By Ryan Martin
• Calhoun Hopeful That Mr. Money Can Get Back on Track in Grade II Risen Star
• Synchrony Kicks Off 6-Year-Old Campaign in Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap
• Casse Targets Grade II Tampa Bay Derby With Dream Maker
• Regally-Bred and Maturing Gun It Gives Risen Star a Try
• Quip Not Making the Trip for Grade III Mineshaft Handicap
• Half-Brother to Honor Code Makes Career Debut on Saturday
CALHOUN HOPEFUL THAT MR. MONEY CAN GET BACK ON TRACK IN GRADE II RISEN STAR
In this business, successfully campaigning a Thoroughbred is just as much timing as it is skill. Unfortunately time was not on trainer Bret Calhoun’s side last month when he targeted the Grade III Lecomte Stakes with Mr. Money, but the new member of the 3,000-win club is moving forward and hoping for a big run from the Allied Racing-owned son of Goldencents in the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
Since arriving at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in November following a fourth-place finish in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Mr. Money went about his everyday business with no hiccups at all, which any horseman will tell you is not always easy to do. The day before the Lecomte Stakes, however, Mr. Money was coughing when he returned from his routine morning exercise.
“It was unfortunate timing,” Calhoun said. “I thought we had a great plan and timing wise the race was good, but he came up with a temperature and was sick the day before. It passed pretty quickly though. I think he only missed a few days of training. Obviously we got off course and we may be at somewhat of a disadvantage coming into this race with a long time in between races now. I thought the plan was to go forward from the Lecomte into here but we don’t have a lot of great options moving forward and we got to get started. The horse is doing very, very well and I couldn’t be happier with where he is in his training.”
Calhoun reached a milestone win on Sunday afternoon when becoming the 30th trainer to reach 3,000 career victories. A victory with Mr. Money would be a good place to start on the quest for another thousand wins.
“I’d love to have some more momentum this weekend,” Calhoun said. “Things are going well; they’re going in the right direction for him. He’s had a good winter all except for a couple days down here. Everything before and after that point have been great.”
Mr. Money will square off against a full field of 14 in the Risen Star Stakes, including Lecomte Stakes winner War of Will who is the 5-2 morning line favorite for Saturday’s race.
“I think this time of year there are a lot of horses that are developing,” Calhoun said. “There are a lot of them in there with some questions. (War of Will) answered a lot of questions in the Lecomte and he was very impressive. I think everyone was questioning his abilities on a fast track and he showed up and proved that he was the deserving favorite. The rest of them are very similar, yet to be proven and are developing this time of year. Everyone’s hoping them to move forward.”
Speaking of horses that will hopefully move forward, Calhoun sends out Tom Durant’s Silver Dust in the Grade III $150,000 Mineshaft Handicap earlier on the program. The son of Tapit is still in search of his first stakes win but finished a close second in the Louisiana Stakes last out. Admittedly, Silver Dust hasn’t been the easiest to work with since arriving to Calhoun’s barn last winter.
“He’s a horse that is tough to figure out,” Calhoun said. “He’s an extremely talented horse. He’s a Tapit so he can act a little bit mental at times. Right now, he’s probably a lot more talented than we’ve ever seen in the afternoon. He does things in the morning that make you think he’s a top horse but he hasn’t quite replicated that in the afternoon. It does seem likes he’s in a bit of groove right now. He won two in a row ran a good second in a stake. We’re hopeful that he can move forward and improve and he does seem like he’s going in the right direction.”
Formerly conditioned by Randy Morse, Silver Dust competed the series of Oaklawn Park prep races on the Road To The Kentucky Derby two years ago but was unable to make an effective showing and finished off the board in all three races.
“I can totally see why they were so high on him back then,” Calhoun said. “The first time I got him in my barn I expected him to be a top older horse around this time last year. It took him a long time to get him to where we thought that he could be. This field is deeper and more talented that the last but if he goes over there and does his job, he’s very capable. I castrated him a while back and thought that it might make a difference and it did make a difference, but it didn’t cure all his problems.”
Bred in Kentucky by Don Alberto Corporation, Silver Dust was purchased for $510,000 from the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s March Sale of Two-Year-Olds In Training, where he was consigned by DeMeric Sales. He is out of the stakes-winning Hard Spun broodmare Filare l’Oro and is from the same family as multiple graded stakes winner Gouldings Green and multiple Grade I winner Cross Traffic – last year’s leading first crop sire.
Mr. Money was bred in Kentucky by Spruce Lane Farm and was bought at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $130,000 by Josh Stevens Bloodstock. He is out of the Tiznow broodmare Plenty O’Toole, whose grand dam O’Toole is a half-sister to 2009 Group 1 Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed. He is also from the same family as American Patriot, a Grade I winner on turf.
SYNCHRONY KICKS OFF 6-YEAR-OLD CAMPAIGN IN GRADE III FAIR GROUNDS HANDICAP
Going into last year’s Grade III $150,000 Fair Grounds Handicap, trainer Michael Stidham could not have been more confident in Synchrony. Fast forward a year later, the 6-year-old son of Tapit has enhanced his resume with four graded stakes wins and seeks back-to-back stakes wins in the event. Naturally, Stidham’s faith in the horse is still as high as ever.
“He’s as beautiful as can be,” Stidham said of Synchrony, who is unbeaten in three starts over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course. “I’m as high on him going into this year as I was going into last year. No reason to not feel he’s going to be at his very best.”
Owned by Pin Oak Stable, Synchrony has not raced since a troubled third in the Grade II Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar in November, where he was last at the top of the stretch with no racing room and made a late run to finish a close third behind three-time graded stakes winner Caribou Club. In addition to last year’s Fair Grounds Handicap, he won the Grade II Muniz Memorial Stakes over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course and Monmouth Park’s Red Bank Stakes and Oceanport Stakes (both Grade III).
“He was the best horse in the race and should’ve won that day,” Stidham said. “But from there we decided to get him ready for a strong spring and summer campaign. We didn’t turn him out but we lightened up in his training and freshened him up. He’s one that thrives on his training so we jogged and galloped every other day for a while. We got him coming out of his skin so we started our breezing program and he’s just never missed a beat in his works. He’s a strong horse that loves to train, like a guy that you see at the gym that’s pumped and bulk.”
Synchrony’s most recent work was a five-furlong breeze in 1:00.60 over the Fair Grounds main track on February 10.
With over a half-million in the bank, Stidham’s main goal for Synchrony in 2019 is for him to win a Grade I. He came close to such a win in last year’s Old Forester Turf Classic Stakes at Churchill Downs where he finished third.
“That would be our focus this year,” Stidham said. “In all likelihood this will probably be his final year so we have to make hay with him this year. This is the year that matters so we’ll focus on the bigger and more important races, space them out and not run him that many times but make each race count.”
A Kentucky homebred, Synchrony is out of the Forest Wildcat broodmare Brownie Points who was a multiple stakes winner on dirt and turf. She also produced stakes-placed Chocolate Kisses.
Stidham also reported that Godolphin’s graded stakes winner Elsa emerged from her runner-up finish in the Shantel Lanerie in good shape and would likely target either the $75,000 Allen ‘Black Cat’ Lacombe Memorial Stakes over the Fair Grounds lawn or Grade III $200,000 Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs, both on March 9.
CASSE TARGETS GRADE II TAMPA BAY DERBY WITH DREAM MAKER
John Oxley’s Dream Maker backed up trainer Mark Casse’s high volumes in his return to racing action on Saturday afternoon with a stunning 8½-length victory over the Fair Grounds main track and will target the Grade II $400,000 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs on March 9.
The 3-year-old son of Tapit made his sophomore debut in the first level two-turn allowance event, which was his first start since a distant and troubled 12th in the Grade I Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last October.
“It was what you hope to see but never expect to see,” Casse said. “I’m just proud of everybody. He got hurt in the Breeders’ Futurity so we sent him home to our training center in Ocala and they did a magnificent job. Even when (assistant trainer) David (Carroll) got him he couldn’t believe he was the same horse. That’s the one thing I’m proud of because we have the ability to take them home, get them better and come back.”
A Kentucky homebred, Dream Maker is out of the unraced Monarchos broodmare To Dream About whose dam was Champion Older Filly in 1999 and six-time Grade I winner Beautiful Pleasure.
REGALLY-BRED AND MATURING GUN IT GIVES RISEN STAR A TRY
Early on in a horse’s 3-year-old year is the time when a lot of developing and learning experiences take place. Many horses that appear quirky and green will eventually blossom into classy, talented top-level runners later in the year. In the case of royally-bred Gun It, the connections acknowledge his idiosyncratic tendencies but have enough faith in his abilities to give him a shot in the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds.
Based solely on pedigree, Gun It has star potential. Trained by Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen and owned by Three Chimneys Farm and Whisper Hill Farm, the 3-year-old gray or roan son of Tapit is the first foal out of Grade I-placed broodmare Miss Besilu and comes from the same family as 2017 Horse of the Year and six-time Grade I winner Gun Runner as well as 2005 Horse of the Year and four-time Grade I winner Saint Liam. Whisper Hill Farm purchased Gun It from the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for a cool $2.6 million, where he was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency and was the second most expensive horse acquired from the auction.
In three career starts, Gun It has shown to be a talented but still immature young horse. However, the connections believe enough in the horse to give him a chance at a high level.
He draws into the race as an also eligible entrant after Kingly did not make the trip.
“Obviously with the outside post it won’t be easy,” said Three Chimneys Farm Vice Chairman Doug Cauthen. “Basically were following Steve’s lead. He was happy with the horse’s works and he felt like shipping him wasn’t the thing to do at this stage. He still is immature mentally and he’s developing but he’s a May foal physically, so he’s maturing that way too. The thought
is to keep him where we know he has run, race him out of him stall and hope we get a decent trip to at least give him a chance.”
Gun It won his second career start when breaking his maiden at Fair Grounds by 4½ lengths under a hand ride. He ran third next out behind fellow Risen Star aspirants Owendale and Frolic More in a first level Fair Grounds allowance race. The horse has been a work in progress for the connections, but they acknowledge that noticeable development is taking place.
“Steve and (assistant trainer) Scott (Blasi) are seeing some maturing,” Cauthen said. “None of us wanted to force the issue of running in a spot like this. It was just based on how he’s showing up in mornings. He’s set enough to give you the hope that he could progressively mature and if it doesn’t work out, at least we didn’t ship across the country to find out. So we’ll take our chances and hope for a little New Orleans luck.”
Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. has been aboard all three of Gun It’s career starts and will make the journey to Fair Grounds to pilot him once more.
QUIP NOT MAKING THE TRIP FOR GRADE III MINESHAFT HANDICAP
Trainer Rodolphe Brisset reported that Grade II winner Quip would not be shipping to Fair Grounds for the Grade II Mineshaft Handicap on Saturday and will instead target the Grade III $100,000 Hal’s Hope Stakes at Gulfstream Park the following Saturday.
Brisset still plans on racing Positive Spirit in the Grade II $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes.
Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing, the 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor has not raced since a distant ninth-place finish in the Grade I Preakness Stakes last May behind eventual Triple Crown winner Justify. He won last year’s Grade II Tampa Bay Derby
giving Brisset his first graded stakes win as a trainer and would go on to run second in the Grade I Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park the following month.
HALF-BROTHER TO HONOR CODE MAKES CAREER DEBUT ON SATURDAY
The expectations for Lanes’ End Farm stallion Honor Code are high and his first crop were met with favor in the sales ring last year. In Saturday’s third race, the two-time Grade I winning multimillionaire’s half-brother Seclusive will make his career debut for trainer Joe Sharp.
Owned by Breeze Easy and Baccari Racing Stables, the 3-year-old son of Tapit was acquired for $1.05 million as a weanling when going through the sales ring at the 2016 Keeneland November Mixed Sale, where he was consigned by Hill n’ Dale Sales Agency.
“He’s a big, good looking horse,” Sharp said. “He’s big and heavy and it’s taken a while with him. We’ve been real patient as far as getting him there. Every work has gotten better as we’ve gotten closer. I think he might be a horse that needs a start or two to get it all together, but his last couple of works from the gate have been pretty encouraging and he’s outworked his company.”
Sharp is no stranger to successfully debuting royally-bred horses at Fair Grounds. In Novmeber 2015, he sent out Dolphus – a half-brother to 2009 Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer Rachel Alexandra – to victory in his first start.
“We had Dolphus and he won here first time out,” Sharp said. “I’d say that on paper; (Seclusive) is probably the most expensive horse that we’ve had at this age.”
Seclusive will break from post four under jockey Adam Beschizza at 6-1 morning line odds.