Mark Hennig won two races early at Saratoga 2018 and is in the midst of a solid 2018 with 19 wins (compared to 22 in all of 2017) and more than $1.5 million in purse earnings. As usual, his two-barn camp deep in the trees on the main-track side’s road to Greentree, features a mix of horses including several from Don Adam’s Courtlandt Farm strong breeding and purchasing program.
The squad consists of unraced 2-year-olds, a mare making her fifth visit to Saratoga, a gelding nicknamed “Marmaduke” and plenty of others fitting every description. Beyond the main string in Saratoga, Hennig has horses at the harness track, a stall in neighbor Ralph Nicks’ barn and at Monmouth Park.
“We’ve got some nice horses, and I’m happy with them,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of horses that are resting too, nice horses, so it’ll be nice to have them coming back and there’s a really good group of Courtland babies that are going to come into us when we get back to Belmont.”
Thursday morning, Hennig took a walk with The Special’s Joe Clancy and stopped at just about every stall. (Originally published in the Aug. 11 issue of The Saratoga Special.)
My Miss Lilly. Sometimes the Stable Tour has to start with a horse who isn’t in the stable. Courtlandt Farm’s 3-year-old daughter of Tapit won the Grade 2 Gazelle in April and was third in the Mother Goose in late June. Hennig skipped the Coaching Club American Oaks here last month in favor of next week’s Alabama, but she emerged from a 5-furlong breeze with a bone chip. She had surgery and heads to the sidelines to rest. “She was all dressed up for the Alabama, but that’s the way it goes. We tried to make the right decision with her. She worked really well here and came out of it with an injury. She will be fine, just bad timing.”
Summersault. Hard-hitting New York-bred mare is back in the end stall of Hennig’s barn closest to Clare Court. Breeders Bill Parsons and David Howe recently sold the 6-year-old to White Fox Farm, and she was third in the River Memories Stakes at Belmont July 8. The seven-time winner and $500,000 earner is entered in Sunday’s Waya going long on the turf. Daughter of Rock Hard Ten made her debut here in 2014, won twice in 2015, lost twice in 2016 and placed in the 2017 Waya. “She’s in the same stall for the fifth consecutive year and if the weather cooperates she’ll run here for the fifth consecutive year. That’s really rare, for a graded-stakes winning mare. She likes it over here. These stalls are a little bigger. She’s big, she likes the extra space and I think she likes looking at Clare Court. She watches the horses go by all morning. She’s good, nice mare.”
Local Counsel. Purchased at Fasig-Tipton’s New York-bred sale in 2016 by owner Alan Brodsky, the 3-year-old son of Union Rags is winless in three starts but on the improve with a second here Aug. 5. “He turned for home in front, but got caught. He’s learning how to run. He’s kind of a big dummy, in a good way.”
Strike Power. Courtlandt’s 3-year-old won twice at Gulfstream Park this winter, including the Grade 2 Swale, to briefly put himself on the Kentucky Derby trail. Speightstown colt finished second to Promises Fulfilled in the Fountain of Youth, but struggled in the Florida Derby and Woody Stephens. Fourth here in the Amsterdam, the chestnut heads to the turf. He breezed a half-mile at Oklahoma Friday. “We’ve been thinking that for quite awhile because his female family is grassy. Mr. Adam understandably figured he was better off as a sire prospect if he did well on the dirt, and he was running pretty well. We feel like that’s what he ultimately wants to do. He could show up in the Better Talk Now (Aug. 27) or something.
Battle Joined. Four-year-old daughter of War Front and $300,000 earner Strike The Bell has won two in a row, including an allowance win here July 21, after losing her first four starts. Thursday she greeted Hennig at the stall door, got four pats on the neck and let out a big nostril-flapping sigh in return. “She was kind of squirrely. As a 2-year-old you couldn’t train other horses around her. She’d kick at them all the time. It took her a long time to figure it out, but I think she’s going to be all right.”
Cache. If you’re speaking to Hennig, just know that it’s not spelled C-a-s-h. Three-year-old Distorted Humor filly won her career debut for Courtlandt in January, then took some swings at graded stakes. She’s in regroup mode now, and looking for a September return. “We threw her into some tough competition early because she seemed like a filly that was up to it. She ran OK. She probably won’t run until Belmont in the fall but I think she’s got a bright future. This is a good place to give a horse a little bit of a breather.”
Triumphant. Unraced 2-year-old Courtlandt homebred filly by Quality Road was supposed to be sold this year in Florida, but got loose at the sale and ran around for 20 minutes. “She cut her back leg open, but she’s good now. Mr. Adam decided to keep her after all that. He figured that since she hurt herself, she was probably going to be OK. She’s coming along.”
Tough Times. Next to the feed room in the second barn – with an air purifier bubbling outside his stall – burly Tapit colt catches every eye. He’s still unraced at 3, and getting closer. “He’s a very, very talented horse who just had some setbacks. Hopefully he’ll run this fall. He was almost ready to run at Gulfstream, and then he had a setback. He and Strike Power trained a lot together last year as 2-year-olds.”
Cypriana. Courtlandt’s Bodemeister 3-year-old filly won her debut at Gulfstream in January, and tried to bolt on the far turn here July 20 and wound up seventh, beaten 6 1/2 lengths. “She’s got a few mental things. She can throw one at you. At first I didn’t think we should run her on Opening Day. She’s just that kind of filly, and I thought she might need to settle in and train here for a little while. She trained well, I schooled her in the paddock and she did well. I decided to go ahead and run her. Of course my first instinct was right and I shouldn’t have run her. She’s pretty talented.”
Capitaine. A Courtlandt 4-year-old by Tapit, the chestnut colt won his second start in 2016, but lost all four last year. “He’s just now coming back, but he’s changed so much. He doesn’t even look like the same horse. He was very feminine and small. He’s filled out a lot. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he does.”
Carlino. Courtlandt homebred 4-year-old Lemon Drop Kid gelding (a three-time winner who was fourth in the Birdstone here Aug. 2) is the one horse in the barn – perhaps on the grounds – who knows his name. Hennig stopped at the stall and said, “Hey Carlino.” Instantly, the dark bay snapped his head around from the back of the stall. “You can say his name at any point and he turns around to see you. When he’s walking in the shedrow at Belmont if he’s gone by the office and somebody says something to him, he’ll stop and try to turn around and come back with the hotwalker. He’s just such a character. He’s a bit of an overachiever but he’s going to find the right spot and get the right pace scenario and do some good stuff. He tries hard all the time.”
Bernin’ Thru Gold. A Fasig-Tipton Florida graduate, Lee Lewis’ 2-year-old Bernardini colt finished second in his debut at Belmont in late June. “He fell after the race, was down on the racetrack. I thought he was dead. He was down long enough for met to get to him anyway. But he was breathing and all the sudden he jumped up and he was fine. He cut his knee up. We sent him to Patty Hogan (at Hogan Equine Clinic in New Jersey), she went over him, we turned him out for a month and he’s back and he’s good. Very talented colt, I like him.”
Betterment. The Courtlandt homebred might be the best-bred horse in the barn as a son of Kitten’s Joy and multiple graded stakes winner Ready’s Gal (a three-time Saratoga winner). Chestnut has a big blaze and plenty of other white. His parents were turf standouts, but he’s handling dirt so far. “He’s training very well and I haven’t even thought about taking him to the grass yet. He’s a barn favorite because he plays music, well not music but he’s figured out how to make noises with his teeth on the Jolly Ball (hanging outside his stall). He does it all day long. Squeaks and things. It would be pushing it to run here, but he’s coming along.”
JJ’s Dreamin. Seidman Stable’s homebred 4-year-old won a state-bred allowance by 8 lengths here Wednesday, after finishing second in his previous two starts. “He’s a neat horse who took a little while to figure it out, but he put it together (Wednesday).”
Mathematician. Bred and owned by John and Anastasie O’Connor, 3-year-old Quality Road colt won a maiden race at Belmont in July and finished sixth here Aug. 5. “He didn’t like the soft turf. He can do better than that.”
Tigalalu. Another O’Connor-bred, 3-year-old Curlin filly won her debut in June and was third here July 26. “ She ran in the slop and didn’t seem to like it too much. She’s a pretty nice filly.”
The JY. A Fasig-Tipton purchase here in 2014, New York-Discreet Cat gelding has won four for Alan Brodsky. Won his 2018 debut in May, and was third last time at Belmont. He runs in today’s fifth race against open company. “He’s just a good, old hard-knocking New York-bred. Fun horse to have in the barn.”
Bourbon War. Unraced 2-year-old Tapit colt owned by Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable breezed from the gate Aug. 6, but might not run until September. “He’s very tough, has shown some talent and will need a little time. The time will do him good. I think he’ll fill out and get stronger.”
Wisconsin Night. Fasig-Tipton Midlantic graduate in May 2017 won at Belmont in June and was fourth here Aug. 2. Three-year-old daughter of Old Fashioned has plenty of potential. “She’s got a decent future, ran real big when she broke her maiden at Belmont.”