Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Sunday, May 5, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/05/2013 #
  • Card breaking his maiden impressively on May 4.

In Today’s Notes: Stidham Might Hold an Ace; Catalano’s Stephanie’s Kitten Roars at Churchill; Glen Hill Aims Big Guns at Arlington

Trainer Mike Stidham tipped his hand Saturday with a first-time starter named Card in the sixth race at Arlington International Racecourse.  Feel The Thunder Stable’s unraced 3-year-old gelding impressed many onlookers in the $38,000 maiden special weight for 3-year-olds and up with a facile wire-to-wire debut victory. 

After jumping out of the gate lengths faster than his competitors, Card quickly settled and rattled off a sharp opening quarter in :22.55.  “He had shown speed away from the gate in his works at Keeneland.  We expected him to be close up, and E.T. (Baird) did a good job of getting him out of there, taking the lead, and going on with him,” said Stidham.

Indeed, Card opened up six lengths by the stretch, under a motionless hand ride, after running a half-mile in :46.51 (a second quarter split of :23.96).  More impressively, he ran three of his last four eighths in under twelve seconds, including a final eighth in a throttled down :11.93.

“We always knew he was fast and was going to run that way,” said Stidham.  “He also really moves up on the Polytrack, being by (sire) Spring At Last,” in reference to WinStar Farm’s Kentucky-based stallion who has sired multiple synthetic surface stakes winners in his first crop (which includes Card).

His immense speed comes from his female side, as his stakes-winning dam, Fond, is the offspring of Old Trieste and Fontal.  The former being arguably A.P. Indy’s fastest son (running multiple Beyer Speed Figures that hovered around 120) and the latter a swift multiple stakes winning sprinter in the United States and Grade I-placed sprinter in Argentina.  All things told, Card is bred to love synthetic tracks and have a lot of early speed up to and possibly over a mile.

As to his future after such an auspicious debut, “with a horse first time out, you never know.  We will look at our options, but probably run back in a (first level allowance),” reported Stidham.  “From there, if he continues forward we’ll look at bigger spots for him.”

Leading trainer Wayne Catalano released a resolute Stephanie’s Kitten in the Grade II $250,000 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard.  Over a “good” course, which appeared to be on the soft side, the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner ran down defending champion and multiple Grade II-winning favorite Hungry Island.

In her first start of the year since an uncharacteristic sixth in October’s Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Keeneland, Stephanie’s Kitten gave jockey Julien Leparoux a powerful stretch run to kick off 2013 in style, despite the unfavorable going.  “She handled the soft turf well.  She had a great trip and a great ride,” said Catalano. 

According to Catalano, “we’ll point her to the Belmont race, most likely,” referring to the Grade I $500,000 Just A Game Stakes, with an eye on Arlington’s Grade I $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes.  Two fillies since 1997 have used the Just A Game en route to victory in Arlington’s signature filly and mare event – Memories of Silver and Gorella, the latter also ridden by Leparoux.

Running a reported Beyer Speed Figure of 100, roughly five lengths faster than any she had ever previously run, Stephanie’s Kitten served notice that she may be a force with which to reckon this season.  “She’s more mature this year,” reported Catalano. 

With five of her six victories at a mile and one-sixteenth or shorter, it could be a concern as to whether she can get the mile and three-sixteenths distance of the Beverly D.  Catalano quickly depressed that disquiet, “She’ll run all day.  She’s a Kitten’s Joy.”

According to Glen Hill Farm president Craig Bernick, his powerful stable is sending two of its stars to upcoming stakes at Arlington.  Procurement, an impressive winner of the Listed La Puente Stakes at Santa Anita, is being aimed toward the Grade III Arlington Classic on May 25. 

The ‘big mare’ in the Glen Hill barn, Grade I-winning mare Marketing Mix, is currently being aimed toward the Grade III $200,000 Modesty Handicap (on Million Preview Day) July 13 and the Grade I $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes on August 17.  Prior to the Modesty, she is schedule to run in the Grade I Gamely Handicap at Hollywood Park May 27.  Marketing Mix hopes to improve upon her runner-up finish in last year’s Beverly D.