Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Friday, July 19, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/19/2013 #
  • Coalport's "bounce" in Arlington 'Cap will likely keep the Ill.-bred out of the Million.

In Today’s Notes: Coalport “Bounced” in Disappointing Arlington Handicap; Impressive Cameo Appearance to Step Up in Straight Line; Apprentice Esquivel Not Done Yet in Jockey Race

Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey have a lot of horses heading to the International Festival of Racing at Arlington International Racecourse on Aug. 17, but one who will likely be skipping the festivities is the horse many locals once deemed Illinois’ best chance at claiming the top prize Arlington Million – Coalport.

An Illinois-bred who impressively shut down his fellow prairie state steeds in two of the most impressive turf wins so far this meet, Coalport has been deemed a bit over the proverbial top after a surprisingly dull performance in the Grade III Arlington Handicap on Saturday July 13. 

“He may have peaked in those two races,” trainer Wayne Catalano said in reference to a state-bred allowance in which he made a stunning move to instantaneously open up six lengths on seven rivals on May 24 and a subsequent victory over multiple stakes winners in the state-bred Black Tie Affair Handicap on June 15 – only three weeks later.

For those with short-term memories, it may have appeared that the Land of Lincoln-born colt was simply biting off more than he could chew in the open company of the graded event.  A look farther back in his past performances reveals a colt who not only competed in six open stakes (three graded) in his first eight starts, but was competitive enough to twice finish in the top four and regarded highly enough to be tried in the Breeders’ Cup.

With the remaining five of his thirteen starts happening this year, his 4-year-old season, it is obvious that Coalport is a horse who is presently in a state healthy enough to find his best stride – both figuratively and literally.  In this case, though, it seems that the son of Kitten’s Joy may have already found the optimum of that stride and could use some recovery time.  “It could be a little bit of both the peaking (in the Black Tie Affair) and bouncing (off two big races),” Catalano said of the talented runner. 

Mark Partridge, manager for the Ramseys, corroborated that assessment.  “I think he definitely bounced a bit.  I’m not sure what we’ll do with him right now,” he said.

No matter what happens with the dark chestnut, two things are certain.  First, he will be a force with which to be reckoned when he does reacquire his bearings.  Second, if he recovers quickly enough to reverse course and join the Arlington Million field – a race in which his owners already have multiple prospects – Arlington bettors will get a great value on a talented home team athlete.

On July 13, a day that saw five stakes take place for local racing fans, one of the most engrossing of the day was in an ordinary first-level allowance won by a colt with celebrity potential.

Cameo Appearance, a sophomore homebred of Gary and Mary West, toyed with three other rivals in a fashion indicative of a colt who could be something akin to special.  With his natural speed, the son of Majestic Warrior  popped out of gate and had a glorified workout of :23.78, :48.11 and a final time of 1:18.23 in which his blinkered eyes never saw a rival near him.  Crossing the wire a facile 3½ lengths superior to his older foes, the colt earned an impressive 108 Equibase Speed Figure.

Four weeks earlier, on June 15, the bay colt made his seasonal debut in a maiden special weight over six panels and easily leveled six other rivals by 5¼ lengths in a reputable 1:10.55.  It was the colt’s first race for trainer Wayne Catalano.  “We got him before the meet – back in April.  He’s a good colt and was working very well,” the conditioner reported. 

As a 2-year-old, the Kentucky-bred made one start with his then trainer Bob Baffert at Del Mar.  That race, a maiden special weight, also featured the debuts of winner He’s Had Enough, who was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile three months later, and Code West, a fellow West-owned charge who would go on to win the Grade III Matt Winn Stakes and finish second in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes this year.

Now, as a 3-year-old, Cameo Appearance will have a chance to take the starring role.  “We’re going to point him to the Straight Line (Stakes),” reported Catalano.  A supporting feature to the International Festival of Racing, the Straight Line is a $65,000 stakes that adds to the already rich pari-mutuel carte du jour on Aug. 17. 

By Majestic Warrior, the only son of classic sire A. P. indy to win a Grade I over a sprinting distance, Cameo Appearance should relish the additional distance.  Majestic Warrior sired nine-furlong Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar this year.  In addition to such paternal stamina, Cameo Appearance’s dam Sweet Beat is by two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow out of a Storm Cat daughter of nine-furlong Vanity Handicap winner Potridee (who also happened to finish third in the Beverly D.). 

Needless to say, with his visible progress, strong connections and ace pedigree, Cameo Performance could make a straight line to a blockbuster performance.

Just when leading jockeys Florent Geroux, James Graham and Kent Desormeaux thought they had started to pull away from the remainder of the colony in the extremely heated race for leading rider, apprentice Emmanuel Esquivel laid down a mid-week reminder that he is still in the running for that title.

Winning with horses from the barns of trainers Mike Stidham, Christine Janks and Hugh Robertson, respectively, the bug boy also finished third on another mount.  Though the hat trick kept him in fourth place behind the three aforementioned journeymen, his win total of 32 places him only five behind the 37 of Graham.  Geroux and Desormeaux are currently in second and third with 36 and 34 wins, and there is a seven-win gap to the 25 wins of Channing Hill in fifth.