Trainer Ray Handal’s girlfriend Holly Ferris pulled up to the barn and unloaded the stable’s most popular member, Elle Louise Handal. The black, white and gray mini pig hopped out of the vehicle and put a smile on the face of Handal’s owners, agents and workers hanging around the Horse Haven stable as she bounced toward the barn.
Sporting a red handkerchief over her back and on a long leash, Elle Louise dived into an empty stall. She sank into the bedding as she made her way to the back, her nose sticking out of the straw like the periscope of a submarine. She turned around and bounded back toward the stall’s opening. A small heap of bedding flew up into the air with each stride before she came tunneling out the front again.
“We bought her in Tampa from a breeder. She’s very food-driven and she’s a happy little girl. She puts a smile on everybody’s face on the racetrack,” Handal said. “Holly has wanted one for years and she did a ton of research. This winter she was like, ‘I’m ready,’ and we looked at her mom and dad and checked her out and we just had to have her.”
In addition to Elle Louise (who has an Instagram account), Handal’s stable includes about 20 horses strong in Saratoga with another six horses stabled at Belmont. The 29-year-old has three wins at the meet, equaling his personal best set last year. Handal still has plenty of horses left to run and took the time to walk the shedrow with The Special’s Brandon Valvo last week. (Originally published in Aug. 16 issue of The Saratoga Special.)
Calculated Risker: Handal claimed the Into Mischief colt for $25,000 in March. He finished second in an allowance optional at Belmont in April before running poorly to be eighth next out May 19. Handal realized the colt likes plenty of time between races and waited for Saratoga. He won a New York-bred race here July 23 and may run back at the end of the meet. The headstrong 4-year-old took a bite out of his trainer when he turned his back. “He bounced out of his race in really good shape. He ran a little bit slower number than he did the race off the claim when he ran second, but I think we’re still going to give the open 1-X a shot, he’s eligible for that, we don’t want to put him in the optional 40 (claiming price) yet. We’ll let him win that before we start trying New York-bred stakes company. I made the mistake of running him back too soon the second time because he does come out of the races in such good shape, he kind of tricks you. He was his normal self, dragging me around there. He’s one of the strongest horses I’ve ever ridden. He’ll let you know if he’s not feeling good because if he’s not pulling, something’s wrong. He’s a pretty good boy . . . . ow! He’ll bite you.”
Shamrocked: Claimed for $16,000 when ninth in a non-winners of two at Aqueduct March 24, he scored a nose win in the same class on debut for Handal at Belmont May 19. The Trappe Shot gelding doubled up in a non-winners of three for $14,000 last out June 27. Breezed a half-mile on the Oklahoma in :50.60 Aug. 8 and drew the rail in Friday’s first race. “I just liked how he had a lot of tactical speed. I’ve had some success with Trappe Shots in the past. For $16,000 you couldn’t get hurt too much. I just thought there was a lot of areas we could help the horse, especially when I saw him physically. We do a lot of alternative therapies, a lot of acupuncture work. I treated him with an EPM medication. That was the biggest change he had. He blossomed and he dappled out and filled out.”
English Soul: Zilla Racing’s 3-year-old daughter of English Channel makes her second Stable Tour appearance. Won the East View Stakes in January, finished second in the Bouwerie Stakes in May and third in the New York Oaks last time out at Finger Lakes July 21. The $55,000 buy out of the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May sale worked 4 furlongs in :48.33 on the main track Aug. 10 toward the Fleet Indian Stakes Aug. 24. “This is the big filly here. She’s my first stakes winner. She ran a little disappointing third last time out. First time going two turns, second off the bench after she went a big performance. I gave her a week or two off after (the Bouwerie Stakes) because it took a lot out of her and I think maybe she was a little short going into the New York Oaks. I haven’t missed a beat with her. This race is on five-weeks rest from that one. The timing is really good and I think I’m going to win that race. She’s training lights out, really excited about her. She’s one of the more talented horses I’ve worked around and the best horse I’ve had so far. I’m just happy that people trust me to go to the sale and buy them. It’s just nice to have these horses that are cut from a different cloth and show up every time. I think that she’s going to go beyond being a New York-bred stakes horse. I think she’ll be an open-company horse.”
Bronxville: Matthew Cutair paid $45,000 for the He’s Had Enough colt at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale. In two starts, the 2-year-old finished fifth on debut at Belmont July 7 and disappointed when sixth in a Saratoga maiden special Aug. 4. Handal eyes a surface change to the grass for his next start and could run back later in the meet. “Ran really good first time out. Last time was very disappointing. I put him in an MTO spot and I expected him to show up and run a big race. I think we got a little more information about him. Ironically, we put him in an MTO spot and now I’m thinking he might be a grass horse. He trains so well in the morning, he’s a big athletic animal, we’ve had big expectations. He’ll pull on you and train like a good thing, does everything on the bridle, but when you ask him to go in the races, he’s just not kicking on, which is very typical of a grass horse. He’s Had Enough, I don’t know if it’s really been identified that he’s a turf or a dirt sire. That last race, his stride and his action over the ground really were screaming grass to me. I’m not going to rush him back, but if they have something four weeks from that race. I’ll definitely breeze him on the grass with a nice grass horse of mine just to see how he holds up.”
Natural Order: Claimed for $16,000 at Tampa this winter, the Munnings gelding won for Giorgi Stable, Handal and Cutair Racing in an allowance optional Feb. 17. Lost three straight since, including an eighth in his last start going 1 3/16 miles on the Saratoga turf Aug. 5. Handal looks to shorten the trip and drop in class. “He’s a good boy, he’s honest. I claimed him at Tampa and won a 2-X first off the claim and he ran super for me that day. Little disappointing, I don’t know if it was the distance or the class last time running for the $32,000, but Manny (Franco) wrapped up on him and said he just didn’t have much that day. Going to wheel him back for $25,000 going a flat mile. With that class and that distance, I think we’ll be in much better shape. He’s very chill, he’s pretty easy.”
Missle Bomb: Tale Of The Cat 5-year-old out of Miss A. Bomb won four straight races at the Belmont spring meet and was claimed by Handal for $16,000 out of his last start July 14. Worked 4 furlongs in :51.25 on the Oklahoma Training Track Aug. 14 toward a Saratoga start. “Really consistent, solid, good-looking horse. We’re going to run him for $12,500, get the ‘W’ and probably end up getting him claimed that day. Just a really nice horse, really easy to be around. Calm, cool customer. Holly used to gallop his mother. She won the Inaugural Stakes at Presque Isle (in 2007). This horse, she said is just like his mom. Big, rangy, strapping. He’s massive, but he’s so cool. I let her ride him every day.”
I’llhandalthecash: Dark Horse Stable’s 2-year-old Point Of Entry filly is named for her trainer. Has two breezes over the Oklahoma turf, including a :51.73 move Aug. 6. “We really like her. She’s breezed a couple solid works. She’s going to be a long-distance grass horse. She seems like she could be a better-than-average kind of horse, one that maybe could be a stakes horse down the line. We’re just taking our time with her, but she’s getting ready quick. We might end up making a start right at the end of the meet. We all really like her a lot. She’s a real feel-good type of filly. She just wants to go, go, go and she’s really on the muscle. She feels kind of colty. She has that pull to her and just wants to get around there as quick as she can. She’s a quick learner.”
Collective Effort: Nicknamed “Diablo” for the two horn-like growths on his forehead, the Mission Impazible colt makes his second appearance in the Stable Tour. Three-year-old broke his maiden in his 11th try at Belmont this May and has another 11 placings from 13 starts. Finished second to multiple stakes winner Therapist in New York Stallion Stakes at Belmont June 24 and here Aug. 6 and will run back in an allowance. “Broke his maiden the first time we put blinkers on, ran second in the Sire Stakes at Belmont. We ran him back here, scratched down to a three-horse field. Tried to play a little cat and mouse game. Manny Franco did his best, but Therapist is just a better horse. (Collective Effort) is lovely and he’s the model of consistency. He’s settled down a little bit in his old age, but he’s still a real feel-good horse. He can get one, maybe two walk days after a race before he starts beating the doors down. He just loves to train, loves to run, really has a lot of energy. He bounced out of his race in great shape and we’ve kind of spaced his races out pretty far apart this year. I have no problem bringing this guy back on three weeks rest.”