Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Sunday, September 22, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 09/22/2013 #

In Today’s Notes: Sweet Luca Adds Savory New Dimension; Cool Cowboy a Hot Talent

While it was not a huge surprise to see Illinois’ champion sophomore of 2012 The Pizza Man justify his favoritism in Saturday’s Charles Springer Illinois Owners Stakes, it was a welcome revelation for trainer Chris Block when his Sweet Luca defied his 16-1 odds to lose by just over a length in third place.  Going off as the second-longest shot on the board, the Fortino Inc. homebred closed resolutely in what was his first attempt around two turns and grass since the second race of his career in September 2011.

“It was a bit of a surprise because we were trying him on the grass and two turns for the first time in a long time,” explained Block.  “I am glad he ran well, but you never know what to expect.”

The consistent Sweet Luca had been running in main track one-turn races ranging from 5½ furlongs to a mile since a poor showing on the grass as a juvenile.  While doing so, the Illinois-bred won four races, including two state-bred stakes at six furlongs.  After a less than sparkling fourth-place finish in an allowance optional claiming on July 19 and a subsequent short break, it was decided to try the son of versatile sire Candy Ride (a world record holder at a grassy mile) on the lawn in the Springer.

“We decided it was a good spot to try him.  He had worked very well on the grass a couple weeks ago,” Block explained.  The conditioner had originally considered running the 4-year-old gelding in the $100,000 Arlington Sprint in July after his impressive win in June’s Addison Cammack Handicap, but his turf return was delayed until Saturday.

“It sure does open up the possibilities for him,” said Block.  “We’ll look at the (Buck’s Boy Handicap on Nov. 2) at Hawthorne (Race Course).”  The restricted Buck’s Boy is run over similar conditions to the Springer, except it is a sixteenth of a mile longer on Hawthorne’s grass course.

The six-week break will be a welcome one for Sweet Luca, a smallish gelding who seems to appreciate time between races.  “He’s definitely a tired horse today. He came back very well, but he ran awfully hard yesterday,” Block concluded.  With an entirely new division at his disposal after showing a new dimension, the young gelding has Block looking forward to what could be a savory future.

In a season that has seen him pass the 500-win milestone and hit the board at a meet-leading 60%, trainer Dale Bennett has another reason to celebrate in the form of Savoy Stable’s promising juvenile Cool Cowboy.  On Sept. 14, in the colt’s second race, he dismantled a maiden special weight field by 10½ lengths under Eduardo Perez with visible ease.  

In his debut, under the exact conditions of his win, he was a good second, beaten a length as the favorite.  Bet to favoritism again, this time he broke well and ran away to a near-track record 1:03.37.  His efforts achieved an eye-catching 90 Beyer Speed Figure and 102 Equibase Speed Figure.  The former is the seventh-highest of any 2-year-old colt or gelding this year.

“He’s very talented and he’s doing great,” said Bennett.  “I would say I was surprised he ran that fast but am not surprised he won easily.  He’s shown a tremendous amount of ability and I thought he would win first time out but he had a tough start and grabbed a quarter, which probably stung him a little during the race.

“The funny thing about it is that I trained Prosico for Savoy Stable and we were just a tick off his record.  That was nice,” he continued.  “I think Cool Cowboy could have broken it, but he was moving so easily and already so far ahead.  (Jockey) Eddie (Perez) basically hand-rode him and didn’t ask too much of the horse.”

As far as the future, Bennett is ready to challenge his talented colt even more.  “He came back really good and is a resilient type of horse who eats up well.  We’ll now aim him toward an allowance at Keeneland and also look at Churchill in November to see how he likes the dirt.  He has the pedigree to like it, but the biggest question with him is the distance.  He may just wind up being a good miler, but you never know until you try,” Bennett explained of the son of champion sprinter Kodiak Kowboy.  “I just want to make sure I have a healthy 3-year-old next year.”