2016 Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour with Joe Sharp

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Joe Sharp’s tight-knit barn on the Oklahoma Training Track seems to be bubbling with fun and positivity as the horses and people wade into the 2016 Saratoga Race Course meeting. (Originally published in Aug. 3 issue of The Saratoga Special.)

Sharp, in the midst of his second full year training on his own, returned to Saratoga this year with a string of 20 at the Oklahoma, stalls on the harness track and a familiar crew. Many members of Sharp’s team worked with him while he was an assistant to Mike Maker.

“Although I’ve only trained two years we’ve worked together six, seven years,” Sharp said. “We have a pretty young crew, but a young crew with a lot of experience.  We have a good crew and we enjoy doing it together. When you guys are close, it makes winning even that much more fun.”

Sharp won 100 races last year and racked up purses of $3,636,230. He hopes to double those figures this year and through Monday had won 68 races and purses of $2,239,816.

“We have a lot of horses with conditions, and conditions win races,” Sharp said.  “As far as stakes horses up here, we have one maybe two, but as far as winning races day in and day out I think we have a good variety that should help get that done. We have a lot of owners with interests in claiming horses at the meet so we’ll be able to replenish our stock and get some fresh horses to bring south in the fall.”

Sharp took some time out of his busy training schedule last week to walk stall to stall with The Special’s Shayna Tiller.

Dolphus: Dede McGehee’s 3-year-old half-brother to Rachel Alexandra finished fifth in last week’s Curlin Stakes. He’s sprawled out in his stall with groom and best buddy Rudolpho on the ground beside him. “Dolphus has always been pretty special to us, for numerous reasons. The obvious, and also the fact that he’s a really cool dude, straight forward, loves his job. He’s one of those horses that kind of inflates and builds as he gets more confidence and he has really grown and developed right in front of our eyes. The sky is the limit as far as ability wise goes with him. … He’s got big shoes to fill, that’s Shore Runner’s stall from last year.”

Cairn: Homebred for McGehee, the 2-year-old son of Gemologist is spread out, face down in hay during the visit. He glanced up momentarily to see who was crowding his door, then returned to his slumber. “Sixteen-two, big 2-year-old that’s still figuring out what he’s here for but has a lot of ability and once he puts it all together he’s going to be a very nice horse. He doesn’t have much sense of urgency at this point, he doesn’t really know what he’s here for other than to eat, sleep and go play out in the big oval for a little while every day.”

Abtaal: Third in a $40,000 claimer July 24, 5-year-old son of Rock Hard Ten is owned by Brad Grady. “Abtaal is one of our ferocious older horses, he’s still a fully intact male. He’s a neat horse, already won a Grade 3 in England. He’s lightly raced, but he’s made every start count. We claimed him up here last year off of (Kiaran) McLaughlin and won with him fresh off the claim at Kentucky Downs. He had the winter off and he came back first race off a layoff the other day and finished third. He had a great start, first off the layoff. He’s one of those that will lure you in with his ears pricked, and then try to bring you in his stall.”

Legallini: Two-year-old daughter of Hard Spun breezed 5 furlongs in 1:01.55 from the gate Monday on the main track. “Her mother Dust And Diamonds was second in the Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in 2012. She’s very athletic, great disposition. She’s sweet, but nasty enough to be a racehorse. She’ll start here at the meet. We think she’s very, very talented. We’re excited.”

Mom’s On Strike: Fifth in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico and sixth in Grade 1 Mother Goose at Belmont, 3-year-old daughter of First Dude has breezed twice at Saratoga. “We’re just freshening her a little bit and then we’re targeting her for a first-level allowance race towards the end of the meet. She broke her maiden and then has run in two very ambitious spots, so now we want to put her in a start where we think she’ll be favored to win. She’s really going to be a nice, late 3-year-old.”

Bissectrisa: Joseph Besecker’s 7-year-old mare by Whywhywhy won for a $25,000 tag July 14 at Belmont. “She won last time out, she ran her best lifetime Beyer. She’s the only horse I’ve ever claimed back three different times, from three different owners. I just love her. She has an iron constitution, she’s ultra consistent.  Turf, dirt, long, short, just every time we need her she’s there. Great horse to be around.  She’s a superstar.”

Bankers Holiday: Fourth in starter allowance July 24, 4-year-old Harlan’s Holiday colt is 1-for-7 on the season. He sports a ping-pong ball-sized bump on his face. “It’s a little character, something that’s always been apart of him. He was a horse we claimed at Keeneland, and he was just second in a starter at Belmont and then ran here opening weekend. Had a really troubled trip, half a length off the win, closing. We’re anxious to get him back in at the same level. With a little bit of racing luck he should be favored to win next time. He’s a neat horse, another one that his pedigree suggests will get a little better as he gets older.”

Tizzy Fit: A $12,000 purchase by Matt Nestor at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga October sale, 2-year-old Tizway was sixth in her debut July 3 at Belmont. “She’s very aptly named, she’s a little firecracker. She has her own little agenda and you kind of have to keep her happy or she’ll have a little tizzy fit. She ran sprinting out at Belmont, ran well. She’s a New York-bred so we’re looking at stretching her out into a two-turn maiden special here at the meet. We have pretty high expectations for her. She was over at the harness track, but that was a little too much crossing the road with her every day, so we brought her back over here. You kind of have to suggest to her what she does, rather than tell her.”

Classic Giacnroll: Sharp and Joseph Besecker claimed 5-year-old gelding by Giacomo July 16 for $12,500. “This is a horse that was on the Derby trail as a 3-year-old, Carlos Guerrero had him at Parx and my assistant’s actually his niece. The owner that we train for, Joseph Besecker had him back then. Besecker wanted to claim him back because he was running at the bottom, and since he had been so good to him he wanted to claim him back. He gets turned out in a little paddock every day, and we’re trying to give him a little freshening. We’ll just see if he tells us he wants to come back and run or if we need to explore another avenue.  So far we’re thinking he’s definitely going to be OK to come back and run. We’re just trying to get his head back, feeling good and feeling like a horse again. He eats bananas, he’ll eat five or six bananas, whole bananas. He goes crazy over them. I’ve never had a horse eat bananas.”

C d’Cat: Brad Grady’s 5-year-old D’wildcat mare won July 16 allowance race at Belmont. “She won last time in a first-level allowance race very impressively. She’s going to run in a two other than on the grass at Saratoga and maybe target getting her into one of the New York-bred stakes in the fall at Belmont. She’s a filly that we didn’t start until she was 4 years old. She won her first start as a 4-year-old and we gave her a little break this winter just to keep her fresh, brought her back and she’s had a second and a win. She’s living proof that if you’re patient they’ll pay off.”

Scout Leader: Second in starter allowance July 28, 5-year-old A.P. Indy gelding demanded attention, nodding his head and pulling out his fan cord as Sharp stood in front of the stall. “He ran well, we were hoping to win, but he missed a little bit of time (and) I think caught up to us at the sixteenth pole. We claimed him at Keeneland for $20,000. He’s a horse that I always wanted, back when Neil Howard had him. I just liked him, I liked his running style, I liked that he ran turf or dirt, and his pedigree suggested that he’d get better as he got older. He’s an ultra-consistent horse. The more ground the better, the longer the race the better. Probably get a start again before the meet is over.”