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Barn Notes: Thursday, February 12


*Villandry to Get a Second Chance
*Eagle Flying Under the Radar for Risen Star
*Mizz Money to Lacombe



The afternoon of Jan. 17 was riddled with upsets, but few were more befuddling than the performance of Gainesway Stable’s Villandry in the Grade III $125,000 Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap.  Training well going into the race and coming off a career-best performance when romping in the Grade III $100,000 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs 10 weeks prior, the David Carroll-trained son of Mr. Greeley was sent off at what seemed to be a generous 2-1.  About halfway around the far turn, though, it was obvious that the powerhouse we saw dismantling his foes in Louisville two months prior was not going to reproduce that brilliance. The newly turned 6-year-old gelding retreated to sixth under Florent Geroux, beaten 5¾ lengths. 

“I can’t express to you how disappointed I was,” Carroll reflected.  “He trained beautifully going in, was in great shape and for no reason ran a bad race.  It was one of those races where the jockey and I couldn’t see him getting beat – and Florent is having a good meet and knows a good horse when he sits on one.  I was dumbfounded by it.  We went over him with a fine-toothed comb and did not find anything.  That wasn’t him at all.  We just hope it was a throwout.”

Since, the massive Kentucky homebred has returned to work a solid five furlongs in 1:01.80 on Feb. 8 and is training forwardly toward a possible start in the Grade III $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap on Feb. 21. 

“He worked really well and looks terrific,” Carroll said.  “He’s a big, imposing horse who trains with a lot of gusto.  He’s gaining weight and looks superb.  We’ll work him Sunday or Monday and then make our minds up if we’re going to run or not.  (Gainesway principal) Mr. (Antony) Beck and Charlie (LoPresti) told me to throw the race out and if he’s okay and works well, we’ll run him.  If he runs poorly, we’ll send him back to rest.”

Under Carroll’s care for an experimental winter campaign designed to aim toward the three major graded turf stakes on the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots schedule, Villandry is under the care of LoPresti during the remainder of the season.  Otherwise, he would be with the remainder of LoPresti’s stock – like Wise Dan – turned out for the cold months.


Unlike leading up to the Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 17, William S. Farish’s Eagle is no longer the proverbial ‘buzz horse’ – mostly due to his 9½-length loss at the hands of Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s International Star at favored odds of 3-1.  Next up will be the second of three major Kentucky Derby preps at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots – the Grade II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes – and with imposing horses like Godolphin Racing’s Imperia, Todd Pletcher-trained J S Bach and the aforementioned International Star expected to ship in, it is highly doubtful that Eagle will receive the same attention. 

Still, trainer Neil Howard remains bullish – and rightfully so, considering the colt’s first four races before his surprising performance in January – that the homebred son of Candy Ride will return to the form that saw him just miss in the Grade II $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club and impressively win a Keeneland allowance a race prior.  Finishing three-quarters of a length behind Imperia (who would finish second by a head) in the former and defeating the well-regarded My Johnny Be Good – who returned to finish a respectable third in the Grade III $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes on Jan. 31 at Tampa Bay Downs – at Keeneland in the latter, it is easy to see why the chestnut charge’s connections are expecting an improved performance. 

To prepare for such, the Kentucky-bred has put in three solid works since the Lecomte, including a good five-furlong move in 1:01.20 – third-best of 18 moves at the distance – on Tuesday afternoon.  According to his veteran conditioner, Eagle will put the finishing touches on his preparation on Monday or Tuesday morning (Feb. 15th or 16th) prior to what promises to be a highly competitive 41st renewal of Risen Star.  A win by Howard would make him the only four-time winning trainer of the race (Todd Pletcher also has three wins).  He won it in 1992 with Line in the Sand, 1998 with Comic Strip and 2004 with Gradepoint.  All three were owned at least in part by Farish.

Sunday’s salty turf allowance for sophomore fillies over 7½ furlongs produced an unexpected finish, but not a surprise outcome.  L. T. B., Inc. and Hillerich Racing’s Mizz Money – dismissed at 8-1 – wired the field of nine with style, holding off heavily favored Divine Dawn the entirety of the race under Francisco Torres for veteran trainer Bernie Flint.  Now, the daughter of Mizzen Mast and full sister to talented allowance filly Mizzen Miss will head to the stakes for which the allowance was a designed prep. 

“She came out good and we’ll run her back in the ($60,000 Allen) Lacombe (Memorial on Mar. 7),” Flint said.  “I knew she was a good horse with a lot of quality and we always hoped for a superior run. We bred her, and the mare (Abbeyville Miss) is a half-sister to Unbridled Express, who was a Grade I runner.”

Flint also said that swift three-time winner from six starts Mizzen Miss, who is nominated to the $60,000 Mardi Gras Stakes on Tuesday, is likely to skip the six-furlong dirt race.  Mizzen Miss won three consecutive turf sprints and is undefeated on the surface, including a swift allowance victory in :56.15 over five furlongs in July at Indiana Grand. 

“I’m still waiting for a 5½-furlong grass race for her,” he said.  “It’s the only way I’ll run her.  I think both she and Mizz Money could be stakes fillies.”

Flint also hinted that there was more to come from the already solid producer Abbeyville Miss.  “We also have a 2-year-old colt by her and he’s very talented,” he said.  “(Abbeyville Miss) was involved in an accident at the farm when we were breaking her and never had a chance to show how good she was.”