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Barn Notes: Thursday, May 15, 2014

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/15/2014 #
  • Hogy, shown winning the 2013 G3 Hanshin Cup, is on target for a return bid. (Four Footed Fotos)

In Today’s Notes: Hogy Gets Revenge, Now Targets Defense; Frivolous Firm for Matron

HOGY GETS REVENGE, NOW TARGETS DEFENSE
William Stiritz’s Hogy made a spirited return to Arlington International Racecourse on Sunday, bringing defeat and revenge upon rival Saint Leon in the feature race, a six-furlong allowance optional claiming event on the main track.  The last time Hogy and Saint Leon faced one another, they battled the length of the stretch in last July’s Listed Arlington Sprint, with the latter charge claiming a slim victory in one of the most thrilling events of the season.  On Sunday, the result was reversed after a skirmish that started from the very beginning when Hogy – a stalker/closer - popped out of the gate on par with his rival.

“The sucker broke like a rocket,” said an emphatic jockey Chris Emigh (on Hogy).  “I didn’t know at that point if I could go with Saint Leon, so I relaxed him down inside and then took to the outside when I could.  He likes it outside – he can run on the inside if he needs to – but he runs really well without anything in his way.”

At the quarter pole, the son of Offlee Wild made a rapid move when asked and swallowed the two horses between him and Saint Leon with visible ease.  The move was so quick, he actually ran slightly past Saint Leon as they hit the home stretch.  The remainder of the drive was a brief battle followed by a clinic on why the 2014 version of Hogy is a bogey to those who may face him.

“Once we started moving on the outside, I was riding pretty confidently, but I know Saint Leon is a tough horse and was hoping that he wouldn’t keep going.  We ran him down, though, and kept going,” continued Emigh.  “Hopefully this gets him perfect for the race.  They (the connections) were telling me they could either work him or run him (in the allowance) and I’m glad they ran him.”

Trainer Scott Becker was equally as impressed.  “It worked out well.  It was what we wanted to do with him and he did it.  He’s a tough little horse who always tries hard,” he said.  “He had been bouncing around and beating down the barn, so we figured we would run him.  We wanted to sit back and finish well and then gallop out well.  This should set us up for the next race.”

The next race is a probable defense of his crown in the Grade III $150,000 Hanshin Cup at a mile on the main track May 24.  “As far as the Hanshin, we will see how he’s doing, obviously, and intend on running.  We’ll ultimately make our final decision the morning of the race.  He’s a good-feeling horse and should be fine bouncing back in two weeks.”

Becker was quick to point out his respect for the competition on Sunday.  “You’re always concerned about any horse in the race – they’re all capable horses.  Saint Leon is a tough horse.  He won the battle last time, but we got him this time.  He’s a tough and fast 9-year-old horse and Michele (Boyce, trainer) has done a great job with him.

“We thought (Hogy) would run well today.  (Last out,) in the race at Keeneland (a fourth-place finish in the Grade III Shakertown Stakes on April 12), everything had to go our way in order to win, but it didn’t.  That’s how turf sprints can be – you got to have all the breaks.  He ran hard that day but the pace was a little soft and he didn’t have much luck.  Today was a different story.”

FRIVOLOUS FIRM FOR MATRON
G. Watts Humphrey’s versatile Frivolous is training well and headed to the Grade III $150,000 Arlington Matron on May 24, according to her trainer Victoria Oliver.  Exiting an impressive 4¼-length victory (closing her last eighth in a sharp :12.13) in an allowance event at Keeneland April 13 the daughter of the long-winded Empire Maker finished second last July in the Grade III Arlington Oaks at the same course and distance.

“She ran really hard last year – almost all in stakes – and we just gave her some time off to recover,” explained Oliver.  “She’s really matured since.”

Such maturity could come in handy, as the prospective field for the Matron could be flush with quality stakes mares, including Illinois champions Hernandez Racing Club’s La Tia and Tim Keeley’s My Option, who are both considering the race – though the nine furlongs may come up too early in the season for both.  Another solid filly on the fence for the race is Every Way (owned by the partnership of Steven Perlick, Alan Herman, Richard Dunn and Haynes Stable), who defeated La Tia last Friday in a stakes-quality allowance event at Arlington.

Such distance and timing limitations do not apply to Frivolous, a daughter of the aforementioned Belmont Stakes winner, with speed-meets-stamina influences Seattle Slew and Royal Charger in her pedigree.  “I think she does her best running at nine furlongs,” said Oliver.  “Her race at Keeneland was over synthetic and at the same distance as the Matron and I think she’s one who enjoys it as the races get longer.”

The filly has also proven a tough customer on various surfaces and distances for her connections.   She ran credibly on the grass last year in both the Hatoof Stakes and Grade III Pucker Up Stakes at Arlington, and won her debut on the dirt at Churchill.

“She’s really a filly who can run on virtually anything,” explained Oliver. “She can run at a lot of distances, as well, but if it’s shorter – like a mile or a mile and a sixteenth – she needs a bit of pace. 

“This race at Keeneland was a good step for her.  Hopefully it sets us up for the Matron on the 24th.  She’ll work this week and blow out next week and then be ready to head to Arlington,” said Oliver.  “Hopefully we’ll get (jockey James) Graham on her again (who rode her at Keeneland). The Matron was always in the back of our mind when we started her there and he knows Arlington so well.”