Features

Phil Bauer is winding down his third summer in upstate New York before he heads back to Churchill Downs. A former assistant to Ken McPeek, Bauer is the private trainer for Richard and Tammy Rigney’s Rigney Racing. (Originally published in Aug. 29 digital issue of The Saratoga Special)

“I met Richard when I was with Kenny McPeek,” Bauer said last week. “He had some horses with Kenny and wanted to do his own thing. We’ve been together since. I feel like things are starting to head the right direction.”

Bauer’s string returned to its normal spot on the Oklahoma behind the barns of Norm Casse and Mike Trombetta in Horse Haven. The Kentucky native has nine in Saratoga for the summer and 12 back at Churchill.

Bauer registered his first Saratoga victory July 19 and has added two more since.

“As is the case with any meet, things just set up well for us,” Bauer said. “Horses were coming in off good races, horses coming in fresh. It helps when you can be a little more aggressive with some.”

Bauer got off the pony after training last Wednesday morning and talked about his Saratoga string with The Special’s Ben Gowans. He appeared in last year’s Fasig-Tipton Glenn DiSanto Stable Tour with The Little Guys and joins Ray Handal as the only trainers to make the jump to his own spot in this space.

Fireball Shot: Better late than never. Five-year-old son of Street Cry, Bauer’s horse in The Little Guys tour last year, broke his maiden Aug. 11 before finishing fifth in an allowance two weeks later. “Finally got his maiden broken in his 19th start the other day. He always seemed to put in his try. In the Churchill race, he was a little short going a mile and a quarter off an eight-month layoff, that’s not ideal. He benefitted from a hot pace last time and took advantage of it.”

Fireball Jon: Bauer entered the 4-year-old for a claiming tag here Aug. 15, the first time since his debut in April 2018. Son of Gio Ponti finished third behind Sneakiness and new stablemate Majestic West. “He was third the other day. He’ll get a little break after that race. I’m proud of his effort. We’ve had a decent meet as far as horses running their races. He ran on to be a good third in a tough maiden 50. Richard flavors Fireball. He flavors a bunch of alcohol, spirits, flavored waters. He’s a flavor engineer, makes flavor concentrates. Fireball has been good to us.”

Johny’s Bobby: The first horse Rigney ever owned a part of was this 3-year-old colt’s dam Dream Empress. She won the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades at 2 and he was hooked after that victory. “Third stall is Johny’s Bobby. He’s a homebred that we bought back out of the sale, had to dissolve a partnership. For $15,000, we thought it was a worth a shot. He’s been good to us, always seems to run his race and bring home a check. That’s all we can ask. Another horse who is dependent on circumstances but I’m never displeased with his efforts.”

Claytnthelionheart: The winner, times two. Son of Declaration Of War broke his maiden July 19 to give Bauer his first Saratoga score and repeated in a starter allowance Aug. 22. Bauer thought the gelding would run well again and he did, gutting out the victory by a nose. Rigney bought the 3-year-old for $80,000 at the Fasig-Tipon July yearling sale. He finished fifth in his first start here last summer behind eventual Travers winner Code Of Honor. “He’s a horse that has improved since he won here. He’s put on a little weight and he’s doing really good. If you look at his 2-year-old form, he ran against some good horses. We had some bumps in the road, castrating helped his mind a little bit. He’s a happy horse right now.”

Majestic West: Bauer and Rigney went in for a rare claim and plucked this 3-year-old for $50,000 out of his debut Aug. 15. Son of Quality Road showed early speed and stayed on for second. “Went ahead and castrated him. We’ll probably point toward September at Churchill with him. Excited about his effort. He’s a big, pretty, strong thing. We had dropped on a horse the day before that we didn’t get. Just trying to be aggressive, keep the same numbers. He looked like he had been working well and Mary and Gary West seem to be aggressive. It was either good to be really good or really bad. Richard is game to try and it worked out this time.”

Panforte Di Siena: Three-year-old son of Twirling Candy has finished fourth in his three starts. “He was fourth here earlier in the meet. We had a little hiccup after that. Most likely we’ll point for something in Kentucky in the fall. I believe the name comes from a dessert. Richard’s wife Tammy named him.”

Luna’s In Charge: Rigney went to $140,000 to purchase this 3-year-old son of Take Charge Indy at 2017 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale. He returned off a seven-month layoff with a sixth here July 24 and improved to finish second in a 7-furlong maiden Aug. 10. He’s 7-2 in Friday’s opener. “He’s our first New York-bred that we’ve brought up here. I’ve been pleased with his races here. It’s not the easiest task going seven-eighths but we put him on the fast track and knew he needed a race. He gained some fitness and then ran hard last time. He should be one of the choices in there.”

Stop Shoppin Tammy: Daughter of Tapit and 2007 Grade 1 Personal Ensign winner Miss Shop debuted Aug. 25. Gray filly was bet down to 2-1 second choice but was no match for runaway winner Wicked Whisper. She managed fourth and Bauer hopes she’ll improve with distance. “She’s improving every week and we’re going to enter to run Sunday. Dirt, three-quarters. Pedigree-wise and the way she trains, she’ll definitely go longer but we’ll give her a three-quarter heat and go from there. For a Tapit, she’s got a great mind. She’ll get an attitude every now and then but she’s a good-minded filly. Excited about her.”

2017 Dialed In–Augusta Queen filly: Half-sister to stakes winner Wendell Fong purchased as a yearling by Rigney for $150,000. “Bill and Gene Recio break our babies and they were really high on her. She had a flake in an ankle right before she was going to ship up (from Kentucky) so we took that out. She’s gone two three-eighths up here. We’ll look toward the end of the fall. She acts like she’s going to be OK. She’s a nice athlete of a horse.”