Versatile Selva. Filly tackles Victory Ride

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Dave Carroll ducked under the webbing and started talking about Selva in that typical Irish horseman dialect.

“She’s small, but she’s so well proportioned you don’t mind,” he said. “She’s a great package, she’s got a great shoulder and a great hip, plenty of bone to her . . .”

The man could apply for a job with Fasig-Tipton – Goff’s or Tatts Ireland would be a better fit for the accent – if he gets tired of training.

Carroll brings Selva into today’s Victory Ride, one of six stakes on the 13-race Travers card, for owners/breeders Helen Alexander and Helen Groves. The daughter of Forest Wildcat shipped into Saratoga from Carroll’s Churchill Downs base and made herself at home in trainer Eddie Kenneally’s barn on the Oklahoma side. She is one of nine in the $100,000 Grade III, a 6-furlong test on the main track.

Her trainer expects a solid effort.

“She breezed Sunday before she shipped (a half-mile in 46 2/5 seconds) and went very well,” Carroll said. “She fits in there beautifully, we’re happy to be drawn outside (post 8) and she’s got the natural speed to be up close or lay off the pace.”

Selva might be the 2009 version of a “throwback” racehorse with victories on all surfaces and starts on six individual tracks in her short career.

She won her debut as a 2-year-old here last summer on a sloppy track.

She went to Monmouth in her next start and won a stakes on a fast track.

She went to Woodbine in Canada and won a stakes on Polytrack to close 2008.

This year, she opened with a second going a mile on the dirt at Fair Grounds and backed that up with a score sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs – on the turf – in the Mardi Gras Stakes at Fair Grounds.

She went back to Polytrack and lost a half-length slugfest when second to War Kill in the Grade II Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland in April.

“She’s just a racehorse, she loves to run – on turf and dirt and the Poly,” he said. “A good horse can run on anything.”

Sent back to the dirt and a try at some Grade I form in the Prioress at Belmont Park July 4, Selva finished fourth (beaten less than a length for third) to end her streak of 1-2 finishes at six. Carroll excused the performance, and also cautioned that it wasn’t as bad as it looked.

“The Beaumont at Keeneland was a hard race on her and just knocked her out,” he said. “It took us awhile to get her back and then we went to the Prioress. It was a good race; she’s tightened up from that and she should have a bigger kick this time – plus it’s not as tough a race. If she can move up a couple lengths, she’ll be right there and I think she will.”

With a stable of 30-35 horses, Carroll follows the calendar between Kentucky and New Orleans with occasional forays to New York and other states. Once part of Shug McGaughey’s team, Carroll won a race from five starts here last year. Selva will be his second starter at the 2009 meet.

Like any racing fan, he enjoys a big day like today with a stakes-laden card, quality runners, a big crowd. Like other fans, Carroll sweats the weather forecast – not that his horse will mind.

“What a great program, it’s a great day,” he said. “This is what we’re in the game for, to participate in these big days. We want to be involved in big days, but I had a  look at the weather and I’m not so sure it’s going to be as good. You want a good, fast racetrack, you want the turf racing, you want to get the biggest crowd you can and you want to showcase our game.”

Selva came to Carroll with expectations of racing on such days thanks to some quality flashed at Payson Park before she ever raced. John Hennig did the early work for the Kentucky-bred and sent her to Carroll with confidence.

“John told me when she came to me that I was going to like her,” Carroll said. “You don’t know that they’re going to do what she’s done, but she came in with high regard. Any horse you get for (Alexander and Groves) you think can be good.”

• Last year, Carroll’s Denis Of Cork finished third in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont Stakes before going to the sidelines with a minor injury. He still hasn’t returned, due to a subsequent suspensory injury in what was supposed to be some light exercise before heading back to the racetrack.

“He needed 45-60 days at the farm after the Belmont and he was going to be fine,” Carroll said. “He had just started back when that happened. I saw him a few weeks ago in Ocala and he looks great. I hope to get him back, but it’s going to be close to two years away from the races. It’s a shame. That division is not great this year and we may have had some fun.”