Delicate balance for Proctor’s Ledge

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Proctor’s Ledge is so easygoing in the morning at the barn that trainer Brendan Walsh doesn’t argue at the thought of a young child leading the Ghostzapper filly around the shedrow.

Trish Moseley’s homebred doesn’t need a lip chain when she walks from the barn to the paddock, or a tongue tie when she goes to the post for a race.

She’s so easygoing that even Walsh, still feeling the tinge from broken ribs in a morning spill in mid-August at Churchill Downs, can give the filly an easy blowout down the lane in early October and look 100 percent riding fit doing so.

Proctor’s Ledge is even so easygoing that, well, you get the picture.

Proctor’s Ledge put that relaxed attitude on display Thursday morning just as she did this summer at Saratoga and this fall at Keeneland. In Walsh’s second set after the break, along with flashy gray marathoner Scuba and a few others, Proctor’s Ledge walked out of her stall, took a couple spins of the shedrow, relaxed once assistant Paul Madden got a leg up and made a leisurely short walk up the horse path to the racetrack. Walsh accompanied the filly aboard his pony, but it was clear from the first few steps on the road that he didn’t really need to.

“She’s just so laid back,” Walsh said back at the barn later in the morning. “She doesn’t need a tongue tie, doesn’t like or doesn’t even need a lip chain. We just go up there, snap the snap onto her halter, walk her up and around the paddock and that’s that.”

Proctor’s Ledge, one of 11 3-year-old fillies entered in Saturday’s Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes at Keeneland, proved quite the opposite to her morning demeanor in the afternoons this summer at Saratoga.

She won both of her starts at Saratoga, taking the Grade 3 Lake George Opening Day and coming back about a month later to win the Grade 2 Lake Placid. The victories were eerily similar, the bay filly racing in a stalking position in midpack, coming a little wide into the lane and edging away late.

Walsh hopes for a similar outcome in the Queen Elizabeth II, which like the Lake Placid is run at 9 furlongs. Proctor’s Ledge will meet Uni, the runner-up in the Lake Placid, in Saturday’s race along with a loaded field led by Grade 1 winners New Money Honey and Dream Dancing, European imports Wuheida and Unforgettable Filly and two-time Keeneland stakes winner La Coronel.

“It’s a good race now,” Walsh said. “Whoever wins this is the real deal.”

Proctor’s Ledge comes into the QEII off a bit of a freshening. Walsh let the filly down just a bit, keeping her in Saratoga for about four weeks before shipping to his base once Keeneland’s main barn area opened following the September yearling sale.

Proctor’s Ledge walked and jogged for a few weeks after the Lake Placid, her fourth victory in seven starts this season. A month before the QEII she showed back up on the work tab, breezing a half-mile under Madden on the Oklahoma Training Track’s turf course in :50.40. Eight days later she breezed another half, on the Oklahoma dirt track, in :50.22.

“Mrs. Moseley was up there and it was nice to have her up there while we kind of backed off, plus we were able to work her on the turf up there, too,” Walsh said. “It was grand. It’s a good environment, horses do well up there. I thought I’d bring her right in here, rather than bring her to Churchill first and then bring her over here. As soon as they opened up here I brought her in. She did well here, too, in the spring. It’s a good track.”

Walsh put the finishing touches on Proctor’s Ledge’s training for her second start at Keeneland – she finished third behind La Coronel and Morticia in the Grade 3 Appalachian last spring – with a sharp half-mile move in :48.40 Oct. 2 before an untimed blowout somewhere between a quarter-mile and three-eighths early this week.

“I was hoping to work her back Sunday,” Walsh said. “We worked her on the Monday (Oct. 2) and I was hoping for Sunday, then they switched the turf works to Saturday because of the rain that was coming. I didn’t want to work her back on five days, so I said, ‘look, she just needs a blowout.’

“She works well on the dirt, too. If we ever had to do it she’d handle it, but for obvious reasons we probably won’t ever run her on the dirt. She’s gotten better on the dirt. If she was a dirt filly, the way she worked the other day I would have been real happy. That was a real nice work. I was still out of action then so I wasn’t on her. She’s the only one I’ve worked since coming back, and I might retire after that, depending on how she runs on Saturday. … No, I won’t. I’ll be back on eventually.”

Saturday’s $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II, the ninth race on a 10-race card, figures to be Proctor’s Ledge’s last start this year.

Walsh is looking forward to a 4-year-old campaign for the filly, whose pedigree traces back to Drumtop, a daughter of Round Table who routinely defeated males during her career in the late 1960s and early 1970s for Moseley.

Moseley, who won’t make the trip to Lexington for the QEII while at home in Boston caring for an ailing and beloved Labrador Retriever, said this summer that Proctor’s Ledge reminds her of Drumtop although her current stable star might be a touch bigger. 

Walsh and other members of his team have noticed changes in the filly especially of late. The trainer, easily in the midst of a career year with more than $3.1 million in purses won, also notes Proctor’s Ledge’s improvement. She’ll no doubt need it Saturday.

“It might sound funny but next year is when she’s going to really be good. She’s always looked like a horse that would be a better 4-year-old,” Walsh said. “She’s improved gradually this year. She’s gotten a new rider, even stronger, her neck has gotten stronger and she didn’t have that before. She wasn’t that strong, she was a bit weak.

“She’s some talent. She’s funny, it’s like, in the morning she’ll never really impress you. She does her thing, goes home and goes to sleep. That’s ideal. When we brought her down to Florida we thought she was a nice filly, thought she’d get nicer as time went along, but did we think she’d go on to do what she’s done? Absolutely not. The day she won her a-other-than at Gulfstream was the day I thought she might be. She was very impressive. She gave them about 10 lengths off the lead, (Corey Lanerie, who rides Saturday) said down the back he smooched at her and she jumped right into the bridle. He said ‘I just left her alone and I knew I had them.’ Corey has always had serious confidence in her.”

Notes: Hanno, Proctor’s Ledge’s half-brother bred by Moseley, also runs Saturday. The 6-year-old son of Henrythenavigator is entered in the $35,000 Randolph D. Rouse Memorial Handicap going 2 1/8 miles over jumps at the Virginia Fall meet at Glenwood Park in Middleburg. After he was a $47,000 RNA as a weanling at the 2011 Keeneland November sale, Hanno raced for Moseley and trainer Ed Dunlop in England, winning once in 16 starts before being sold as a jump prospect to Gill Johnston and trainer Jack Fisher. He won his most recent start over jumps, taking a 2-mile maiden at Shawan Downs in Maryland Sept. 23. … Archstone, Moseley’s 14-year-old daughter of Arch who is the dam of Proctor’s Ledge and Hanno, has an unraced 2-year-old Bodemeister filly named Hadriana and a yearling filly by Street Sense.