The shedrow of Barn 38 fell quiet after training Friday morning, aside from the rhythmic tap of rain on the roof and the whisper of straw rustling in the stalls. A groom finished wrapping Auspicious Babe’s legs in the first stall, preparing the filly for the biggest start of her career in the Grade 1 Alabama as Dallas Stewart watched from the front of her stall.
“I’ve been coming since 1995 at least, how long is that?” Stewart said. “I’ve raised my kids here. Every year, haven’t missed a season.
“It’s been great some years, other years I haven’t won a race. I love being here, I love to compete. Horses generally develop pretty good here. All my guys have been here year after year. Some years it’s tough, some years it’s good.”
Stewart started the meet with 12 horses and sent four home to Churchill Downs which left his string at eight in his Horse Haven barn on the Oklahoma Training Track. Three more are due to fill the empty stalls next week. He’s winless in nine starts with 14 days of racing left in the meet.
“We’ve got the four stakes, these 2-year-olds that have worked really good here and the couple coming up,” said Stewart. “It’s all really good races. This is the fourth quarter, we’ve better get to playing or we’re going to be hitchhiking home.”
With the rain picking up, Stewart ducked under the shedrow to discuss his Saratoga string with The Special’s Shayna Tiller. (Originally published in Aug. 19 edition of The Saratoga Special.)
Auspicious Babe: Rock Ridge Racing’s homebred daughter of Bodemeister won two of her first three starts before the Alabama, where she finished seventh. She’s quiet and tied to the back of her stall as her legs are wrapped. “The owners have her mom and other broodmares so we’re just trying to build families. She’s done very well here, had some very good works. She’s nice in the stall, but when she gets out of here she can get after it. She can get to bucking and playing.”
Cathedral Reader: G M B Racing’s chestnut filly is sprawled out, enjoying her late morning nap. A 3-year-old daughter of Shackleford, she won her debut in May and was third in an allowance at Churchill June 21. “She was in the Test and I scratched her. The track was muddy the day before and it was fast for the Test. After I’d already entered her, I just thought 7 furlongs may be a little more than she’s ready for. So we’ll fast-forward to the (Grade 2) Prioress. She’s a quality filly, she’s nice and we really like her. She worked really well over here at the Oklahoma. She’s not tough at all, she’s beautiful.”
Givemeaminit: Valene Farms’ 3-year-old son of Star Guitar ran in three Grade 1s last year before winning a maiden at Fair Grounds in January. He’s remained in tough company, running in five graded stakes this year and finished eighth in the Grade 3 Indiana Derby July 14. “He ran here last year in the Hopeful. He’s running in the Allen Jerkens. He worked really well this morning at Churchill. He’ll be here on the 22nd along with Seeking The Soul. They’ve been working together every week breezing and they’ve been working really good. You could ride him down Union Avenue, he’s never an issue.
Seeking The Soul: Chuck Fipke’s homebred won last year’s Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. From the direct female family of Personal Ensign, the 5-year-old son of Perfect Soul has earned $1,421,162 in 19 starts. Freshened after a fifth in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup in late January, Seeking The Soul returned to finish a close second in the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial Stakes at Indiana Grand July 14. “He’s a really well bred horse. He ran second at Indiana and ran well. He ran in the Pegasus and got banged up a little bit, no surgery or anything but we took our time with him and here we are. He’ll be entered in the Woodward. I’ve had him since he was 2. He’s still a real tough horse. Oh, he’ll hurt you. He’s not real easy to deal with. Even walking out here he strikes at people. He’s really kind of a mean horse.”
Classy John: Valene Farm’s unraced 2-year-old son of Songandprayer breezed 5 furlongs from the gate in :58.60 at Churchill Downs Training Center Friday morning. “He’s been training down there and worked extremely fast today. We’ll bring him up and maybe run him Travers Day. There are three maiden races. He looks like we could bring him up and be competitive.”
Champagne Tale: The chestnut filly poked her head over the stall guard and sniffed Stewart. Fipke’s unraced 2-year-old breezed 5 furlongs in :59.39 with Frolic More on the Oklahoma Wednesday. “She’s going to probably run the last week. She’s doing really well. She had a really good work over on the Oklahoma – a super work. We’ve just got a little more to do with her. She’s got a little bit to go mentally.” Stewart reaches to stroke her nose, and she leaps back. “I’m sorry, girl. Her dad is Tale Of Ekati, who I love. She just needs a lot of love. She’s going to be a really good racehorse, she’s just got a little way to go.”
Frolic More: The bay colt pawed at the ground and nibbled his stall guard as Stewart approached. “He’s a 2-year-old colt by More Than Ready. We hope to run him the last week here. He had a very good breeze. He worked with Champagne Tale and outworked her a little bit. We bought him at the 2-year-old in training sale. I liked his work and I love More Than Ready. We’ve had good luck with More Than Ready with Tom’s Ready. We got him pretty cheap, he only cost $25,000. Finally a bargain!”
Wild Road: On Our Own Stable’s 3-year-old son of Quality Road finished fourth in a maiden special weight Aug. 2. The dark bay colt bobbed his head, throwing around his voluminous forelock as Stewart approached. “ ‘I am that handsome!’ He’s a tough guy. He’s a New York-bred maiden that was fourth. He’s going to run back on the 1st. He just got beat for second, I thought he was second but it was close. He ran good, it was his best race yet.”
Tale Of Verve: Fipke’s 6-year-old son of Tale Of Ekati is a Saratoga veteran – he finished eighth in the Travers in 2015, won an allowance and finished seventh in the Woodward in 2016 and has been off since January 2017. He’s been back on the work tab since May and breezed a half in :49.60 at Churchill Tuesday. “He had a rest for a year and a half. Chuck gave him a long rest. He’s really training great. I’m going to run him at Churchill in September. He’s doing great. He’s beautiful. He seems to be coming back, he’s outworking everything.”