Good Weather – Fourstardave Stakes Recap

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By Sean Clancy

As if on cue, a small piece of straw fell out of Tom Bush’s hair and on to the left shoulder of his navy sport coat.

A second earlier, the trainer had finished talking about the equine/human wrestling match that took place in Barn 14 on the Saratoga backside. Get Stormy, favorite for Saturday’s Fourstardave Stakes, pushed, prodded, bashed and otherwise fought with Bush and Miguel Bravo for 15 minutes while they tried to put on the horse’s bridle and tighten the figure-eight noseband.

“We’re in the stall, he’s smashing us with his head and tossing us around,” Bush said. “Miguel is a pretty big kid and knows what he’s doing and I’ve been around a long time, but the horse is a gorilla in there. He’s great to gallop, like a puppy, but in the stall it’s ridiculous. I don’t know what to do about it.”

Probably nothing.

Sullimar Stable’s Get Stormy can do whatever he wants if he’s going to continue to pile up victories like Saturday’s. The 4-year-old colt wired six others in the $250,000 Grade II handicap – blazing through quick fractions and finishing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:39.09 (just .18 off the track record set by Fourstardave himself in 1991). Javier Castellano went along for the ride, which ended in a 1 1/4-length triumph over Public Speaker with Zifzaf third.

The only anxious moment came at the start, when Get Stormy stumbled slightly. Breaking from the inside, he still led into the first turn and set up camp with a 1-length advantage. Bush brags about the horse’s turning ability, and Get Stormy hugged the rail through a first quarter in 23.65 seconds. Followed by Pinckney Hill, Public Speaker and Zifzaf early, the winner hit the half-mile in 47.01 and 6 furlongs in 1:10.05. The mile came in 1:33.13, but instead of bowing to the pressure, Get Stormy stormed off – extending his already long stride and winning with energy to spare.

“It was a decent pace, it was not slow at all but he does it so easy in the lead,” said Castellano. “You can see it in the replay with his ears – he puts them back and forth and waits for me. We went in 47 and he can do it. We went 1:33 and he’s still like that. Turning for home I asked him and he took off – very quick acceleration. It feels fast when you ask him, believe me. He’s that quick.”

Owner Mary Sullivan bred Get Stormy by sending the Kiri’s Clown mare Foolish Gal to Stormy Atlantic. She got a flashy bay with the markings of a Clydesdale but the quickness of a Quarter Horse.

“When it was 47 (seconds), Tom and I were both saying that’s fast, that’s too fast,” Sullivan said. “That’s fast for any horse. Then when he had something left, I was really amazed. Javier came back and said he knew he had something left the whole way, that everything was under control. He could have given us a signal somewhere along the way that he was thinking like that – I would have breathed easier. He’s a wonderful horse and Tom and his team do a great job with him.”

Like the owner, Bush gawked at the fractions and wondered if his horse was setting too fast a tempo.

“He usually runs the first quarter pretty quickly, then turns off but he wasn’t turning off that well today and they weren’t letting him,” the trainer said. “When they straightened away down the backside, he wasn’t going into any kind of idle like you want him to.”

Not that it mattered. The barn’s budding star simply dominated – and prompted his trainer to recall a lanky 2-year-old that walked into the Belmont Park barn in 2008.

“Look at this sucker,” Bush said when he first spied the Kentucky-bred. “I got him in May and he walked off the van with all that white on his face and his legs. He was real narrow and leggy – like spaghetti. He ran up here and was real rank and green and finished fourth. Then he had a little problem with his throat and I didn’t get him back until December, right before the turf closed, and he won at Aqueduct.”

Rested over the winter between his 2- and 3-year-old seasons,he started twice in March at Tampa Bay Downs before coming back to Bush last spring. The horse has blossomed ever since – winning four in a row (including two at Saratoga) to close 2009. The streak went to five with a runaway score in Monmouth Park’s Elkwood this May, but ended with a fourth (Bush and Castellano blame soft turf) in Woodbine’s King Edward in late June.

“He really started to fill out and grow up last summer,” Bush said. “He’s a different beast now compared to what he was. I loved his action in the lane today – he really went after it when Javier asked him to. He likes his turf short and fast, he’d probably be good in California. He just keeps answering questions.”

The questions will get tougher, as Bush mentioned the Breeders’ Cup Mile as the 2010 target. Get Stormy, who won a Grade III over the Churchill Downs turf course late last year, improved to 7-for-15 lifetime (with six wins in his last seven tries) and pushed his career bankroll past $435,000.

“He really, really has it, whatever that is,” Bush said. “When they’re this good you just hope you don’t mess it up. You do everything you can think of to make them happy.”

Including getting beat up in the stall now and then.