Bringing the Heat

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Vann Belvoir flashed back to his first training experience at Churchill Downs as he watched Rocket Heat roll into the stretch of Friday’s $150,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint.

“The first horse I ran here, just in a claimer, Rafael Bejarano rode for me, I was like 4 in front at the eighth pole thinking, ‘Bejarano, 4 in front, I’ll get home, right?’ ” Belvoir said. “I got snapped at the line. I was hoping, ‘not today, I don’t want to get snapped today.’ “

Rocket Heat wasn’t up by 4 in the lane – close though, the Latent Heat gelding was clear by 3 at the eighth pole – and did not get snapped at the line. He held the lead and gave Belvoir a better lasting memory of racing at Churchill.

“That was pretty exciting,” said Belvoir, a former jockey who trains at Santa Anita Park. “Really the last part you’re just like, ‘hurry up wire, hurry up wire.’ It seemed like this dang stretch is so long, you’re a little worried, but he held on good.”

Rocket Heat bounced back from a seventh in the Grade 2 Shakertown going 5 1/2 furlongs, where he pressed an extremely fast pace before turning his worst finish in nearly a year. He and Flavien Prat weren’t pressed this time – they set more sensible fractions of :21.74 and :44.40 versus the :20.73 and :40.93 of the Shakertown – and were 2 lengths clear of Alsvid at the finish of the 5-furlong turf stakes.

“I wasn’t too disappointed in the last race because they went 20 and 3, no horse can go that fast and win,” Belvoir said. “Today we drew inside the speed and the plan was to let them go and hopefully lay off. Last time we should have laid off, being on the outside, we didn’t and used our horse up.”

Rocket Heat’s victory was the second stakes win in six days for the Belvoir-Prat tandem, who took last Sunday’s $100,450 Silky Sullivan Stakes at Golden Gate Fields with Gold Rush Dancer.

“With Prat we’ve had good luck,” Belvoir said. “We’re on a roll right now.”

Belvoir wouldn’t mind if Rocket Heat keeps rolling and makes it to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint back home at Santa Anita later this fall.

A $60,000 purchase at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale, Rocket Heat has run well on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course going the 6 1/2-furlong trip of the Turf Sprint. He was second in a small stakes in late February to earn the trip to Kentucky for the Shakertown and Twin Spires Turf Sprint and also was a close third there after making the lead in the stretch of the Grade 3 Daytona Stakes.

“That’s the long-term goal,” Belvoir said of the Breeders’ Cup. “The reason why we came back here was because of the distance. It seems like 5 furlongs on the turf is right up his alley. He’s run well at Del Mar (at that distance); 6 1/2 down the hill might be stretching it but after that last race we did a myectomy throat surgery to help his air and it seemed like it really helped.”

Mark Casse says Catch A Glimpse is among an ornery group of fillies and mares he’s trained and the daughter of City Zip showed just how much she fit that description this week at Churchill Downs.

“It was a long week,” Casse said, looking equally concerned and relieved after Catch A Glimpse won her sixth straight in the $150,000 Edgewood Stakes. “We tried to school her I guess Tuesday, on the first attempt we couldn’t get her over here. Second attempt we got her over.

“She’s been a challenge but I think that’s one of the things that makes her so great. I’ve been fortunate to train a couple really good fillies that were ornery but today she was very good.

Florent Geroux, aboard for four of Catch A Glimpse’s victories that include a season-ending score in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland, was on again for the three-quarter-length win over 31-1 longshot Auntie Joy.

“Flo said she was a different horse from when she ran at Keeneland,” Casse said.

One way she wasn’t that much different was in the stretch.

Geroux guided her to the front around the far turn and let the filly open up. She was clear by 2 lengths with a furlong to run, but after changing leads she nearly pulled herself up and allowed the final margin to slim.

“She’s funny because she makes the lead, I was a little worried because when she makes her lead she pulls herself up,” Casse said. “When she does that she goes from her right lead to her left lead and pulls herself up. If you watch galloping out they don’t go by her. We just have to keep getting her to do that.”

Casse hopes to bring champion turf female Tepin to England for next month’s Royal Ascot meeting. He got a chuckle win the winner’s circle when asked if Catch A Glimpse, last year’s Canadian Horse of the Year and champion 2-year-old filly, would also make the transatlantic trip.

“Not there, no,” Casse said. “This was the biggest challenge, Oaks Day. She’s going to go somewhere quiet. The big goal would be the Belmont Oaks. It’s a mile and a quarter. I’m sure all the experts will say she can’t go that far, and they may be right, but they also may be wrong. I just think she’ll go as long as long as she has somebody to go with.”

Oaks Day notes: Majestic Harbor’s victory in the $400,000 Alysheba set off a wild celebration in the winner’s circle, which was packed with members of Gallant Stables along with family and friends. The 8-year-old son of Rockport Harbor, whose biggest win came in the 2014 Gold Cup at Santa Anita, won as the second longest price on the board at 13-1 under Corey Lanerie for trainer Paul McGee. … The announced crowd of 124,589 Friday at Churchill was a record for Oaks Day, topping the previous mark of 123,763 set last year. Total wagering of $49 million on the full Oaks Day card was also a record and up 6 percent over last year’s record $46.1 million.