we’ve been working with him a lot is his behavior around the gate,” Pletcher said. “He had a little bit of history of that before he came to us and it was something that we continue to work on. In his first start, he behaved poorly in the gate but despite that broke very sharply and he handled it much better in his second start but we continued to work on that. The one thing that I think (jockey) John Velazquez has learned about him by breezing him prior to his last race is that he has a tendency to wait a little bit when he makes the lead and he kind of did that in his allowance win. I think he’s gotten better about that in his subsequent works and he’ll learn how to polish off his work mate and maintain his focus.”

Noble Indy will break from post two as the third choice at morning line odds of 5-1.

“I guess that I would rather be there than way outside,” Pletcher said. “We feel like he is in a position now where he’ll have to handle things like going to a new track, a new starting gate crew and being behind horses or have to work a little harder to establish position. All are factors that are going to lead to his development and hope we prepare him for bigger days down the road.”

Pletcher stated that the horse will ship to the Fair Grounds on Wednesday, February 14.



Horses rarely race at the advanced age of 12, let alone win. Saturday at Fair Grounds, and for the second consecutive time this year, seasoned veteran Dance Caller did just that.

“Pretty impressive, ain’t it?” trainer Joseph Foster said.

Impressive indeed. Owned by 3A Bucking Bulls, Dance Caller made his first start nearly a decade ago (June of 2008), finishing fourth in a maiden special weight sprint at Arlington Park while under the care of the late Bob Holthus.

There are currently a 16 North American Thoroughbreds at least 12-years old (four of those are 13) in training, but so far in 2018, Dance Caller is the only one to visit the winner's circle.

A 17-time winner from 79 lifetime starts, Dance Caller's claim to fame is a 2009 stakes victory in the Northern Spur Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

“It takes an awesome horse to win two at 12, especially at the Fair Grounds,” Foster said. “You might see that at some of the cheaper tracks, but not at a place like the Fair Grounds. What a neat horse, he’s an old class horse and he’s made a lot of money in his day and run in some nice races. He’s still got some spunk to him, he’s still liking his job that’s for sure.”

Dancer Caller was guided to victory by Hall of Fame rider Calvin Borel.



Highly impressive Saturday maiden winner Beyond Blame backed her 1-5 post time odds with a nine length victory over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course. Following such an effort, trainer Brad Cox stated that she could either face allowance company next out or run in the $50,000 Allen LaCombe Memorial Stakes on Mar. 10

“She seemed to come out of the race in good shape so we’ll just take the next logical step with her,” Cox said.

Should the 3-year-old daughter of Blame opt for the stakes event, she could face off against Kabella, a recent allowance winner who defeated Beyond Blame in her career debut.



Photo Courtesy of Lauren King