Arlington Million

Barn Notes: Sunday, August 04, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 08/04/2013 #
  • Trainer Anne Smith leads Nates Mineshaft back to the barn.

In Today’s Notes: Nates Mineshaft Works Toward Million; Team Block Prepares Possible Festival Duo; Amen Kitten Under Festival Consideration After Work; Tuesday’s Night School to Focus on Import Horses

Multiple graded stakes winner Nates Mineshaft, an impressive allowance winner last Saturday at Arlington International Racecourse, had his first work since that tally on Sunday morning.  In what can mostly be described as a maintenance move, the Windy Hill Farm-owned son of Mineshaft was ridden by jockey James Graham, who was pinch-hitting for the out-of-town E. T. Baird. 

“James was helping E.T. today while he was out of town.  The owners would like to keep E.T. on him in the race.  I got him in 1:06.  The plan was to go easy and just ask for a little bit of a finish,” explained trainer Anne P. Smith.  “I’m still processing (the work).  I’m happy, though.”  According to Arlington clockers, Nates Mineshaft went the five-eighths with the dogs up in 1:06 4/5, with his last eighth in :12 2/5.

The Aug. 17 Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million is on the radar for the Arlington-based ridgling.  The marquee turf event will come only three weeks after his allowance win and will be his fourth start of 2013. 

As far as Smith’s plan – it’s simple – “get him to the race and try to win,” she laughed.  The Million has been the focus of the Illinois-based owners since they sent Nates Mineshaft to be trained at Arlington this spring.

In order to achieve his owners’ goal, Nates Mineshaft will have to compete against a class of grass horses of the likes he’s never faced, as well as run a quarter-mile farther than he ever has on the turf.  “We have an extra quarter to work on, that’s for sure.  We thought about playing the theme song to ‘Rocky’ out of the barn every day,” a cautious and optimistic Smith laughed.  

Team Block’s turf marathon duo of Suntracer and Ioya Bigtime both worked Sunday morning.  Suntracer, with Eddie Castro up, worked six furlongs in 1:15.  Ioya Bigtime, a notoriously fast worker, did the same distance in 1:12, with an impressive gallop out in 1:28.  Regular rider Jeffrey Sanchez was up for the move.

“Suntracer worked good,” trainer Chris Block reported.  “We’ll work him back again next week.  Ioya Bigtime, too.  We’re strongly considering both for the (American) St. Leger.”

In last year’s inaugural running of the $400,000 American St. Leger, Ioya Bigtime finished a valiant second – besting all other American runners while losing to Jakkalberry, a horse who would go on to place in the Group I $5,523,000 Melbourne Cup in Australia. 

Suntracer was scratched from last year’s St. Leger, but this year looks like a much stronger candidate per his excellent runner-up finish in the key prep for the race, the Grade III $150,000 Stars and Stripes Stakes on Million Preview Day. 

Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s late-developing sophomore gelding Amen Kitten worked Sunday morning and is under serious consideration for the Grade I $500,000 Secretariat Stakes.  Recently third against his elders in a Colonial Downs stakes named for his sire, Kitten’s Joy, Amen Kitten worked a half-mile around the dogs in :49 flat, while galloping out five furlongs in 1:02 under exercise rider Lindsay Molina for trainer Wesley Ward.   The move impressed Arlington International Racecourse clockers.

Though only once a winner in a dozen starts, Amen Kitten has finished in the top three in seven of those 12 attempts.  In the $75,000 Kitten’s Joy, Amen Kitten finished a strong third behind Argentinian Group I winner Al Qasr. 

Ward put Arlington’s “International” designation to work this morning when he worked four highly regarded juveniles on its world-renowned grass course Sunday morning.  Included in those workers was No Nay Never, a recent Royal Ascot winner in England who is preparing for a go at one of the biggest juvenile races in Europe, France’s Group I €350,000 (approximately $465,000) Prix Morny at Deauville Racecourse.

No Nay Never, a Paul Shanahan and Ice Wine Stable-owned son of Scat Daddy, easily dismantled a solid field in the Group II Norfolk Stakes at Ascot Racecourse in June, despite a tardy start.  His final time of :58.80 over the undulating straight five-furlong course bested the previous record by .37 seconds.  The Prix Morny is run over a relatively flat 1200-meter (approximately six-furlong) course.  Past winners of the race include Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners Arazi and Johannesburg.  Last year, Reckless Abandon won both the Norfolk and Prix Morny in succession.

With the Arlington Million and the International Festival of Racing on the horizon, Tuesday’s edition of Night School will focus on evaluating horses that ship to North America from overseas.  Night School, hosted by Arlington linemaker Joe Kristufek and Jeremy Plonk, can be accessed via beginning at 7:30 Central time.  One of the guests for this edition of Night School will be former Arlington jockey and current HRTV host Zoe Cadman.  

The following Tuesday, August 13, Night School will focus on handicapping turf races and will include a live radio broadcast on “At The Races” with Steve Byk on SiriusXM as well as the online chat session.  Two nights later on Thursday, August 15, there will be a special Night School Big Event Chat devoted to handicapping the International Festival of Racing card.