The Pimlico Spring meet is over. School is almost out. Two nice youngsters were purchased out of the Fasig-Tipton 2-Year-in-training sale. Steve O’Neil’s Clover Hill Racing LLC is back in business. The temps are approaching 90’s. Frisky Thunder is back to the races. I'm finally updating my Website.
We ended the Pimlico meet uneventfully. Allen Murray’s Celtic Music made her debut. I ran her short and on the dirt. It looks like she needs long and on the turf. She will get that shot at Colonial Downs.
Sylvia Hefts’ Not For Love filly, Our Jaks, also made her debut during the waning days of Pimlico. This filly needs to be a little sharper out of the gate and just a little more time to figure it all out. Once she does this, I think she will be very productive.
The Fasig-Tipton sale went well. Buzz Chace once again help pick out two very nice individuals. Steve O’Neil’s picked up a nice Leading The Parade filly. The chestnut filly consigned by Marshal Silverman had a lovely way of moving and great lines. She should be to the races early.
Cary Jackson added to his collection of horses by purchasing a nice Forest Danger filly. The big bay filly had a great work and like Steve’s filly a super way of moving. These two take the total number of 2-year-olds to 14 now. Pictures to follow.
We have been racing all over the place these last few weeks. Belmont, Colonial Downs, Delaware Park and Penn National.
Eighttofasttocatch tried his hand in New York again. This time at Belmont Park. The result was not as good as the time before. However the early fractions were much faster and moving up a conditions made things a little tougher for the Sylvia Hefts chestnut gelding by Not For Love. He returned to finish a tough fifth at Philadelphia Park against allowance foes.
Dumbarton Farms’ Choptank ran huge last week at Penn National. The Dixieland Band gelding was going two turns on the turf. Luis Garcia had the call. Choptank broke well and settled off the pace. Turning for home it looked like he would get to the wire in time. Just missed by a head and a nose. Another great effort.
We started Colonial Downs on a good note. Not as well as we did back in 1997 when McGyver won the very first race on opening day of the race track. Frisky Thunder, making his first start of the season was second choice in the John D. Marsh Stakes for Virginia-breds going 5 ½ furlongs on the turf. Sheldon Russell had the call on the 6-year-old gelding by Thunder Rumble. Braeburn Farms bred and owns the turf specialist. After breaking sharply he quickly settled mid pack, made a big move wide on the turn and came flying. He came up a nose short. It was a great effort, at a distance shorter than ideal.
Next I sent NRS Stables’ Love On A Wire to Delaware. I was hoping a change of scenery would improve his performance. The bad news – it didn’t. Love finished ninth in a field of 11. The good news – he was claimed.
Fernando will stay busy the next few weeks shuttling horses around as we continue to take advantage of all the tracks running simultaneously in the area. Penn National, Charles Town, Philadelphia Park, Delaware Park, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Colonial Downs. Top off the EZ Pass, pack the cooler, hit alternate routes on the GPS.
Let's get started. I have a lot to cover. It has been a quick two weeks.
True Trick's Sis was going to make one last try at the non-winners-of-two races lifetime at Pimlico on May 6. She made that try for William Kroh's WAK Stable. The homebred is now spending her days on a lovely farm in western Maryland teaching two young sisters the basics of riding. GG, her companion goat is now spending time with Frisky Thunder.
Another home found by Kimberly Clarks Retirement and Placement Organization, www.helpfortbs.org.
Arnold Hefts’ Dressy Devil was our next starter at Pimlico on May 7. Unfortunately Devil was behind Snazzy Jazzy when that horse injured himself and pulled up quickly. Devil was checked hard by rider Sheldon Russell. There was nothing anyone could do. Sheldon did a nice job of steering Devil and himself out of harm's way.
That same day, Love On A Wire was making his second start of the year for NRS Stable. Love showed much more interest and desire than he did in his last race, running third in a field of five. On a day when horses were not making up ground on the front runners, Love showed his determination and closed several lengths to finish strongly.
Derwin's Pulpit would be our last starter of the week. Sunday May 8. She too was making her second start of the year, racing in the black and yellow colors for MOM Stable. The 3-year-old by Horse Chestnut needs grass and distance. She got both. Unfortunately she also got the outside post. Oh well, luck of the draw. Sheldon had the mount. After breaking well, she settled mid pack early and wide on the first turn. Down the backside she advanced to fourth and closed ground. All on the outside. With 11 other horses there was just no room to save ground. Turning for home she was set down for the drive and finished a strong second. A very nice effort.
Preakness Week. This week and Maryland Million Week are my favorites. I love all of the out-of-town horses, trainers and jockeys coming into the Free State. It gives them a chance to see how great Maryland racing, Maryland horses, Maryland trainers and Maryland jockeys really are. This is a wonderful state with deep racing history.
The Legends Race was the idea of Maryland Racing Secretary Georgeanne Hale. Eight retired female riders coming back to ride a race on Friday, Black Eyed Susan Day. More can be found on the Maryland Jockey Club Website.
Two of the riders, Mary Wiley-Wagner and Andrea Seefeldt-Knight asked me if they could ride out on some of my sets in the morning to help with their fitness and preparation for Friday's big race. Andrea worked a few sets with Sheldon and on Wednesday Mary joined them working three from the gate. The Baltimore Sun and Channel 13 both came out to interview, photograph and video the pair going through early morning exercises. This was fun. Miss Princess, Celtic Music and Our Jaks were the three horses I used for the trio.
Everything went great. All their horses behaved very well and broke fast from the gate. All three riders looked like journeymen (journeymen, I guess) out for regular work before heading to the jockey's room.
The Legends race went off without a hitch that afternoon. The crowd was incredible. Photos. Autographs. News articles. Everything was positive.
That Friday we had two runners. Flying Wildcat went off a long shot in a Maryland-bred starter. Wildcat ran well for about 7 furlongs. Unfortunately the race was a mile and one sixteenth. There are a lot of easier spots for the daughter of Forest Wildcat.
Next was Cary Jackson’s British-bred Conceit. A winner in his only start this year, Conceit needed to step it up running against first-level allowance horses. He did. This race was part of the jockey challenge series. Eight riders were chosen to participate. Riders were then named on eight of the horses in that particular race. Conceit drew Kent Desormeaux, Kent was enthusiastic about riding this son of Royal Applause. With a good break, Conceit settled fourth or fifth down the backside going 5 furlongs on the grass. Swinging for home Conceit dug down hard and tried to hold on for second. Just missed. We lost. I mean Kent lost, his stick. Yup one of the best jockeys in the world lost his stick right when it mattered most. Conceit thought the race was over. Oh well. Next time Sheldon will be on him. Great race. Great effort.
Preakness Day. Choptank and Celtic Innis, making his fourth appearance on one of Maryland’s most exciting days, represented our stable.
Choptank, racing for Dumbarton Farm, ran first. Showing his preference for the grass in his last start Choptank didn’t disappoint. Luis Garcia had the return call on the 5-year-old gelding by Dixieland Band.
Choptank broke sharply and went straight to the lead pressed by 60-1 shot Invisible Genius. In front by 2 at the top of the stretch, Lighthouse Sound ran us down winning by 3 1/2-lengths while favorite Macho Chick nailed us on the wire for second. A good solid performance.
Celtic never really settled into his surroundings at Pimlico. This was very unusual for our 8-year-old veteran. He loves a crowd. After all, he's convinced all the people are there to watch him perform. Preakness Day was not his day. He paced nervously in his stall. He wouldn’t even settle for my assistant Victor. He came to the paddock quiet and seemed OK but regular rider Sheldon Russell said Celtic warmed up unenthusiastically and seemed dull. That was the way he ran in the Maryland Sprint Handicap. A race he has run in three times before, finishing second, third and fourth. He seems to have come out of the race fine and I'm not sure where we will go with him next. More later.
Once the Preakness was over, it was on to the Fasig-Tipton 2-year-olds in training sale at the Timonium Fair Grounds. Once again bloodstock great Buzz Chace helped me pick some nice, quality horses to add to the roster. Cary Jackson was looking to add one more youngster to his stable. We settled on a Pennsylvania-bred filly by Forest Danger. The big bay filly will join the barn right away. Next it was Steve ONeil’s turn. We had a beautiful chestnut filly named Parade Of Colors in our sights. And just like that the Leading The Parade filly was in Steve's stable. She too will join the growing number of up-and-coming babies right away.
Heart Striker runs Wednesday. First race at Penn National.
Patience – The quality of being patient. Capacity of calm endurance.?
That definition accurately describes Cary Jackson’s handling of his 4-year-old British-bred, Conceit. I purchased the Royal Applause gelding out of Goffs Breeze Up Sale in Ireland back in 2008 on behalf of Cary. Giving this horse the time he needed to grow and mature is starting to pay off now.
Making his first start of 2010, Conceit ran Thursday in a 5-furlong maiden special weight on the turf at Pimlico. Sheldon Russell had the call. After breaking very alertly, Conceit was content to settle third, inside, just off the quick pace. At the top of the stretch the two front runners had had enough and Conceit powered through on the inside rail and came home by 4 easy lengths.
Sheldon was a little surprised.
“Tim, wow did you expect that? He ran incredible," said Sheldon.
I think I'm a little more conservative in the morning than Sheldon may be use to; Sheldon had given Conceit a few easy works preparing for Thursday, but none of the works gave him reason to think he would run the way he did. Congrats Cary. I hope this makes up for Dumbarton Farms’ Choptank beating your Ravens Choice last week.
A few hours later, Noreen McCrossen's Heart Striker was entered in the sixth race at Penn National. The 6-year-old Lion Hearted mare was coming into this race needing a big effort. It seemed she had lost her way to the winner's circle. In fact, I had made plans to find her a new home and career just three weeks ago.
Dick McCrossen said, "No let's try her one more time."
So we did. Craig Gibbs had the mount. The pair broke well settling fifth about 5 lengths off the early leaders. Craig saved all the ground around the turn, slowly advancing to third. Out of the turn, Heart Striker pushed her way through a hole on the inside that may or may not have been there. It was a race to the wire and Heart Striker got there in time. This was her fifth career win. The show ring will have to wait, for now.
The show ring might be just around the corner for Noreen McCrossen's other runner, Striker's Notion. He's Heart Striker's half brother. He's just missing the heart. Striker shows all the talent needed to be a nice horse in the morning. He just can't put it together in the afternoon. So I thought I would try night racing. Saturday night, last race at Penn National. It didn’t work. Striker ended up ninth in a group of 11.
We tried something different Sunday. My buddy Sean Clancy sent me a horse two months ago and asked me to give it some, “racetrack education."
Under Shirt is a 4-year-old Polish Miner gelding and half to multiply Grade I winner Good Night Shirt. Winner of over $1 million over jumps. The big, pretty mover had some big shoes to fill. No pressure for me. I was just giving him some education while the weather was bad before he went back to Todd Wyatt who had worked with him in the fall.
I couldn’t mess this up. I wasn’t going to run him. Only school him. The more we did with him, the better he was getting. I worked him on the turf a few times and he went very well. He was fit. He had his gate card. He was schooled with other horses on the inside, outside, in front, behind. He was ready to run. He needed to get out there and gain the experience of a race. There was nothing in the condition book coming up at Pimlico so Sean and I decided to try the Blue Ridge Hunt Point to Point in Berryville, Va. Doug, Under Shirt's groom, was very excited to go to one of these “races in the country."
To say Under Shirt handled his first race experience well is an understatement. We shipped him two hours to the hunt meet. He had to either stand in the trailer or walk around the trailer area for an hour and a half. We tacked him up and walked him over to the paddock. Put up the rider, Roddy Mackenzie (who actually helped break the horse when he was at The Moscarelli's Country Roads Farm) and out onto the course he went.
Up and down hills. No rail. No pony. Running right-handed. The huntsman blowing his horn. Four other horses to compete with. Under Shirt was awesome. Oh yeah, no gate – walk up start. All the horses line up and when the flag drops, they're off. Settling about 10 lengths off the early pace, Under Shirt cruised by the stands for the first time running last in the mile and a quarter race. Up and around the first turn he ran up to fourth. Around the final turn Under Shirt moved head and head for the lead and prevailed by a length at the wire. It was a great effort.
Winning was nice but the way he adapted to all the new things is what impressed me the most with this horse. While the Daily Racing Form won’t count this win in my official record, I will. To me it doesn’t matter where we run. As I've always said my favorite part of training is developing young, green horses who only know the basics and watching them grow and develop both physically and mentally.
"Hey Shane. It's Tim Keefe. I was checking on extra one on the overnight."
"Well it's not looking good, Tim. We only have seven in there and I don't think we're going to use it," Shane said. "Ahhhh. Are you kidding me? How can a two other than, long on the grass, for the boys, not fill?"
Go to address book on phone. Scroll. Find Andrew Byrnes, stakes coordinator for New York Racing Association (the only time he calls me is when he's trying to get me to nominate Celtic Innis to a stakes in New York).
"Hey Andrew, it's Tim Keefe. How is your two other than long on the grass for the boys looking? They aren't going to use it here in Maryland."
"Well it has four, you would make five and we will make it go with a short field," Byrnes said.
Those were the conversations.
Eighttofasttocatch ran in New York. I entered him two times in Maryland without any luck. I now had four horses in on Thursday. Piney Point for Arnold Heft was the first to run Thursday. Sylvia and Arnold came to Pimlico to watch the 3-year-old daughter of D'Wildcat take on five other fillies in Pimlico's first race on the card. She broke well but ran dull, finishing fourth. Hugh McMahon claimed the filly for $16,000.
Next we had MOM Stables' Derwin's Pulpit making her first start in 2010 in the fifth at Pimlico. Finishing seventh beaten only seven lengths for everything, jockey Sheldon Russell and I both thought it was a solid first race off the bench. There was room for improvement but traffic and slow pace played a role in her placing.
NRS Stable's Love On A Wire was next in the seventh at Pimlico. Also making his first start in 2010 we were all looking for a solid performance, similar to his form of last year and hoping he would continue his winning ways into the new year. Well, that didn't happen. The 4-year-old by Broken Vow didn't show his consistent form and finished a disappointing eighth out of nine. More to come.
So Arnold and Sylvia stayed all day at Pimlico. They enjoyed crab cakes, great weather and a wonderful day of races at Pimlico while waiting for their horse to make his 2010 debut at Aqueduct. We would watch it on simulcast.
Unfortunately Sheldon had commitments to keep at Pimlico and could not go to New York to ride the 4-year-old son of Not For Love. I felt Edgar Prado would be a suitable replacement. Bred by Dark Hallow Farm and Herringswell Stable, the beautiful chestnut gelding went off as the long shot at almost 14-1. All three of us sat and watched as the six horses were loaded into the starting gate.
"New York! What was I thinking? It's be his first race back in six months. He was training well. But New York? Couldn't I find an easier spot for this horse?" was all I could think to myself.
Arnold said, "You know Sylvia. He hasn't run in a while. He might need a race. Don't get your hopes up. It is a tough race."
He planted the seed. If he didn't run well we could blame it on his time off, the competition, New York!
No, I thought. This horse has been training better than any horse I've had in a long time. As well as Celtic Innis. If he got beat it wasn't because of anything other than faster horses. He was ready.
Prado broke from the inside and got him to settle right away. Into the first turn he took the lead posting slow fractions all the way. Masterfully ridden, Prado looked like a winner all the way around. When he swung for home "Catcher" lengthened stride and held off the challenge of Into My Soul from the inside and Thou Swell from the outside winning by a full length. The final time was 1:44:60 for the 1 1/16 mile.
Arnold, Sylvia and I nearly jumped out of Pimlico. Sylvia got out of her chair to go get her picture taken. We all watched as "Catcher" proudly made his way into the winner's circle with Victor and Fernando (my assistant and van driver). Prado's Agent called later and thanked me and said they would be around Preakness Day if we found a suitable spot for "The Great Eight." Let's keep our fingers crossed.
Friday we had two runners. At Pimlico we had Southern Twister for Tim Hopkins running in the eighth race. "Twister" was back to sprinting after the distance race didn't fill for the second time. Coupled as an entry for Tim (Ferris Allen also had one running for Tim), the big bay gelding by Stormy Atlantic was ridden by regular rider Harry Vega. Going six wide at the top of the stretch and being steadied made things tough. He did manage to nip Vencero for third. Unfortunately yet another one of my horses was claimed from us. Southern Twister goes to Christine Yourchisin.
Next we go up to Penn National. Louisa Laglass was trying to break her maiden for Nancy Lee Farm. The daughter of Louis Quatorze is still trying to put things together. Ridden by Craig Gibbs, the bay filly broke well and settled off the lead. Put the to a drive at the top of the stretch Louisa ran her heart out and just lost a head bob for second finishing third. A very nice effort.
Dumbarton Farm's homebred Choptank capped off the week with a nice win. The 5-year-old son of Dixieland Band stalked 70-1 Carbaby Street around the first turn and easily took command at the six-furlong maker. Jockey Luis Garcia slowed the pace and never looked back winning under a hand ride by 6 lengths. One of my longtime owners, Cary Jackson, had one of his homebreds running against Choptank, the 3-year-old by Dance With Ravens finished second at long odds. Nice job to trainer Todd Wyatt.
Several of the 2-year-olds have arrived from Florida. Next week I will have several arriving from Break Away Farm in Pennsylvania. This is a fun time of the year. New faces. Look here for pictures – soon – of all the new arrivals.