Late Sunday afternoon, trainer Mark Casse still hadn’t come down from the high of Got Stormy’s record-obliterating win in Saturday’s Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap. Eyeinthesky further bolstered the stable’s weekend results winning the first running of the Galway Stakes.
Casse watched from a box near the finish and after Eyeinthesky galloped out, threw on his jacket, grabbed his binoculars and went to the winner’s circle. He appeared stoic behind black sunglasses as he descended the staircase, but showed his excitement as he sprang down the last three steps.
“What can I say, that performance was just mindboggling to me,” Casse said of Got Stormy. “For her to run off seven days and have everything against her the way she did, it’s kind of hard to believe. As I walk around downtown everywhere, all everybody wants to talk about is her performance. That makes me very proud.”
Eyeinthesky’s Galway win was less surprising. He saw talent in the daughter of Sky Mesa but her morning form hadn’t transferred to the afternoon the way Casse hoped.
“She’s better than this, whether we’ll ever see it,” Casse said. “Just the way she trains. She trains like a really good horse. I thought as a 2-year-old she was exceptional. She is a nice horse, but she still hasn’t gone to the level I hoped she would. I felt as a 2-year-old, she was a graded stakes winner. So far, she hasn’t done that, but maybe with more racing.”
Eyeinthesky took one step closer to meeting her trainer’s lofty expectations taking out the $100,000 Sunday feature. A difficult horse to train and excitable on the track and behind the gate, Eyeinthesky can find trouble. She leaned back in the gate as the stalls opened two starts back in Monmouth Park’s Honey Bee Stakes and got away last, finishing fourth and beaten 3 3/4 lengths.
Casse made an adjustment to keep Eyeinthesky calm before the start of the Galway.
“We took her to post with a halter and lip chain on and they took it off in the gate and that was to get her to relax a little bit more and not get so antsy behind the gate,” Casse said.
Despite Casse’s efforts, Eyeinthesky still predicted the start of the Galway. The assistant starter unhooked her halter and yanked it away from her head. The white fleece padding slipped off and fell at Eyeinthesky’s feet. She shuffled her hooves rapidly just before the latch sprung and leapt into stride. Unlike at Monmouth, the filly was moving forward when the stall opened and broke on top of the field.
“She can break. Sometimes, she will break like a shot. You just never know,” Casse said. “You’ll see those horses either break really fast or get left. They kind of anticipate the break and when they get it right, they fly out and when they don’t, they get left. When she had all the trouble at Monmouth, she charged the gate and she went back and then they broke.”
Despite her quick start from the outside post, Eyeinthesky only had the lead for a half-dozen strides as Sister Peacock raced to the font and Abyssinian, O’Keeffe, Missmizz and Karama gave chase. Eyeinthesky dropped back to run on the outside, 3 3/4 lengths behind a :21.84 quarter mile.
Sister Peacock led around the turn in the 5 1/2-furlong turf stakes and was confronted by O’Keeffe and Karama straightening into the stretch. Joel Rosario angled Eyeinthesky five wide into the lane with 4 lengths to find. He slapped her on the right shoulder nearing the eighth pole and went to a right-handed stick passing the furlong marker.
Sister Peacock repelled her first challengers in a :44.11 half-mile, but Eyeinthesky bore down and Abyssinian angled off the rail and took aim at the leader. The trio lined up across the track, but Eyeinthesky had the momentum and edged a head in front at the finish. Abyssinian was second another neck in front of Sister Peacock.
“Twice now, she’s kind of gotten away a little slow,” Casse said. “There was a ton of speed in here. She broke really well and he just let her settle. I really thought a lot of her. She’s more talented than we’ve seen. She’s got some quirks about her and maybe someday if she’ll ever learn to relax, she’ll be a better horse.”
The Galway victory improves Eyeinthesky’s record to 4-for-14 with $242,536 earned for Gary Barber. The Galway is Eyeinthesky’s second stakes win after taking the Mizdirection at Aqueduct in April.
The Galway improved Casse’s record to 7-for-39 at the meet with another six placings through Sunday. The tally includes four stakes wins – Got Stormy in the De La Rose and Fourstardave, Perfect Alibi in the Adirondack and Eyeinthesky.
“We’re always trying to adjust,” Casse said. Every year I’ve come here, I’ve tried to tweak things and it’s worked out pretty good.”