Arlington Million

Barn Notes: Sunday, June 9, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 06/09/2013 #
  • Swoon's Son winner Keep Up could return for next month's Grade III Arlington Handicap (photo by Four Footed Fotos)

In Today’s Notes: Keep Up Could Be Back Up for More in July; Block’s Sweet Luca Could Try Turf Next; Swearingen Applauds Martinez’s Winning Murphy Ride; Stephanie’s Kitten to Point for Modesty, Beverly D.

In what was arguably Saturday’s most impressive race, the regally bred Keep Up stormed home after trailing the field of seven in the $66,400 Swoon’s Son Stakes to win impressively by three-quarters of a length for owners Mill Ridge Farm and Shug McGaughey.  Under a stellar ride by James Graham for trainer Alex Clarkson, Keep Up ran down no less than three graded stakes winners – Workin for Hops, Corporate Jungle and Grade I winner Turallure. 

“He came out of it in good shape,” reported Clarkson.  “We left last night and got back this morning – it was a long trip.  So, he was a little tired, but ate up well.”

A son of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victor Unbridled’s Song out of a Kentucky Oaks winner Keeper Hill, Keep Up has raced lightly for his breeders.  With only 14 starts, the sizeable 6-year-old is now coming into his own as a racehorse.  “He had some stem cell work on his hind end, so we’ve given him lots of time,” reported Clarkson.  “He’s just such a big horse that you just need to let him find his rhythm and come running.”

James Graham picked up the mount for the connections and rode him perfectly, according to the trainer.  “I told James to let him find his feet and try to not check him.  He’s too big at over 17 hands, and you just can’t start and stop with him.  You don’t want to unbalance him,” Clarkson said.  “(Graham) knows the course and I was confident that if the he let him find his stride, he would get into gear.  When this horse gets rolling, he can really run.”

Sent off at 4-1 in a field where five of the seven starts went off at under 6-1, Keep Up was exiting a couple terrible trips in Kentucky allowance races.  “He had two tough races.  At Keeneland he got carried out pretty badly.  Then, at Churchill, he stumbled at the start and the pace was very slow.  He couldn’t make up any ground.”

At Arlington International Racecourse on Saturday, Keep Up had very little trouble this time and was allowed to find his stride about 10 lengths off the pace at first call.  Afterward, Graham allowed the galloper to slowly improve his position before unleashing a superb finish of :05.91 for the final sixteenth of a mile to defeat favorite Corporate Jungle, who was making his first start since a sixth-place finish in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. 

Bred to run classic distances, Keep Up will now hone in on the 10 furlongs of August’s Grade I Arlington Million.  “It’s a big, huge step up, but you have to have a pinnacle to aim toward, and we’d love to win it if we get good enough,” aspired Clarkson.  Keep Up will first be aimed toward the Grade III $200,000 Arlington Handicap on Saturday July 13.  “I think he’ll appreciate the increase in distance.

“We are going to focus on racing at Arlington because he fits so well here.  (Arlington) treated me so well and Graham rode such a great race.  You have to be patient with this horse,” stated Clarkson.  Such patience with a such a valuable horse may be uncommon in the modern era, but it has paid dividends as the horse has now hit the board in 12 of 14 starts, including six wins (two stakes).  “The owners are really good.  And, (part owner and previous trainer) Shug just says ‘do what you’re doing with him and good luck,’ and that helps with allowing Keep Up to develop.”

Saturday’s stakes-competing Chris Block-trained duo of Sweet Luca and Workin for Hops have exited their respective races very well, according to the conditioner.  “Both looked great.  We were very happy with them yesterday.”

Fortino Inc.’s Sweet Luca closed with a fury to nail odds-on favorite Work All Week at the line in the $100,000 Addison Cammack Stakes – a race named in memory of a dear friend of Block family.  “It was a very special win,” remarked Block.

Sweet Luca could try turf next in the $100,000 Arlington Sprint on July 6.  “Tentatively, we may point him toward the Sprint.  We will work him on the turf beforehand to see if he likes it,” explained Block.  “If he doesn’t handle it, we’ll change plans.”

By Candy Ride, a horse who set a world record (1:31.00) for a mile on grass while racing, and has sired solid turf performers Sidney’s Candy and Twirling Candy, Sweet Luca would not surprise anyone if his form transferred, or even improved, on the Arlington turf. 

Block’s veteran performer Workin for Hops proved once again that he is a force with which to reckon while finishing third behind Keep Up and Corporate Jungle in the salty Swoon’s Son Stakes.  Losing by less than four lengths after contesting the pace, Workin for Hops bested such standouts as Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up Turallure and recent impressive allowance victor Cherokee Lord. 

“He tries hard and is just a hard-knocking horse with a lot of class,” commented Block on the gelding who has now won just shy of $700,000, including four stakes (two graded).   

Trainer Tom Swearingen was thoroughly pleased with the performance of his Kip Berries in Saturday’s $100,000 Isaac Murphy, who wired the field as the 7-2 second choice under Seth Martinez.  The Illinois-bred daughter of Kipling finished the six panels in 1:10.94. 

“She came out really good,” reported Swearingen, who was very happy with Martinez’s ride.  “Seth gave her a great ride.  She always wants the front, and he gets along with her beautifully.  She wants it her own way and he got her very comfortable.  I love the way she re-broke in the stretch – it was very impressive.  We couldn’t have planned it any more textbook.”

After such an uplifting performance, Swearingen may decide to put the filly back on her preferred trip, a turf sprint, against the boys in the $100,000 Arlington Sprint on July 6.  “We’ll have to wait and see.   We will wait and see.  If the timing is right and the sprint is worth tackling, I will do it.  She’s very tough.  I wish they had (a turf sprint stakes) for the fillies, but I think we could enter against the boys.”

Arlington’s leading trainer Wayne Catalano took his winning show on the road on Saturday when he won the Grade I $500,000 Just A Game Stakes by a half-length with Ramsey Stable’s Stephanie’s Kitten, who was ridden perfectly by John Velazquez.  Making only her second start (and win) of 2013, the filly added to a resume that already includes the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf. 

She came out very well,” reported Catalano.  “She’s back on the plane headed to Louisville.  We’ll give her a couple days rest and then we’ll sit down with the owners and Mark Partridge, the farm manager, and decide where to go.  Right now we have the Beverly D. penciled in.

“We will also look at running in the (July 13 Grade III $200,000) Modesty Handicap here at Arlington as a prep,” he confirmed.  Stephanie’s Kitten earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure for the win, which means her first two starts/victories of 2013 have earned the highest Beyer Speed Figures (100 and 101) of any female turf performer at a mile or more in North America.