Monday Morning Trainer: Autumn Air

- -

A little more than a week to go until it’s officially fall, but the chilly air in many parts and the action on the racetrack in many parts of North America certainly took on a feeling of autumn.

The Keeneland September yearling sale chugged resumed and chugged on with its fifth and sixth sessions Saturday and Sunday, with Book 3 set to start Monday morning. The two-time defending Horse of the Year returned to the worktab in Lexington over the weekend and one colt who aspires to that throne breezed out on the West Coast as he prepares to ship East this week in search of some late-season momentum.

Kentucky Downs hosted a big crowd and registered record handle on it’s 10-race card Saturday, Allen Jerkens sent out a winning first-time starter we hinted at in last week’s Saturday Special and Woodbine rolled out the red carpet for a big weekend of internationally flavored stakes action.

So where to begin?

Might as well start at the top, as in the top horse according to the most recent NTRA Thoroughbred poll.

Two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan turned in his first serious bit of training since winning the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Aug. 30 at Saratoga, breezing 5 furlongs over Keeneland’s new dirt track in :59.40 Saturday morning. That work was the fastest of 21 at the distance.

Trainer Charlie LoPresti opted to run Wise Dan at Saratoga instead of the $1 million RICOH Woodbine Mile – a race the Wiseman’s Ferry gelding won the last years and a “Win and You’re In” event for the Breeders’ Cup Mile. He even bounced the idea of both races in his head but then opted for the Baruch, then the Grade 1 Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile Oct. 4 and hopefully a third spin in the Breeders’ Cup Mile Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park.

Woodbine put on a good show Sunday with the Woodbine Mile and it’s supporting card, which included the $282,711 Northern Dancer going 12 furlongs on the grass and the $305,250 Canadian Stakes for fillies and mares going about 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

The Northern Dancer and Woodbine Mile are Grade 1 and they were scooped by runners based at David Simcock’s Trillium Place yard in Newmarket. Trade Storm, third behind Wise Dan and Za Approval in last year’s Woodbine Mile, won this year’s event under a heady and patient ride from Jamie Spencer. Five races earlier it was Sheikhzayedroad who survived a claim of foul for bumping in the stretch and won the Northern Dancer.

Watch the Woodbine Mile.


Big day, big handle

Kentucky Downs proved that less is more when it hosted a 10-race card that drew record all-sources handle. Track officials reported handle of $4,253,567, up significantly from the previous mark of $3,371,476 set last year on a 13-race card.

The marquee winner on the day was Arlington Park shipper Suntracer in the Grade 3 Kentucky Turf Cup for Team Block and trainer Chris Block. The 6-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy ended a 14-race losing streak and recorded his first graded stakes victory when he won the 1 ½-mile Turf Cup by a nose over the late running Pyrite Mountain.

Kentucky Downs ran three other stakes on Saturday’s card and they were won by Regally Ready (More Than Ready), Richie’s Party Girl (Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint) and I’m Already Sexy (Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf).


Sharp Debut

Sum Roar, pegged at 10-1 on the morning line and hammered down to 3-1 by post time, made a winning debut for Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens in the eighth race Saturday at Gulfstream.

Thankfully we gave the 2-year-old daughter of In Summation a mention in last week’s edition of Saturday Special.

Saturday’s card at Gulfstream also featured the local return of Lochte, winner of the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. The 4-year-old Medaglia d’Oro gelding continued to show his affinity for the turf at Gulfstream and improved to 4-for-5 on it with a half-length win over Dreams Cut Short in the $75,000 The Vid Stakes.

Lochte was purchased by Molly Vogel for $60,000 at last fall’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga fall mixed sale.


Looking Ahead

California Chrome, who merits a good chance at Horse of the Year honors depending on how the rest of the year plays out, turned in his final bit of serious work over the weekend before shipping Tuesday to Philadelphia for Saturday’s Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing.

California Chrome went 6 furlongs in 1:13.80 with jockey Victor Espinoza aboard at Los Alamitos. The 3-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit hasn’t been out since his dead-heat fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes in June, when he failed to sweep the Triple Crown.

The $1 million Pennsylvania Derby is expected to be California Chrome’s lone prep for the Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

The Pennsylvania Derby field is also expected to include Bayern, winner of the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational and the last-place finisher in the Travers, and West Virginia Derby one-two finishers Tapiture and Candy Boy.