First you have to find them. Many don’t appear on the barn list and sometimes when they do appear, you can’t find them in their assigned barns. Some are tucked in the trees in the far corners of Horse Haven. Some are wedged between bigger stables, just a stall or two, like bobbers on a pond. Some bed down in private barns around town, others reside in low-ceilinged barns on the harness track, others, hell, we’re still looking for them.
If there’s a clubhouse for the little guys, it’s Barn H4 on the harness track, where there are more colors than a finger-painting party. There Robbie Davis, Bill Allyn, Gabe Goodwin and a few others ply their trade, heads down, pitchforks swinging.
As the sport becomes more corporate, as the big trainers get bigger, we give you the little guys. They’re hanging tough, a strange mix of reality and optimism while looking for the big horse who could change everything.
Glenn DiSanto epitomized the Little Guy, breeding, owning and training his horses in New York. He was a mainstay of the Little Guy Stable Tour for the first two seasons but sadly died in January 2017 after a brave battle with cancer. We scaled a chain-link fence a few years ago to catch DiSanto at his barn on Gridley Street. He wasn’t sure if he should run or hide, of course, DiSanto never ran or hid from anything. Walking along Gridley Street this year, in search of the little guy, we thought about our old friend. Take a moment, look to the sky, then read on, that’s what he would have liked, that’s what we did.
We give you the Fasig-Tipton Glenn DiSanto Stable Tour with the Little Guys.
Rodrigo Ubillo (Highway Star): The best horse to ever appear in the Little Guys Stable Tour, the New York-bred mare has won more than $1 million. The multiple graded stakes winner has three seconds in four starts this year. “She’s doing all right, she got a temperature so we had to scratch. She’ll probably go to the Gallant Bloom, the Presque Isle Masters is another option. We ran her on the turf once, she finished fourth, she was green that day. The last time when she was second, I ran her back too soon. The other two races, she made the lead too early and she got tired. Bad year, timing-wise, it hasn’t worked out, just one thing after another, not her fault.”
Phil Bauer (Fireball Shot): Owned by Rigney Racing, the 4-year-old son of Street Cry might not be the best of Bauer’s string at Saratoga or the best in his family (his brother Madison’s Luna won the Grade 3 Hutcheson), but he’s got work ethic and consistency. In 16 starts, he’s compiled seven seconds and a third. “He’s our favorite, he shows up every race, he’s still a maiden but he’s made over $100,000.”
Abby Adsit (Straitouta Congtin): Owned by Royal Victory Thoroughbreds, the New York-bred 3-year-old finished third at Belmont Park in July before finishing eighth at Saratoga. “He ran here on a soft turf, he didn’t run so well. I trained him as a 2-year-old. The owners did right by him, he needed surgery on his ankle, we got him back in training and he finished a good third at Belmont. He’s running, he’s going, he’s a happy training horse and we hope to get a good shot for him at Belmont.”
Bill Allyn (Man Of Chrome): Allyn rode the chestnut son of Posse home from the main track Thursday morning. “He hasn’t done very well but we just discovered that he needs the Magna Wave, acupuncture and chiropractor. My son’s $800 horse. He ran at Finger Lakes in a maiden special and showed me a little something, he got a little tired, which didn’t surprise me. I’m going to see if we can run him back on the turf, he did have a fifth, beaten 4 ½ lengths last year.”
Bill Allyn (Won The Byng): Three-year-old son of Frost Giant is due to come in from the farm this fall. “I think he might be kind of nice. Are you a hockey player? He’s out of Quiet Honor, now you know where the name came from. We’re hoping, the little guys are trying to hang in.”
Peter Pugh (Fairy Link): When asked for one or two horses, Pugh laughed, “I’ve only got four.” Fairy Link is one of them. “The Data Link filly, a other than, she’ll run Sunday. She’s OK, she’s pretty nice actually.”
Robbie Davis (Dublin Green): Son of Dublin made the Stable Tour last year, he’s made four starts since. “Oh boy, I had a tough meet. I only have a small stable. I ran him the other day, I’ve been working on him forever, one thing after another happens to him. I wish I was riding again rather than training, you’re ready to run and something pops up. He ran OK. I entered him three times to go short, race didn’t go, race didn’t go, so I had to run him a mile and a sixteenth.”
Robbie Davis (Dancing Slippers): New York-bred daughter of Catienus breezed twice in June, missed all of July and hit the worktab again in August. “I’ve got three 2-year-olds, they’re not close. I was getting excited about her, she bucked her shin, now I’m on the bench with her, she can run. So I get to watch Dylan ride and win, that’s the highlight of my meet.”
Roy Lerman (Siggie): Bred and owned by Lerman, the 3-year-old gelding owns a win from five starts. “New York-bred by Freud out of a Not For Love mare who never made it the races but has produced a bunch of winners. He won his first start at Tampa, he got beat a nose in his second start at Belmont, looked like he was going to be OK, ran a couple of times and ran here, got beat 2 lengths on the turf on Travers Day.”
Roy Lerman (Citizen Matzo): Owned by Masie Stable, the New York-bred filly sports a 1-for-4 career record and recently finished fifth here. “She broke her maiden in her first start down at Tampa going short, came to New York, ran off the turf, it wasn’t a good idea the way it turned out. She ran a credible fifth in an a other than a couple of days ago. She has a modest future with New York-breds.”
Mike Lerman (Magnetron): South of Fifth Racing’s 3-year-old Take Charge Indy gelding finished second here Aug. 12 – behind runaway Todd Pletcher winner Singapore Trader. Recently gelded, the dark bay stood on the outside rail of the main track Friday morning before galloping. “He’s figuring it out, getting his act together. He wouldn’t stand here like that in the middle of July. Now, he’s like ‘This is not all bad.’ He was a decent second and I’ve entered him half-a-dozen times since and they can’t get a race to go for maiden 40 New York-breds. I’m waiting for Belmont I guess.
Mike Lerman (Marina View): Canadian-bred Into Mischief filly has yet to start, but has worked four times at Saratoga since July 25 and is about ready to run. “She was in last weekend, but I scratched her because she got a little upset with the antics at the Horseshoe Inn up the road the night before. It was probably a blessing in disguise. She can go down to Belmont and run where there’s no band playing in her ear the night before. She’s pretty decent.”
Fran Raia (Unconnmarsh): New York-bred 4-year-old filly by Marsh Side is winless in five tries, but collected checks twice when fourth at the meet. Flashy chestnut might have a second career based on her show-horse looks. “She’s a sweetheart, she’s good looking. Just look at her. I’m not giving up on her yet. She’ll run at Belmont.”
Fran Raia (Desert Rose): New York-bred 4-year-old filly emerged from her debut at Finger Lakes June 26 (in the same race with Unconnmarsh) with an ankle injury after getting slammed at the break, but she’s on the comeback trail. The daughter of Desert Party finished fifth that day and has worked twice in August. “She’s an evil thing, she’ll come and eat you, but she’s got some nice works and will run at Belmont. I went to Finger Lakes in the spring because I hadn’t worked either of them more than 5 furlongs at Oklahoma so I put them both in the same race to get a tightener. They both got left in the gate. She gets wiped out and messed an ankle up. The other one stands there and breaks slow. What a mess.”
Fran Raia (Chasing The Storm): One of two Standardbreds in the barn, the 3-year-old is winless in 13 tries. “He’s my hero. He’s a trotter and he’s OK. He shows garbage on his form right now because he’s drawn bad and things haven’t gone right. I still drive, him anyway.”
Erin Wilkinson (Empiremeister): The ex-jockey and former assistant to Tom Proctor finishes up the Bodemeister gelding’s stall in her barn near the half-mile pole on the main track to talk about her trio. A $9,000 buy at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May sale, he finished seventh only start going 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass Aug. 24. “He didn’t run a bad race, kind of green with the rest of the field and bouncing off each other.”
Erin Wilkinson (Filly Ride): Two-year-old New York-bred daughter of Misremembered sold as a weanling for $1,000 at 2016 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga October mixed sale. She’s faces open company in her debut in today’s seventh, a 7-furlong maiden special weight. “We bought her privately down in Ocala. She’s been training well. I wanted to go 5 1/2 New York-breds but it overfilled and we weren’t going to get in so we’re kind of taking a chance going a little bit longer. Hopefully she’s fit enough. She’s a nice little filly.”
Erin Wilkinson (Glennwood): Former Zayat Stables runner was purchased privately by Kevin Moore and Allen Myers last year. He finished sixth in the Jerome and third in the Jimmy Winkfield for Wilkinson before going to the sidelines. “My big horse, he came back about a month and a half ago. I’m looking maybe at the end of September to get him in a race. He was 40-1 in the Jimmy Winkfield. Knock on wood he’ll be back soon.”
Eddie Barker (Yorkiepoo Princess): Three-time stakes winner is holding on to her title as the second-best horse to be featured in the Little Guy Stable Tour. Danny Chen’s 4-year-old Kantharos filly returned from almost nine-month layoff to finish third in Belmont optional June 28 and finished seventh in the Shine Again here Aug. 1. “She’s doing great. There’s a stake back at Belmont, an overnight $100,000 stake early in the meet that I’ll run her in. She’s doing really, really good. She was off a layoff, we gave her some time over the winter and she ran a good race. She’s got such guts. She’ll run real good in that stakes down there. She definitely needed that race, is sound, doing great, I just need to get a race for her.”
Eddie Barker (Bettor Bank On It): Danny Chen’s 2-year-old Central Banker colt cost $7,000 in June. He makes debut in today’s second, a state-bred 5 1/2-furlong maiden on the turf. Barker, his arm in a sling thanks to recurring issue with rotator cuff that will require surgery, watched the colt school in the paddock before training Friday. “Nice horse. He can run that little horse. I wanted to get dirt but it didn’t go. He’ll grass though, I’m not worried about it. He’s got real talent.”
Eddie Barker (Winifred J.): Two-year-old filly by Blame shows six works on her tab, including half in:49.09 from the gate last Sunday. “She has some real promise. That’s a nice horse. The doctor who is going to do the surgery on me owns the horse. Dr. Chris Riegler. He’s got two horses with me. She’s a half to Dooder, who broke her maiden here last summer for Chad (Brown). We went to buy her out of the sale last year, he was going to go to $150,000 for her. I went over there, we waited all night and she was about 30 from the end. She was 495 and all of a sudden 496 appeared. I thought, ‘oh no, I fell asleep.’ I went back to the consignor and he said, ‘no, no, I didn’t get enough action, so I scratched.’ So we bought her privately.”
Eddie Barker (It’s A Shaw Thing): Owned by partnership of Danny Chen, James Cestaro and Campbell Road Stables, 2-year-old Warrior’s Reward filly finished eighth in debut Aug. 20. “Mr. Chen, who owns most of my other horses, he’s never spent more than $15,000 for any of them and every one of them turned out. Don Shaw, he buys them. I asked Don, ‘how do you do it?’ He bought Yorkipoo Princess for $11,000 and she made almost $400,000. This horse we just lost, Factor This (a winner who was claimed Aug. 8), he cost $11,000 made $215,000 and got claimed for $62,500. So it’s not a coincidence. He said, ‘Eddie, the first thing I look for is pedigree. If they don’t have pedigree they won’t run past the eighth pole. Then I go look for the crooked ones. I watch their breezes, as long as they’re ok, that’s what I buy them for.’ Yorkipool Princess actually sold for $75,000 as a yearling then we bought her for $11,000.”
Pat Kelly (Fire Key): Backwards Stable’s 5-year-old Friesan Fire mare ran three times at the meet – eighth in the Caress, sixth in an off-the-turf optional and 11th in the Smart N Fancy. “She didn’t have much luck here, but hopefully she’ll rebound down in Maryland (in the Sensible Lady Turf Dash Sept. 15). She was second in that race last year, on De Francis Day. She didn’t have any luck up here with the bad weather. It was tough.”
Pat Kelly (Birthday Gift): Fox Ridge Farm’s homebred 3-year-old Hat Trick filly finished third in 5 1/2-furlong turf allowance Thursday. “She bounced back with a good race the other day and should have a couple good runs at Belmont for us. She just ran third a couple days ago in that New York allowance race. We ran her on the dirt, too, to help them and she fell on her nose leaving there.”
Pat Kelly (Fight On Lucy): Rojan Farms’ homebred 2-year-old Musket Man filly breezed three times in Saratoga, including 3 furlongs Saturday in :38.09. “She was actually an orphan. She got orphaned a week after being born but she’s a tough little thing and she’ll also be running at Belmont. She’s a New York-bred, Mrs. Ellen Bongard’s last horse for Rojan Farms. She’s winding down.”
Pat Kelly (Fancycase): Kelly’s winner at the meet, 3-year-old Pomery filly won a maiden claimer Aug. 11 for all female partnership that includes Ellen Bongard. “She won but had a little boo-boo and is out at the farm. That was for Mrs. Bongard. They won a race and it was fun.”
Kerry Metivier (La Naturel): Michael Henning’s 3-year-old Irish-bred Silver Frost filly finished third in state-bred allowance July 21 then ninth in 5 1/2-furlong turf allowance Aug. 11. She’s 1-4-2 in eight starts. “She’s a great horse. Until she came to Saratoga she was zero times out of the money, breezed her on soft turf, didn’t really like it, got a little sick. She’ll bounce back. She’s one of the nicest horses I’ve ever trained.”
Kerry Metivier (La Bella Chica): Two-year-old Big Brown filly breezed 3 furlongs in :39.98 on the main track Saturday. “She’s owned by Dan and Mike Henning, it’s their first venture into breeding. They raced her dam, Peach Lake, and bred her to Big Brown. This is her first baby and she’s come along pretty nice. They’ve been bitten by the breeding bug and now have six to eight broodmares with us. They’re going to have a lot of horses.”
Kerry Metivier (Plum Bay): Two-year-old Soaring Empire filly breezed in company with La Bella Chica Saturday, her first work. “We found her at a little farm in Fort Edward, she fell through the cracks at one of the sales. She’s a daughter of Soaring Empire, her mother is a Seattle Slew mare. She has a stakes-winning sister and kind of jumped off the page so we went and bought her. She’ll probably run at Belmont.”
Gabriel Goodwin (Will’s Bay and Storm Alfeet): Bedded down in stalls side-by-side in Barn H4 on the harness track, the two colts relax after breezing 3 furlongs in company in :37.88 Saturday. “Will’s Bay is by Willcox Inn, who only stood for one year and then died. He’s a nice horse. He’s been on the track for two days, this track here. The worked together out here. Not their first work ever, they worked at home. I was impressed with them, they got the job done well. Storm Alfeet is by Afleet Alex.”
Gabriel Goodwin (Make Mo Time): Bred by Goodwin Farm, 2-year-old colt by Uncle Mo is close to shipping to Saratoga from the farm in nearby Porters Corners. “Pencil him in, he’s something special. We’ve never had a horse like him. Ever. I’ve never even seen a horse like him. He’s 17-1 and he’s 2. He’ll be in here in a week’s time, I’d like to get him on the main track once or twice before they close it down, let him gallop around there. When you see him you’ll know.”
Pat Reynolds (Kitten’s Covergirl): Robert Amendola’s 3-year-old Kitten’s Joy filly won back-to-back starts at Belmont but didn’t make the meet. “I claimed her at Belmont for $40,000, then a starter and an a-other-than with all the power-packed trainers in there. All the big names. She went wire-to-wire. Looked like she might have a future. I had to scratch her here, she had a minor problem. She’s going to run Opening Day at Belmont.”
Pat Reynolds (Neoclassic): Amendola’s veteran 7-year-old set for 49th career start in today’s finale going 1 3/16 miles on the turf. “He’s a solid 25 plater. He might be OK.”
Pat Reynolds (Imperatore): Claimed twice at the meet, including last time by Reynolds off Charlton Baker. He finished second in both starts – for $16,000 and $20,000 – and runs for $25,000 in today’s fourth at 6 1/2 furlongs on the dirt. “We’re taking a shot. He’s in a drop-back system. He was running long, we tinkered around with him, gave him a little blowout and we’re running him short. He’s run a mile and an eighth both times over the course. We’ve just made him feel good, not asking him to do too much and he should be able to do 6 1/2 on memory.”