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Barn Notes: Wednesday, November 26

IN TODAY'S NOTES: TEAM DELAUNAY CONFIDENT GOING INTO THANKSGIVING; SHARP DEBUT WIN FOR HAWLEY'S DISTANT KINGDOM; BRAZEN PERSUASION RETURNS FRIDAY; NATES MINESHAFT HOME, HAPPY AND READY TO GIVE THANKS

TEAM DELAUNAY CONFIDENT GOING INTO THANKSGIVING

            Maggi Moss’ 7-year-old stable star Delaunay returns from a deserved break on Thursday to attempt a second win in the $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap – a race in which he handily defeated rival and fellow 2014 entrant Gantry in 2012.  In six races thus far this year, the son of champion sprinter Smoke Glacken has won only twice, but his victories have been stellar displays, including a 3½-length win in the Grade III Aristides Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 31. 

In defeat, the bay charge has been no slouch.  In June, the 16-time winner put on a stretch-battling display with none other than subsequent Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Work All Week in the Iowa Sprint Handicap when losing by only a half-length.

“That was ironically one of Delaunay’s best races and was a losing effort,” Moss reflected.  “It was at my home track and to see Work All Week win the Breeders’ Cup solidified (Delaunay’s) form.”

Moss is excited to get her gelding going again after a break dating back to Aug. 2.  “Anytime you get a sprinter, it’s my belief that if you freshen them and keep them happy, they’re going to run well,” she explained. “He’s doing really well.  He’s getting up there in age and gets his breaks, but he’s back strong and working well.  He’s seven-turning-eight, but for an old man, I think he’ll be a force to reckon with.”

Trainer Tom Amoss echoed those remarks.  “He’s doing well,” he reported.  “He had his final work the other day and is doing fine.  He’s older, his work pattern is very good and he’s coming into the race the right way.”

If Delaunay is once again victorious in the Thanksgiving, he will be so once again at the expense of the aforementioned Gantry – the winner of the 2013 edition, a rival he has beaten into the place spot in their last four meetings and the only entry capable of becoming the first three-time victor of the event.

SHARP DEBUT WIN FOR HAWLEY’S DISTANT KINGDOM

            Sunday’s salty six-furlong freshman maiden special weight event produced a big performance, but not from the horse the betting public expected.  Sent off as a strong favorite, Fox Hill Farm’s blueblood Exodus faltered in the lane while being passed by Robert Orth and Wes Hawley’s 21-1 longshot Distant Kingdom, who ran on to post an emphatic seven-length victory. 

            A Kentucky-bred son of fast freshman sire Majesticperfection – a once-beaten Grade I winner who never had a chance to stretch out beyond the six furlongs at which he set a track record (and who trainer Steve Asmussen reportedly called the fastest horse he had ever seen) – out of a dam by European champion 3-year-old and stellar turf miler Distant View, the jury is still out on what trip at which this talented 2-year-old will excel most.  On an interesting pedigree note, the big bay colt has no inbreeding in his first five generations – just an array of classic performers at varying distances and surfaces.

“His daddy was more of a sprinter, but he was by Harlan’s Holiday and they usually go long – plus (Distant Kingdom) is a huge horse,” said Hawley, who also trains the nearly 17-hand juvenile.  “I expected him to run a big race, I just thought he was more of a route horse than a sprinter.  I think he’s dying to go two turns and has turf and everything else in his pedigree.”

After acting out in the paddock and nearly refusing to allow rider Miguel Mena to mount him, the emblazoned charge broke poorly – 10th of 12 – from post three under the 28-year-old jockey.  Distant Kingdom’s troubles ended there as he settled well in eighth, darted through an opening on the rail at the five-sixteenths-pole and collared the two pacesetting leaders – A M Milky Way and Exodus – at the eighth-pole.  After taking a few strides to catch his balance, cage his momentum and change leads, Distant Kingdom shifted out and powered clear of the opposition to score easily. 

“I thought it was the most impressed I’ve been with a 2-year-old in a long time,” Hawley said.  “It’s one thing for a 2-year-old to go to the lead and no one catch him.  It’s another to do what he did and skim the rail in the mud and draw away like that.  He was reluctant changing leads, but drew away when he did.  You can’t teach them everything they need to learn all at once.  He was full of himself after and Miguel had trouble pulling him up.   I believe he got a 77 Beyer (Speed Figure), which is pretty good for a 2-year-old.  I look for him to move forward off that.”

After such an auspicious debut, the connections of the sizeable colt will look for the best possible next step.  “I’ll look for a non-winners of two allowance going long right before Christmas or a stakes,” Hawley confirmed.  “He’s an awfully nice horse and I’m lucky to own him.  Hopefully he’s as good as we all think he could be – he just has to get lucky and progress.”


BRAZEN PERSUASION RETURNS FRIDAY

            Bugle Hill Racing Partnership’s talented sophomore filly Brazen Persuasion continues on her comeback trail Friday at Fair Grounds in an allowance optional claiming event over six furlongs on the main track.  The race will be the Al Stall, Jr. trainee’s seventh career race, but only sixth in which she has decided to compete.

A daughter of Indian Charlie, Brazen Persuasion initially made waves early in her career while under the tutelage of 2013-14 Fair Grounds leading trainer Steve Asmussen.  A sharp winner of her maiden in her second start at Churchill Downs in June of 2013, she followed that with a wire-to-wire dead-heat victory in the Grade III Schuylerville Stakes on opening day at Saratoga.  Then, unfortunately, the dark bay refused to break in the Grade I Spinaway Stakes and was not seen again until May of this year when she cruised to a 4¼-length allowance win at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby weekend – earning a career-high 93 Beyer Speed Figure.  Off nearly six more months, the Kentucky-bred resurfaced when second in a seven-furlong allowance – a tough distance at which to return for a filly who had never raced so far.

Stall is content with the filly’s progress and has had the speedy charge in a steady stream of works as she prepares for what could be a promising 2015. Brazen Persuasion drew post four in the six-horse field and will be ridden for the first time by Fair Grounds newcomer Forest Boyce, while being assigned 7-5 morning line favoritism.


NATES MINESHAFT HOME, HAPPY AND READY TO GIVE THANKS

            Windy Hill Farm’s Nates Mineshaft is happy to be home in the comfort of his Fair Grounds stall and such contentment could be on display when the 7-year-old ridgling makes his first start at the Fair Grounds since he won four consecutive races by a combined 17½ lengths in 2012 in Thursday’s $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap. 

A winner of the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap and Grade II New Orleans Handicap – the latter in track record time – among that streak, the front-running charge will try to hone his speed down to the six furlongs of the Thanksgiving against the likes of graded stakes-winning sprinters Delaunay, Gantry and Lemon Drop Dream.  A son of Mineshaft, the bay charge drew the rail in the nine-horse field and has traditionally been an excellent gate horse.

            “Right now I feel confident about everything,” reported trainer Anne Smith.  “He’s training and acting as fresh as he was before the Mineshaft (in 2012) and just loves being here.  He’s coming off the track bouncing around – we’re looking forward to the race.”

            Even with the expected scratch of wickedly fast Heitai, Nates Mineshaft will have plenty of company on the front end with the likes of The Farm on 4’s Mighty Brown, Roger Braugh, Jr.’s Take It Like a Man and Maggi Moss’ morning line favorite Delaunay. 

            “In a perfect world, I would rather have the option of having a horse inside of us to lay off and not getting hooked in a speed duel,” Smith said.  “Hopefully (jockey Antioco Murgia) will have a good feel for what’s happening around him.  I think (Nates Mineshaft) is fit enough to handle everything.”

            The Thanksgiving is the third race after a 10-month layoff for the Kentucky-bred.  On Sept. 13, he cruised to a three-length victory in a 6½-furlong allowance optional claiming event in a sharp 1:15.43 at Remington Park.  He followed that race with an excellent second in the $60,000 Bet on Sunshine Stakes at Churchill Downs over the Thanksgiving’s six-furlong distance.  In the Bet on Sunshine, Nates Mineshaft sat a half-length off the pace before powering to the front and being caught in the last few strides by talented closer Sharp Sensation.  That charge returned on Sunday at Woodbine to finish a strong second in the Grade II Kennedy Road Stakes to Calgary Cat, who is expected to be named Canada’s champion sprinter.