Features

Robin Smullen answered with the perfect two-word reply.

“Any time,” the assistant trainer said.

The Barclay Tagg Stable Tour request was made, oh, about a month ago. Sometimes, any time slides to closing time at The Special.

As they say, better late than never. Sean Clancy walked the shedrow with Tagg and Smullen Wednesday morning. (Originally published in Aug. 30 digital issue of The Saratoga Special)

Hail Michigan: Three-year-old son of Bernardini is one of three horses Joe Allen sent to Tagg this year. Unraced, the solid bay colt has posted seven breezes, including one from the gate and one on the turf this meet. Tagg: “He was in training and they sent him home and then he came to us. He’s a nice horse.” Smullen: “We’re glad to have him, Mr. Allen sent us three horses, that’s nice. He’s almost ready to run, he had a nice work on the turf last week, he’s going to work again (today). When we get to Belmont, we’ll find something for him.”

Brucia La Terra: Selected by Tagg and purchased by Bill Ferrone at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale, the bay filly won her debut here last summer before finishing second in the Grade 1 Frizette. She returned from a break to finish seventh here Aug. 9 and is entered Saturday. Tagg: “He’s a real nice guy from Maryland, we went to the Timonium sale and got her for $20,000. She was immature, a little tiny thing when we bought her.” Smullen: “She broke her maiden first time out here and was second in the Frizette. She went through a lot of changes over the winter, she’s just now getting back to herself. Hopefully Saturday will be a good day for her. It’s amazing she won first time out and was second in the Frizette because she was so immature. She’s going to be a really good 5-year-old. The great thing is Bill Ferrone is so patient. He only owns one at a time.”

Dr. Edgar: Remember when he was disqualified here last summer? Well, the 6-year-old gelding, owned by Peter and Eloise Canzone, didn’t let that stop him, winning his next start and adding two more, including the Grade 3 Appleton at Gulfstream Park in March. He finished seventh in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Aug. 10. Tagg: “Great people. Carl (Domino) sent us the horse and the people.” Smullen: “They call him an ATM machine. He’s got a pretty big fan club. There’s a race at Laurel, a mile, $200,000, Grade 3. There’s a race in New York but it’s a mile and an eighth. A mile is probably a better distance for him.”

Niko’s Dream: Sackatoga Stable’s New York-bred has hit the board in her last five starts, including a win at Belmont and runner-up finishes in New York Stallion Series races at Belmont and Saratoga. Tagg: “We bought her privately from Tony Everard, she’s been OK. She’s a nice filly.” Smullen: “She’s stakes-placed twice, we’re in an a other than Friday, it’s a tough spot.”

Highland Glory: Full-sister to stable stalwart Highland Sky, the 2-year-old filly finished second in her debut going 6 furlongs on the dirt here Aug. 25. Tagg: “She’s a really nice looking horse, she’s a beautiful mover, nice disposition.” Smullen: “She’s got some attitude, she’s got more attitude that he has. I was galloping her before we ran her and said to Barclay, ‘This filly might be a dirt filly.’ About three days later, Junior (Alvarado) worked her out of the gate and said, ‘You are running her on the dirt, right?’ We said, ‘She’s supposed to be dirt.’ He said, ‘I wouldn’t run her on the turf just yet.’ ”

Highland Sky: Gallant veteran added the off-the-turf John’s Call, his second stakes win, to a career that’s netted $724,494 for breeder Bonner Young and partners. Smullen: “He got a new lease on life. He does gallop well on it and he breezes well on the dirt. We ran him in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, he was too close to the pace, he can’t run that way. He reminds me of Dry Martini, you have to sit in the back and make that one run.” Tagg: “He’s made $700,000 the hard way. We thought it would be a three-horse field, we pulled his shoes off, put some turn-downs on him and sent him over there. You don’t even want to think about position until you get to the five-sixteenths pole, most horses have a quarter-mile in them, a hard-drive quarter-mile. They’ve got a quarter-mile. Everybody thinks they can start at the half-mile pole and pass everybody, very seldom.”

Thirsty Owl: A two-time veteran of the Fasig-Tipton sales ring, 2-year-old son of Stay Thirsty has yet to run. Smullen: “New owners came to us, Jack Krauss and Steve Smith. Just out of the blue. He’s slow coming around but he’s all right, just started to open gallop. He was a (ridgling), they put him on the table and took the one that was up inside him out. When he came to us, he was a little reluctant to train, we said, ‘Did you have the option to take the second one out?’ So, he’s now a full gelding.”

Adriatic Holiday: Owned by Sackatoga Stable, the daughter of Central Banker and Adriatic Dream is the friendliest horse in the barn, and that’s saying something. Smullen: “Niko’s sister. She ran up here, off the turf, she ran OK but she really wants to the grass. She’s a big, pretty filly. There’s a grass race for her on Opening Day at Belmont. She’s much different, she’s more Central Banker and Niko is more Adriatic Dream.”

Tale Of Silence: Five-year-old homebred for Chuck Fipke, the son of Tale Of The Cat has garnered three wins from 19 starts, including the Grade 3 Westchester last spring. Tagg: “He’s a full-brother to Tale Of Ekati. We’d like to win a Grade 1 with him. We’ll point him to the Cigar Mile. Smullen: “It has to work out for him perfectly, it has to be a lot of pace, they have to slow down, he’s only got a quarter-mile run. Period. Just shy of a quarter-mile, really.”

Realm: We’ll use the same lede we’ve used for the past five seasons. Another shrewd purchase by Tagg, the Virginia-bred son of Haynesfeild cost $75,000 at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale. He’s now earned $467,095 for Eric Dattner, Harry Astarita and Tagg. Smullen: “Here’s the coolest horse in the barn. He’s such a good mover to ride. He’s going to run in the (1 1/2-mile Grand Prix American Jockey Club Invitational) at Belmont. He doesn’t win a lot but he sure picks up the checks. We just realized now he wants to go longer.” Tagg: “You get to thinking if he moves that beautiful all the time, why wouldn’t he go long?”

Kelleycanrun: Bred by John Murrell and owned by Murrell and Hayward Pressman, the daughter of Cairo Prince finished second in her turf debut earlier in the meet. Smullen: “How about Kelleycanrun the other day? Paid $26 to place.” Tagg: “We put her on the turf and she was much better, the riders would laud her on the turf, they didn’t think much of her on the dirt. I liked her right off the bat and was getting a little frustrated and then she was so smooth on the turf.”

Funny Flowers: Chestnut filly has picked up a fourth in three starts for Ann Backer, who purchased her at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream 2-year-olds in training sale in 2018. Tagg: “She’s a beautiful filly.” Smullen: “By Distorted Humor, second dam produced Paradise Creek and some other Grade 1 horses. She’s run a couple of times on the turf to no avail, we’re going to try her back on the dirt. Mrs. Backer always said if we saw a broodmare prospect, she would be interested. We said, ‘How about a racing broodmare prospect.’ Because she was only 2. She hasn’t come around yet. Nice filly, a sweetheart. Mrs. Backer is the sweetheart.”

Single Focus: Ann Backer’s 3-year-old homebred picked up two fifths at Belmont Park this spring. The mild-mannered gelding walked to the front of the stall and showed why he earned the name. He’s missing his left eye. Smullen: “Aptly named. She’s great with names. He lost it as a baby. He’s a neat horse. We entered him for Saturday. He’s run twice, he ran very greenly the first time and had a throat infection the second time, we’ll see how he runs. He doesn’t care about anything.” Tagg: “He works OK. You can walk up to him every day on his blind side and he doesn’t even jump from it, I can’t believe it. Most horses if they don’t see you jump from you.”

Tiz The Law: Wow, what a debut. The son of Constitution produced one of the most impressive debuts of any horse at the meet, winning easily Aug. 8. Sackatoga purchased the son of Constitution from the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred sale here last summer. Smullen: “The star of the show. He’s extremely intelligent, not afraid of anything. The other day, Rick Schosberg was walking his dog, the dog was kind of growling and barking and the colt looks at him like he was going to strike at him. He didn’t care.” Tagg: “I thought he was the best looking New York-bred horse I’d ever seen. When you look at the big white face, you think Hereford, but I couldn’t fault him. I kept looking at him and looking at him and looking at him. He looks like a little chunk but when you really look at him, he stands over a lot of ground, he’s got great bone, great strength. We didn’t expect him to run like he ran. We thought he was doing good but we didn’t know he was that good. He never got out of a hack canter. Junior never had to ask him. Two white-rimmed eyes, that stops me, but you couldn’t turn down the rest of his body. He got a little bit of a shin, he probably could have run in the Hopeful but there’s too many other things to look forward to, I put a blister on it, two days after he ran. There’s a New York-bred race on the 20th, we might make that.”

L’Indiscret: Another well-bred unraced 2-year-old filly for owner/breeder Joe Allen. Smullen: “Filly by War Front, out of a mare who won the Orchid (Beauty Parlor). We got them right before we came up.” Tagg: “She’s real nice, she’ll be all right. She had a minor issue, I think we took care of it.”

Brahe: The Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2017 yearling graduate slept in his stall, looked up at three visitors, including a steeplechase owner, and nestled his head and neck deeper in the wheat straw. Smullen: “Your next horse. He’s 17 hands. He’s ready to run. He’s been a long time coming. He’ll be a timber horse, not a hurdle horse.” Tagg: “You might come back to riding if you had him. I’m at Timonium, Robin called me up and said did you see that horse that just sold? I said, ‘No, I just walked back to the pavilion.’ She said, ‘Go look at him, they brought him back for $9,000.’ I looked at him, didn’t see anything wrong with him. Big leggy horse, immature looking. She said, ‘See what they’ll take for him.’ They took $10,000. It’s taken a long time for this angular stuff to come together.”

Revelment: A $55,000 graduate from the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale, the daughter of English Channel finished eighth in her debut here Aug. 11. Smullen: “This is a neat filly. She’s small, the second dam produced Heart To Heart. She ran once, ran OK, we look forward to running her at Belmont. She’ll grow up.”

Ferdinanda: Ann Backer’s Virginia-bred 4-year-old filly owns three wins. She finished second on the turf earlier in the meet. Smullen: “The other star. She’s going to go to Colonial. Mrs. Backer doesn’t ask for anything and she emailed us and asked if we could please run her in a Virginia-bred stake on the 7th. Forest Boyce will ride her. She said after her last race, ‘I’m thinking about racing her next year.’ ” Tagg: “She likes to breed them but she said, ‘I like to race them, too.’ This filly is the soundest horse in the world.”

My Day: The third homebred filly from Joe Allen, she hasn’t produced a published breeze yet. Smullen: “By Uncle Mo. She’s a got a really nice way of going. She’s just had some baby stuff. She’s a good mover, she’s fast, she wants to be too fast for her own good.”

Storm On The Moon: Twelve-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic retired in 2011. He serves as the lead pony. Tagg: “I had him for Roy and Gretchen Jackson. He had some speed but I couldn’t keep him sound. I called up Gretchen about sending him back to the farm, she said they were trying to buy another 50 acres, could I keep him a longer. I kept him for a couple more weeks and they still couldn’t take him so I threw pony tack on him and have been riding him ever since.”