Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Friday, September 20, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 09/20/2013 #
  • Hungry Wildcat

In Today’s Notes: Hungry Wildcat: A House Horse; Whyruawesome to Dive into Keeneland’s Bourbon

At a meet that has had the luck of seeing some of the turf horses in the world compete, Arlington International Racecourse has also had the fortune a quality group of local horses running day in and out; becoming household names for fans of the local racing product.  In fact, 18 horses have made at least six starts within the nearly five-month meet and six Thoroughbreds have tasted victory no less than four times. One horse that has the opportunity to become the first to win a fifth race is Shamrock Hill Farm’s Hungry Wildcat – a hard-knocking Eduardo Rodriguez-trained starter allowance gelding who seems to be improving for his connections.

“The horse is getting better.  He runs really well for (jockey) Kent (Desormeaux), too, but mostly I think he is just becoming a better horse,” said a pleased Rodriguez.  “He’s doing very good right now.  He’s entered in tomorrow, but I might wait for an ‘a-other-than’ allowance race.”

What the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred lacks in glamour and commercial appeal, he makes up with a visually agreeable style that balances grit, finesse and agility.  Hungry Wildcat has won his races from as close as two lengths off the pace and as far as 10, as was the case last out in his facile three-length victory Aug. 23. 

The smallish son of Margie’s Wildcat – a Storm Cat half-brother to Breeders’ Cup Mile winner War Chant - often does not seem as physically appealing as his counterparts, but he consistently is the horse to beat in his races, going off at less than 3-1 in all of his races thus far at the 2013 Arlington meet.  In fact, he’s only one of two horses with at least six starts who has finished in the top-three in each and had valid excuses in the two losses. 

“He's not the most expensive horse I have in the barn but he's the best one as far as being good to me,” Rodriguez continued.  “I was afraid to run last time.  The race didn’t look like it set up for him, and then he won easy.  It was great.”

Winning with such ease – being geared down under a hand ride from Desormeaux in the final yards – is why Rodriguez is pondering moving the horse up in class.  “We might give the allowance a try,” he explained.  “But, if the starter (allowance) goes, we might just give him a chance to win one more for us before the end of the meet.  I’d really like to get one more and am definitely going to try.”

“After that I might go somewhere with him this winter.  Maybe New Orleans – they have lots of races for him and I have four or five grass horses in my barn, as well,” Rodriguez explained.  “There are also a couple races at Hawthorne (Race Course) beforehand we may try to race in with him.”

The only other horse in who looks to possibly win his fifth race of the meet before Hungry Wildcat is Wendell Yates and Tim Leary’s Warbird, a flashy allowance-level charge who has won four of his five starts at the current meet.  The Wayne Catalano-trained gelding has never won anywhere else in his 16-race career and is the morning-line favorite for the Charles Springer Illinois Owners Stakes on Saturday.

Windy Hill Farm’s Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity runner-up Whyruawesome is training well after his valiant loss in Arlington’s juvenile feature and is being aimed toward Keeneland’s fall meet, according to trainer Anne P. Smith.  “He’s training and doing really well so far.  I am going to ask (Director of Racing) Chris (Polzin) if I can work him on the turf on Sunday (Sept. 22).”

Not on the work tab since the Sept. 7 race, Whyruawesome has been thriving since.  “I gave him the fair amount of time for a 2-year-old to develop and recover,” said Smith.  “The owners would like to point him toward Keeneland and I’m going to try to make that happen for them.  They are leaning toward the (Grade III) Bourbon Stakes (Oct. 6).  I’m kind of a one-woman show with not too many horses, so when the meet ends here, we’ll ship down there since the race is the first weekend of the meet.”

Pete and Peter Scott Reiman’s Windy Hill Farm, which also owns multiple graded stakes winner and stable star Nates Mineshaft, has eyes on hopefully developing a Breeders’ Cup horse out of the son of Whywhywhy.  In 2007, another son of that stallion, Nownownow, won the inaugural running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.  The Bourbon is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” race, as is the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity (Oct. 5) on the Polytrack, for which Whyruawesome may also be considered.

In addition to believing her charge has the pedigree to appreciate the grass, Smith also thinks he could appreciate being farther away from the stands.  In both of his career races - including his winning August debut – the gelding raced greenly.  Smith believes that the already blinker-clad Whyruawesome, who is not in any way a nervous type, simply is overly curious and enjoys looking at all of his surroundings. 

“In the mornings he has no problem – his lead changes are almost robotic.  So, I think it's the grandstand,” Smith explained.  “It's human nature to want to fault training or the jockey or whatever, but it's just something that will take time, training and experience.”

Smith also expressed confidence in her chances in Saturday’s Charles Springer Illinois Owners Stakes with Nates Mineshaft.  “To me this is the horse I wanted to have coming into the (Grade I Arlington) Million.  I feel he, for some reason, was just more quiet than I would have liked the week of the Million."  The son of Mineshaft has worked twice since the Aug. 17 meet centerpiece, including a blistering four furlongs on the grass in :46.60 under jockey E. T. Baird.

“If he runs well and comes out of it okay, (the owners) may try to run him in the (Grade I) Shadwell Mile (Oct. 5 at Keeneland), but I won’t get ahead of myself yet,” Smith elaborated.  “He came off the track bouncing around the other day.  The owners would love a reason to take him back to California for the Breeders’ Cup.”