Summer Bird Trainer Ice Eyes Mild Upset in Saturday's Mister Sulu
Like a sudden cold front of Arctic air, trainer Tim Ice blasted his way to national prominence in the world of Thoroughbred racing this year by conditioning the sophomore sensation Summer Bird to win both the Belmont Stakes and the Travers.
This Saturday in New Orleans, Ice will try to capture the second running of Fair Grounds’ $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes at about 1 1/16-miles over the Stall-Wilson turf course with GAL Racing Stable’s Wildrally as the 9-2 third choice in the morning line. That race – restricted to Louisiana-breds – is to serve as a designed prep for the upcoming $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf on Dec. 12.
“My assistant Casey Clark will be there to saddle Wildrally this weekend,” said Ice Friday morning, speaking over the phone from Louisiana Downs. “I’m leaving to head back to California later today.
“Wildrally is doing really good right now,” Ice continued. “He’s won three in a row. He’s been working the way I want him to and I expect him to run very well on Saturday.
“When he lost that race last summer (finishing seventh at Evangeline Downs July 4 in the $100,000 Attaway Darbonne Memorial) – that race was right after I got him. We hadn’t quite figured him out yet. It was a learning process for us, so we changed a few things around and it seems to have worked out very well for us.”
Naturally, Ice was also asked to update the news on Summer Bird, who finished a good fourth in last week’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita while beaten three lengths by the victorious Horse of the Year candidate Zenyatta.
“He’s doing fine,” said Ice. “He’s been a wonderful horse for me and my career and I feel very fortunate to have a horse like him in my care.”
Desert Wheat Appears Ready to Blossom
Desert Wheat captured the inaugural running of the Mr. Sulu a year ago and the Louisiana Champions Day Turf two years ago, and looked to be the picture of health as he returned to his barn from a maintenance move Friday morning at Fair Grounds.
“He’s been breezing steadily and has training very well,” said Mike Kaetzel, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott as he walked behind the 6-year-old son of Wheaton who will try for two straight Mr. Sulu Stakes victories on Saturday. “He almost always runs the same race. It doesn’t matter to him whether it’s on turf or dirt.
“He did, however, turn in a dull performance in his last race (Arlington Park’s $100,000 Sea o’ Erin on Sept. 7),” said Kaetzel. “We gave him some time off and it seems to have helped, because he looks very good right now.”
Classy Deelites Still the One to Beat
Don Moran’s Classy Deelites is the 5-2 morning line favorite for Saturday’s Mr. Sulu, and deservedly so, according to his owner-trainer connections.
“When he makes the lead, he’s tough,” said the trainer Friday morning. “They try to kill him (on the front end) a lot of times, but they’re still going to have to run to beat him tomorrow. If it comes up firm, I believe he’s got them over the edge, but there might be a couple of them in there against him that are better than him on the main track.”
Honoring Attaway Darbonne
Fair Grounds racing secretary Jason Boulet, previously racing secretary at Evangeline Downs, named the Attaway Darbonne Memorial Stakes while still in that previous position. Coincidentally, last summer’s running served as a key race leading up to Saturday’s Mr. Sulu when it was won by Classy Deelites, with Desert Wheat finishing second and Wildrally seventh.
“Darbonne was a native of Opelousas,” advised Boulet Friday morning. “He trained around Louisiana for 40 years or more and was revered around that area and all over Louisiana.”