Warm weather? Stress? Not a problem for Phil Serpe. He lets those things roll off when he’s in Saratoga, more specifically when he’s in the courtyard in front of is barn on the middle of the Saratoga backstretch. The area is known as Blue Heaven and there’s a sign hung high on the telephone pole to prove it.
Serpe and his longtime partner, assistant and exercise rider Lisa Bartkowski relish the time there and anyone else fortunate to do the same won’t struggle with the name.
“Look, it’s the toughest place in the world to win a race, it just is, but it’s also the greatest place in the world to be and to train a horse,” Serpe said Monday morning, finished with his training on the main track and waiting for turf works at the Oklahoma. “I love this, the more pressure the better for me. I love our barn. This whole thing is just the best for me. For all of us.”
The barn houses the likes of stakes competitors Weekend Hideaway, Lady Joan and Goodbye Brockley, along with a collection of 2-year-olds, allowance and claiming horses. Serpe, a resident of Barn 22 for 22 years by his best guess, is in the midst of another strong meet at Saratoga with four wins, five seconds and six thirds from 34 starts. He’s hoping for a few more before heading back downstate.
Serpe went through most of the Saratoga string before turf training Monday with The Special’s Tom Law. (Originally published in Aug. 30 edition of The Saratoga Special.)
Land Mine: Chester and Mary Broman’s homebred 4-year-old Mineshaft filly finished second in the Saratoga Dew Aug. 17, coming up a half-length short after a second in allowance company July 26. She’s entered for the main track only in Saturday’s Glens Falls. “She started with us winning here the day before the meet ended last year, she won an off-the-turf race. She won two out of her three next starts after that and of course me being the genius that I am had to run her on the turf one time. It’s the Barclay Tagg in me. She was narrowly beaten in the Saratoga Dew here, she ran great and it was unfortunate because we tried to get a race into her down at Belmont and it just didn’t fill. That would have helped. She broke in a tangle and went to her knees, that didn’t help either.”
Life Time Citizen: WellSpring Stables’ 3-year-old Proud Citizen filly breezed twice on the Oklahoma grass and is close to returning for her first start since winning an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park Dec. 20. “She’s getting ready to start, she’s a two-other-than turf sprinter. We’re excited about her. Possibly here the last week or opening week at Belmont.”
Out Of Orbit: The Bromans’ homebred 3-year-old filly finished second in Wednesday’s seventh race, after a third and a second in her two other starts at the meet. “She is one of Mr. Broman’s homebreds by Malibu Moon. At first we thought she was going to be a real nice filly then we were a little disappointed in some of her starts but she’s progressively come back around. We’re hoping the best for her.”
Fixed Point: WellSpring Stable’s 3-year-old Midshipman colt crashed the party in the finale Aug. 23, winning at nearly 13-1. He’d been off since being claimed for $40,000 at Gulfstream Park March 1. “The big horse. We claimed him, had to do a little overhaul work on him and he came through last week. It’s funny, in the last year or two, seemed like we lit up the board with one. He was the one this year. We’re very excited because he ran well and he ran like a horse that is going to improve and go places.”
Weekend Hideaway: Multiple stakes winner pressed the pace and finished third in tough allowance Monday for Red and Black Stable. Earner of more than $1.1 million won the John Morrissey July 26 for his ninth stakes victory (13th overall) in 49 starts. “The big man. You know he loves Saratoga. Whatever he does is all right with me as long as he comes back good. Winning the Morrissey means a lot to us. There’s a lot of nice horses around here, lots. We just watched future champions run Saturday, whatever, but you get these horses now and then like Weekend Hideaway, I’ve had a few periodically through the years. They just do things for people and he’s that kind of horse.”
Goodbye Brockley: Hilly Fields Stable’s homebred 3-year-old Cosmonaut filly won the Statue of Liberty division of the New York Stallion Series Aug. 9. She returned to the worktab Aug. 20 and breezed 5 furlongs on the grass Monday in 1:05.69. “She eked it out on a turf course I think she was struggling with after all the rain. She’s going to run here Sunday, probably just an allowance race.”
Lady Joan: Goodbye Brockley’s older half-sister made three starts at the meet, including a second in the Yaddo Stakes Aug. 24. “What can you say about her? She just tries and tries and tries. I was worried about her coming from her 3 and 4-year-old year, whether she would improve or not. It was questionable. Her Beyer numbers weren’t quite where they needed to be and now they just keep getting better and better. She has three starts at this meet, a win, a second and a third. We’re happy with her.”
Kandinsky: Sterling Racing went to $300,000 to buy son of Scat Daddy at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings. He’s unraced with six works at Saratoga, including a half on the Oklahoma grass in :49.34 Monday. “Unfortunately it doesn’t look like he’ll get to start here, he got delayed because of the rain. He’s a nice big colt, just about ready to run but we’re running out of time. We started training for Sterling Racing last fall. They he had some horses we needed to move along, we bought him three 2-year-olds, plus one they bred. We’re excited about the future for them.”
Chasindamoney: Duffryn Run Farm’s 3-year-old Freud colt, a $72,000 buy at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred sale, started his career with Linda Rice before moving to Serpe’s barn this year. He finished third in a state-bred maiden June 7. He’s entered in Thursday’s 10th race going 6 1/2 furlongs on the dirt. Serpe would prefer turf. “Unfortunately he would be 6-5 in a maiden New York-bred special weight going 5 1/2 on the turf but they haven’t been able to fill the race the whole meet. Book 1 the race didn’t go, Book 2 the race didn’t go, Book 3 the race didn’t go. A maiden New York-bred 5 1/2 on the turf, you’d think there would be 20 in there. I don’t know what’s going on.”
State Of War: Unraced 2-year-old cost Sterling Racing $190,000 at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May sale. He’s breezed three times at Saratoga, including a half on the main track in :49.38 Monday. “He’s by Declaration Of War, an up-and-coming young sire. He’s a month or so away from running. We like how he’s doing, breezing after the break.”
World Affairs: Sterling Racing’s 2-year-old Cairo Prince colt shows five breezes at Saratoga, including a half in :49.38 Monday in company with State Of War. “He’s in the same training pattern as State Of War. Another really nice horse, and Cairo Prince is off to a huge start. Considering most of these horses look like they’re going to stretch out. Ours is a big, long-bodied colt. We love him. We really, really love him.”
The Postmaster: Hilly Fields’ 2-year-old full-brother to Goodbye Brockley is on the shelf after a third and a second in state-bred maiden races in May and June at Belmont. “Following in the footsteps of his sister ran a couple times then needed to go home for a little while. Nothing serious, but you take care of 2-year-olds and they’ll become good 3-year-olds. If you don’t then you have to pay the price. We’re very excited. It’s funny, we’re sitting here and it’s the end of August and we’re already talking about a horse we can’t wait to get back here next July and August. It will be exciting.”