Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour with Ian Wilkes

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Peace and quiet can be tough to find at Saratoga Race Course during training hours. A few spots offer some respite from the occasional morning madness, often in barns tucked into corners of the grounds or off the beaten path to and from the main track or Oklahoma. (Originally published in July 28 issue of The Saratoga Special)

Ian Wilkes’ string takes up residence in one such spot every year, at the southwestern corner of the main track grounds and the quiet turn of Clare Court. The small barn with the metal roof oozes history – Carl Nafzger trained Travers winners Street Sense and Unshaded there and John Nerud bedded down some of his lightning bolts there too.

“Allen Jerkens was in here too one year,” Wilkes said Friday. “That’s what he told me. He even had Onion in the stall on the end.”

Nowadays the stalls in Barn 6 house some potential history makers. The stalls are also home to runners bred by the late Marylou Whitney, one of Wilkes’ main clients who passed away July 19. The Whitney runners remain in the care of Ian and Tracey Wilkes and their team and they’ll eventually run for Whitney’s estate.

“It’s going to be hard running one for the first time for Marylou,” Wilkes said. “She was a special lady. I could come up with all these kinds of words but they don’t do her justice. She had so many unique abilities and the horses always came first. She enjoyed the horses. It’s going to be sad, no two ways about it, but hopefully these boys and girls will do her proud.”

Wilkes took a few minutes Friday morning after training and between phone calls – ask to hear his ring tone sometime – to show and discuss the Saratoga string and some others with The Special’s Tom Law and Catherine Galbraith.

Hometown Pride: Homebred 2-year-old colt by To Honor And Serve for Marylou Whitney Stables debuted here July 13. “He had his first race here and ran a respectable fifth. Just 5 1/2 furlongs, he wants further. That was too short for him but he got an education. He’s a half to Viva Majorca and Quick Quick Quick.”

Quick Quick Quick: The first runner entered for Estate of Marylou Whitney, 4-year-old Tiago filly is one of six for Wednesday’s Shine Again Stakes. A maiden winner here in 2017, she finished fourth in the Saylorville Stakes last time at Prairie Meadows. “She’s going to come up and run in the Shine Again. She was down at Keeneland, just arrived.”

Blame The Cake: Wilkes gives Lothenbach Stables’ New York-bred Blame colt a pat on the neck when he comes to the front of the stall. Second in debut here July 14 going 5 1/2 furlongs. “He ran really good in his first start. He’s out of Marie Antoinette. Like what they say, ‘let them eat cake.’ I don’t know much about it, Bob Lothenbach’s son was telling me about it. We actually tried to get Guillotine but that was already taken. Very good race first time, didn’t you boy?”

Feisty Bird: Whitney’s homebred 2-year-old colt by Curlin is out of Tweeter, a half sister to Belmont, Travers and Champagne winner Birdstone and Kentucky Oaks winner Bird Town. Chestnut colt breezed 5 furlongs from the gate in 1:01.65 Saturday. “He needed to work out of the gate again to get OK’d. He’s not too far away.”

Bird Tycoon: Whitney’s homebred 2-year-old by Graydar breezed a half in :49.09 the morning of the tour She finished fifth in debut here July 12. “She ran a respectable fifth, just too short for her. We got a race in her and hopefully set her up for another race during the meet here. We’ll find a race for her going 6 1/2, 7 furlongs, that would suit this filly better. Today’s breeze was just a maintenance work.”

Heroic Officer: Another homebred by To Honor And Serve, 2-year-old filly relaxed in the back of her stall the morning of the tour. She breezed 5 furlongs in 1:02 from the gate Saturday. “She hasn’t raced yet either. She’s going to work out of the gate. I was going to run her but took the entry out after Marylou passed away, so it’s been a while. I’m going to work her out of the gate, get her OK’d here. I decided not to enter, wanted to wait. I’ll run her on the dirt to start with.”

Originator: The 4-year-old filly by Artie Schiller gave the barn its first winner July 13 in 5 1/2-furlong turf allowance for Denholtz Stables, West Point Thoroughbreds and Head of Plains Partners. She finished second in last year’s Coronation Cup at Saratoga. “She won off the layoff for the guys. They were patient with her, she’s come out of that race well and we’ll look for another race back, an allowance, two-other-than. She was off maybe 10 months. Kentucky Downs (in the Grade 3 Ladies Sprint Stakes Sept. 8) was the last time she ran.”

Champagne Anyone: Winner of the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, she finished fourth last time in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. Owned by seven partners that include Randall Bloch and Six Column Stables, Street Sense filly also finished fourth in the Kentucky Oaks. “She ran good in the Coaching Club, just maybe came up a tad short on me. I’ll come back in the Alabama with her. Hadn’t run since the Kentucky Oaks and maybe I was a little too light on her. I should have trained her a little more but we’ll be ready for the Alabama. We’ll give them a shot there.”

Bohemian Bourbon: Bourbon Lane Stable’s 3-year-old Midshipman filly finished third in Coronation Cup July 14. “She got some black type here for Mike McMahon and Jamie Hill. She’ll run back Aug. 11 (in the Galway). She won an off the turf race at Churchill and I ran her in one stake at Keeneland this spring on the grass. She’s probably better grass but she can run on the dirt.”

Bourbon Resolution: Bourbon Lane’s 4-year-old colt by New Year’s Day runs in today’s Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine. He’s won three of 11, including the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland in April. Dark bay colt doesn’t pay visitors much attention, too intent on rubbing against a screw eye. “Hey boy. Stop rubbing your eye, don’t do that. It’s a mile and a half on the grass. Going that far for the first time, I want to see if he can I run that distance. We’ll find out. I was looking for a kinder spot. He ran in the Wise Dan last time, only got beat 4 lengths.”

Bourbon Calling: Two-time winner for Bourbon Lane and Six Column Stables enjoys a few minutes on the vibrating plate at the end of the shedrow. Son of Dialed In goes in today’s Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes. “It’s going to be tough. There’s going to be plenty of speed in there. He ran big last time and I ran him out of condition at Churchill. I ran him because the purse was so good and I put him in for the tag, he ran good and didn’t get taken for $100,000. He’s done well so we’ll give him a shot and see if he’s good enough.”

Joe Bananas: “The pony. Tracey’s ride. He was here last year, we gave him a break and he’s back to it. He’s a cool pony.”

Frozen Hannah: Bella Cavello Stable’s daughter of E Dubai sports 6-6-4 record from 26 starts and $206,142 in earnings. “She’s a claiming filly, 6-year-old who will run for $25,000 on the grass. She won an off-the-turf grass race on the dirt at Indiana Grand last time.”

Quick Entry: Whitney’s homebred 3-year-old by Point Of Entry stays busy after training with his Jolly Ball. He finished ninth in 7-furlong allowance here July 13. “He plays with it, don’t you buddy? Last time he disappointed, stumbled out of the gate. We need to find him a better spot.”

Gentle Ruler: Morsches Stable’s 4-year-old Colonel John filly ran win streak to four in Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park July 6. The wins came after 12 tries in the maiden ranks. “She’s down in Kentucky but will be up for the Waya (Aug. 4). Took me a few times to practice. So I’ve got that in my back pocket now, I can tell my owners, ‘just be patient.’ ”

Nessy: One of our favorites, Sierra Farm’s 6-year-old Flower Alley gelding won the 2018 San Juan Capistrano and finished third in the Grade 3 Louisville Stakes May 18. “He won’t come up here, he’ll stay in Kentucky. Probably run at Ellis, not Kentucky Downs. He doesn’t run good there. As Julien Leparoux explained to me, horses run down the hill. I never realized it and he said Nessy doesn’t like to run down. We’ll run him there and maybe take him to Woodbine for a race.”

Big Dollar Bill: Last year’s Birdstone Stakes winner continued comeback from layoff with second work July 24 at Skylight Training Center, a half in :48. “He’s coming back, worked yesterday. He had an injury, needed some time off.”