Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Thursday, August 23, 2018

| Churchill Downs Communications | 08/23/2018 #
  • Hotshot Anna (Coady Photography)

  • Mentally Maturing Moonlit Garden Gives Davis First Stakes Win
  • Hotshot Anna Probable for Grade II Presque Isle Downs Masters


Moonlit Garden has been somewhat of a work in progress for trainer Chris Davis. On Sunday afternoon, the 4-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon showed that she has made a great amount of progress when giving Davis his first career stakes win in the Summer Colony Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

“It was definitely nice,” Davis said. “To go to Saratoga and run against top trainers with quality horses is fun. She has overcome a lot and is really starting to get right, mentally. Physically she’s always been there, but mentally she had to put two and two together. She’s never been dumb, but she would go out there and just kind of play around a bit. She wasn’t focused on what she had to do. Maturity wise, she’s just got her head wrapped around what she has to do and how to become a racehorse versus go out there and gallop around in a circle.”

Owned by Town and Country Racing, Moonlit Garden found the winner’s circle in her twelfth career start, a maiden event at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on March 17. In her next outing, she successfully took on winners in a first level allowance race over the main track at Keeneland Racecourse on April 10. Her next three starts were stakes efforts which included a seventh-place finish in the Grade III Arlington Matron on May 19 followed by a close second in the Lady’s Secret Stakes at Monmouth Park on June 30 before Sunday’s victory. 

“She’s very, very big and she’s very strong,” Davis said. “She is a smart horse but sometimes with these horses it takes a while for their brain to catch up with their body. She might be perfect physically, but if their head isn’t wrapped around the game then these other horses that might be a little more precocious mentally are going to beat you every time because they want to.”

Davis discussed the possibility of pointing Moonlit Garden to the Grade I $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland on October 7.

“As long as she’s doing well going into it, we’ll take a shot,” Davis said. “Even if we got third that would be huge for her. There might be a race or two at Belmont, but we aren’t going to run her unless she’s perfect.”

Perhaps Davis’ first stakes win was a little sweeter with it being in partnership with Town and Country Racing, who gave Davis his first opportunity as a trainer.

“Chris’ pedigree kind of speaks for itself with his parents (trainer Liane Davis and Arlington assistant starter Herschel Davis),” said Shannon Potter, the CEO of Town and Country Farm. “He’s not new to the game and he knows what he’s talking about. We’re a pretty good team right now.

“Chris was an assistant for Phil D’Amato and we had a few horses with him,” Potter continued. “We developed a good relationship with Chris and I needed someone kind of local and that wasn’t too big of an operation to take some of our homebreds. I talked to him and said ‘I got a few that I want to give you,’ and that’s how it all started.”

There was a point in time where retirement was being considered for Moonlit Garden.

“It took her a while,” Potter said. “For her to be his first stakes win is awesome for Chris and it’s a testament to how patient he is. There was a time where I felt like retiring her. She’s got a nice pedigree. Chris always gave us so much hope in this filly but we couldn’t get it out of her. Once she broke her maiden it’s like a light flipped on. For it to all come together, Chris’ first stakes win, and for it to be a homebred for us is really, really special and nice.”

Moonlit Garden is out of the two-time Grade III winning broodmare Winter Garden, who also produced the likes of graded stakes winner Title Contender and graded stakes placed Matterhorn.


Following another stakes victory in the Satin and Lace Stakes at Presque Isle Downs on August 20, Hotshot Anna will likely return to the Erie, Pennsylvania oval for the track’s signature event – the Grade II $400,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters on September 17.

Owned and trained by Hugh Robertson, the 4-year-old daughter of Trappe Shot was coming off a track record-setting win in the Grade III Chicago Handicap at Arlington International Racecourse.

Ridden by Antonio Gallardo on Monday, Hotshot Anna tracked right behind leaders and took command of the field turning for home without being asked. She went on to win by 3¾ lengths.

“I thought she’d like that track,” Robertson said. “The race set up well for her. There were a couple of speed horses; she laid behind them, came and got them and ran down the lane like she should have. She shipped out well and everything was fine.”

The win enhanced Hotshot Anna’s career earnings to $283,640. It was also her third stakes victory; as a 3-year-old, she won the Northbound Pride Oaks at Canterbury Park.