Al Stall stood outside the gap at the five-eighths pole on the main track Sunday. He stood alone, watched his horse train, and walked home alone. He didn’t spend the previous night at a fancy Saratoga restaurant celebrating some achievement or entertaining owners. Instead, the trainer spent Saturday at Mountaineer Park in Chester, W.Va., cheering Departing across the finish line way in front of the field for the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby.
Stall returned to his barn behind the Morning Line kitchen early the next morning, business as usual.
With three wins from nine starts at the meet, business is good. Stall credits an early start and better stock for his success at the Spa thus far.
“We got here a little bit earlier because Churchill (Downs) closed a bit earlier than usual. Maybe the acclimation has helped somewhat,” Stall said. “But we are finding we just had some better horses to run too.”
He speaks about his up and comers for the meet, and the list goes on. Apropos made the list. The consistent 4-year-old daughter of First Samurai will make her first start at Saratoga in the $100,000 Shine Again Stakes.
Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Apropos is the morning-line favorite in a field of six in the 6-furlong sprint on the main track, Monday’s eighth race. After finishing second in stakes a Churchill last time, Stall brought her here with a plan – sort of.
“Honestly I didn’t even know this race existed until the second book. We were considering the Honorable Miss,” Stall said. “When this race showed up I was excited because it was a perfect fit. We will have to overcome the one hole but we are very happy with her.”
Apropos has hit the board in all of her six starts and looks to make the Shine Again her first stakes win. Joe Rocco Jr. rides the homebred daughter of Apt.
Trainer Leah Gyarmati will attempt to win her first race of the meet with Well Kept, who goes out for Treadway Racing Stable. In her most recent try, the 4-year-old Henny Hughes filly ripped through an optional claimer at Belmont – winning by 6 lengths in 1:09 3/5 June 14. Gyarmati was impressed with the effort.
“It was one of the first times she was able to get a lead like that. Maybe that’s her preferred style,” said Gyarmati. “But she’s a very versatile filly. She definitely does better when I give the time between races.”
Alex Solis rides the 4-1 shot from the outside post.
Trainer Todd Pletcher looks to add to his growing list of stakes wins at the meet with Holiday Soiree. The 4-year-old Harlan’s Holiday filly makes her debut for the barn after racing for Tevis McCauley in four starts this year (all stakes). Last out, she finished fourth in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney at Calder. John Velazquez takes the riding call on the 5-2 second choice.
Darley Stable and trainer Tom Albertrani team up with Delightful Quality. The 4-year-old Elusive Quality filly was third last time to eventual Grade 2 Honorable Miss victor, Dance To Bristol. The Darley homebred has never finished off the board in eight lifetime starts. Javier Castellano gets the mount at 3-1. Delightful Quality is a half-sister to $945,000 earner and Grade 1 winner Folklore.
Rudy Rodriguez’s entry Enchante has not won since February 2012. The 5-year-old Bluegrass Cat mare looks to get back into the winner circle today with Cornelio Velasquez aboard at 12-1. She exits a fourth in the Smart N Fancy Stakes at Belmont in June. Five Star Momma rounds out the field for trainer Jena Antonucci and looks for her first win of 2013. Two starts back, she finished behind Well Kept. Jose Ortiz rides the daughter of Five Star Day, twice a winner in 11 starts.