A victory by Bourbon Courage in his return from nearly six months on the sidelines would likely have made a soggy day at Churchill Downs a bit more perfect for owner Bourbon Lane Stable, but trainer Kellyn Gorder liked what he saw and his colt remains on track for a bid in the $500,000-added Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I) on Friday, Nov. 29.
The 4-year-old son of Lion Heart rallied rom about five lengths off the pace under jockey Corey Lanerie to pull even with the 3-year-old Our Double Play in upper stretch during Thursday’s 7 ½-furlong allowance comeback. But his front-running rival dug in on the sloppy track under Francisco Torres and turned Gorder’s possible Halloween treat into a trick, pulling clear to win by 3 ¾ lengths in a winning time of 1:29.25.
The winner of the 2012 Super Derby (GII) was competing for the first time a fourth-place run behind Take Charge Indy in the Alysheba (GII) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day, May 3.
“We would have loved to win, but that was strictly a set-up race for us,” Gorder said. “I don’t think that’s his best and he probably doesn’t like the slop as much as he likes a fast track, although he handled it fine.”
Gorder said Bourbon Courage came out of the race well and the Clark, a race in which he ran third in 2012 to 2011 Preakness (GI) winner Shackleford, remains the colt’s major objective. He is winless in four 2013 races, but ran second and third to Graydar in his earlier starts in the Donn Handicap (GI) and the New Orleans Handicap (GII).
“I don’t have him totally cranked up yet,” Gorder said. “We’ve got a month to do that.”
CHILUKKI HOPE IRE, RETURNING MAYBE SO MAKE FOR INTERESTING SATURDAY FOR STALL – At a time of year during which many horses are winding down their years or, in some cases, their racing careers, trainer Al Stall Jr. will be hoping to see signs for good things in the immediate future from a pair of horses entered in Saturday races.
“We have two question marks tomorrow,” Stall said.
One is Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Ire, a 4-year-old homebred daughter of Political Ambition that will compete in a strong field of 12 fillies and mares ages three and up in the 28th running of the $150,000-added Chilukki Stakes at a mile.
The other is the Dilschneider homebred Maybe So, a 3-year-old gelding who makes his second start following a layoff of more than a year in Saturday’s ninth race, which immediately precedes the Chilukki.
Ire comes into the one-mile Chilukki off a 4 ½-length romp in a seven-furlong allowance race over Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack surface on Oct. 5. That outing was her first race since a troubled third-place finish behind Good Deed and Beat the Blues in the Mardi Gras Handicap at Fair Grounds on Feb. 12.
Stall’s filly has spent most of her career on synthetic surfaces, but ran well over the dirt course at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds over the winter and moves to the Churchill Downs dirt on Saturday in a bid for her first graded stakes success.
Ire’s break from racing was not injury-related. Stall said she simply needed to some time away from the track for physical development.
“She’d danced a lot of dances,” Stall said. “Her body wasn’t keeping up with her frame. So Seth (Claiborne’s Seth Hancock) and I just said, ‘She loves the Poly(track), let’s give her the summer off and point her to Keeneland.”
In Stall’s view, that plan could not have worked out any better and he’s anxious to see how Ire performs as she steps-up to Grade II competition in the Chilukki.
“This sounds corny, but she probably benefitted from the layoff as much as any horse I’ve ever given a breather to,” he said. “She put on every bit of 150-to-200 pounds and has a beautiful hair coat. It actually made me feel guilty that I was maybe pushing her too hard last year, but boy did she enjoy her vacation. So we’re excited about tomorrow’s race.”
Ricardo Santana Jr. will ride Ire, who brings a career record of 4-3-2 in 12 starts and earnings of $187,892 into the Chilukki.
Maybe So will make his second start in a return from a more difficult time on the sidelines in his race, an allowance optional claiming event at six furlongs.
The gelded son of More Than Ready had a successful debut at odds of 25-1 in a Churchill Downs maiden race in June of 2012, and then traveled to West Virginia’s Mountaineer Park to win the Mountaineer Juvenile under jockey Mike Smith. Maybe So defeated that year’s Bashford Manor (GIII) winner, Circle Unbroken, in the West Virginia race.
“He was cut out to be a really good horse,” Stall said. “He ran awesome here at 4 ½ furlongs and Mike Smith said he was the best 2-year-old he had ridden that year and he broke the stakes record at Mountaineer. Mike said he had plenty left in the tank and a lot more to learn.”
Maybe So returned to Stall’s base at Keeneland after the West Virginia journey and continued to do well until a fateful morning during which he was spooked by a passing school bus travelling on nearby Rice Road as he walked to the Lexington track’s training oval.
“The driver hit an air brake and that horse went straight up and came straight down on his tail,” Stall said. “He broke his two coccyx bones, right there by the root of his tail. He broke them pretty bad, too. We just felt bad for the horse and we were just crushed.”
The injury resulted in an extended rest for Maybe So, who was closely monitored during his recovery and farm time.
“He went to Longfield (Farm in Prospect, Ky.) and had a big layoff there,” Stall said. “We just kept watching him and watching him and he started moving around. He never really walked like something was wrong with him and we just gave him tons and tons of time. We sent him down to South Carolina and they gave him more time. When we brought him back, we started jogging him and giving him slow, easy gallops, and then we started breezing him and he just started gradually coming back.”
The return to competition by Maybe So following of his yearlong break was solid. He flashed sharp early speed in a six-furlong allowance race at Indiana Downs, but faded to third – beaten 5 ½ lengths by Moments Notiz, who completed six furlongs over a good track in a swift 1:08.50. Runner-up Jake Mo, who finished a neck behind the winner that day, also is entered in Saturday’s race.
“That was a pretty good race and those horses just kept going,” Stall said. “He just hung in there, and he has trained really well. We’ll just see if his class is still there.”
Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Maybe So, who will break from post eight in a field of 10 3-year-olds and up on Saturday.
“He’s actually come back fine, but you never know what that has taken away from him,” Stall said. “That’s a shame, because I know he’s a nice horse. Whether he’s still going to be a nice horse, I don’t know. He’s got a racehorse attitude as much as any horse you’re around. It’s a little bit more than frustrating.”
BAUER MISSES ANOTHER VICTORY, BUT THIS TIME FOR A SPECIAL DELIVERY – Phil Bauer has two winners to his credit since he opened his public racing stable in July, but he has not been part of the winner’s circle photo for either.
The 28-year-old former assistant trainer to Kenny McPeek scored his first win on Sept. 21 at Churchill Downs with Rigney Racing’s Cookie, but Bauer missed that celebration because he was at West Virginia’s Charles Town to saddle another horse.
He was absent from the winner’s circle again on Thursday when Richard and Tammy Rigney’s Our Double Play upset favored Bourbon Courage in Thursday’s featured ninth race to scored notch a second career win for the young trainer.
But Bauer had a pretty good excuse for being away from Churchill Downs on Thursday afternoon. He was at Norton Hospital in downtown Louisville, where is his wife Ashley, was giving birth to their first child, a boy named Philip Wyatt Bauer.
Mother and son are doing fine today. And Dad did get to watch Our Double Play skip through the slop for an impressive victory on the television screen in their private room at the hospital.
“We’re excited,” Bauer said. “It’s been quite an eventful year for us. We’re extremely blessed and lucky that the owners, the Rigneys, understand the importance of family. There was no issue with that.”
The win was the fourth in nine 2013 races for Our Double Play, who won for the second time this year at Churchill Downs and also won the $60,000 Prairie Mile at Prairie Meadows in early June prior to coming under Bauer’s care. Ironically, Bauer was at Charles Town to saddle Our Double Play in the seven-furlong, $400,000 Researcher when he missed his first official win at Churchill Downs.
The son of Grand Slam finished ninth in that race behind Take It Like A Man.
“I think you have to put a line through that last start,” Bauer said. “There was a lot thrown at him at the bullring, and maybe he didn’t like that mud in his face. We’ll move forward from here. I’m not sure where we’ll go next, but if he keeps running like that we’ll win our fair share.”
Bauer’s next opportunity for a win and that elusive debut as the trainer in a victory photo comes on Sunday at Churchill Downs when Cookie, the 3-year-old daughter of Quest who was his first official winner in the Sept. 21 race for $30,000 claimers, steps up to allowance company against fillies and mares ages three and up in the seven-furlong ninth race.
“She’s earned the right to try the allowance ranks,” Bauer said. “She’s doing well enough, she deserves a shot and hopefully she’ll continue to improve.”
And, if she wins, perhaps Phil Bauer and his newborn son, who will be called Wyatt, will both make it to the winner’s circle for that victory photo.