Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Thursday, July 04, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 07/04/2013 #
  • Yankee Injunuity and trainer Jim McMullen. Photo by Michael Adolphson.

In Today’s Notes: Yankee Injunuity Outrunning His Age, Ready for Arlington Sprint; Dorsett A Possible Rising Star for Stidham

Ginger Haas’s Yankee Injunuity is set for another attack on the $100,000 Arlington Sprint this Saturday in what will be another chapter in a unique career for the 9-year-old veteran.  A sleek, almost black, son of top miler Yankee Victor, Yankee Injunuity has made 63 starts for his connections in a career that began in seven years ago this month.  In those starts he has 10 wins, including two in stakes.

In 2009, at age 5, he won the Arlington Sprint by a neck in a blistering 1:02.50 over the subsequent year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Winner Chamberlain Bridge.  In 2011, he returned to run a fast-closing fifth, losing by only two lengths.  Now, another two years later, the horse is back in prime form and ready for another stab at the best turf sprinters in the region. 

“He’s doing great.  I guess that’s why we took a look at it,” explained trainer Jim McMullen, who has conditioned the horse since he was a yearling.  “My thoughts are if I felt that if he was not at all up to the task (at this age), I would not have entered.   If they had a race at the same conditions as his last, I would have had a hard time deciding which to run him in.”

In his last race, a money allowance at the course and distance of the Arlington Sprint, Yankee Injunuity impressively closed on the rail from 5½ lengths off the pace to win by a head.  His Equibase Speed Figure that day was a 108 – only two points below his career best.  That high mark of 110 has been achieved three times in his life – including twice last fall.  His good form is even more intriguing considering he is a 9-year-old who has not been gelded – a rarity in racehorses.

Keeping Yankee Injunuity in good form has been a very simple process for his conditioner.  “He’s just a good horse that tries hard.  So, our job was just to keep him sound along the way,” explained McMullen.  “There’s no magic to it.  You’re going to get those ones who are going to run and try hard for you and you just try to keep them happy and healthy.  He’s been really sound – knock on wood.”

Even if in such formidable fitness, this Saturday’s race is a tall order for the veteran.  The race has drawn a deep and accomplished field of stakes winners, including defending champion Saint Leon and recent Grade III victor Hogy. 

“He would have to run his best race, as cliché as it sounds.  I know there’s a lot of speed, but what’s great about him – he can sit off (the pace) and will come up the rail if he needs to,” McMullen said with confidence.  “You can do whatever you want with him.  He’s very handy and seems to break sharply, so the jockey can place him where he wants.  We’re down low (post 3), so we can break and hope for an opening.”

McMullen is also pleased to employ jockey Channing Hill, who recently returned from an injury, atop the colt in the big race.  “I’m glad to have Channing.  I think he fits the horse well.  I was pleased with the way he rode the horse last year and he’s just a good rider,” the trainer explained. 

Trainer Mike Stidham is excited to get his promising 3-year-old Dorsett racing next weekend in the Grade III $200,000 American Derby.  “He’s doing really well.  He came out of that allowance race in good shape, and he’s improving,” explained the veteran conditioner.  “His numbers are progressively moving forward in slow increments.  He is making steady progress, has a good foundation and is putting good races back-to-back.”

After being disqualified from third to fourth in the Grade III Arlington Classic in May – a controversial decision the trainer is appealing – the Terry Hamilton-owned son of turf star Artie Schiller easily bested a field of eight in a June 15 allowance.  “We didn’t like the idea of eight or nine weeks between (the Arlington Classic and American Derby).  We felt like why not put a race in between, since he was still eligible for the a-other-than.  Hopefully he would move forward toward the big race (American Derby) and then take another step forward in that one.”

Stidham believes the colt will hold his own in what is looking to be a tough race.  “My horse fits the mold.  He’s bred to like the distance.  He’s a big and growthy maturing 3-year-old and I think he’s moving forward.  He’s an Artie Schiller and they love the grass, obviously.  There are a lot of things that point into the right direction.  I do not think we’ve seen the best of him yet.”

While Dorsett possibly may be a rising star in the stable, Stidham took the time to comment on the current stable star Willcox Inn, who heads to Monmouth Park in New Jersey to compete in the Grade I $500,000 United Nations Stakes on Saturday.  “We could have stayed here for the Arlington Handicap, but we are trying to win a Grade I.  For him to have any chance as a stallion, we need to get him a Grade I and try to get him over a million in earnings.  Right now he has $835,000.  That’s our objective.”

The 11-furlong U.N. would add a new dimension to Willcox Inn, in that he has never won past 1 3/16-miles.  Stidham is concerned but still optimistic on whether he will conquer the new challenge.

“I worry about (the distance).  He may be best at about a mile and an eighth, but we don’t know for sure.  We did the same thing with Upperline.  She was running mile and mile and an eighth races – then we stuck her in a mile and a half race at Keeneland and she loved it.  We weren’t sure she could get it, but it turned out to be her best distance,” Stidham stated. 

Assistant trainer and Willcox Inn’s exercise rider Hilary Pridham expressed more conviction.  “I think he’ll get the distance.  He’s older and more relaxed.  Now, he’ll break off in :38 and then finish like a freight train,” she explained.  “I think he’ll like it.”

Willcox Inn is exiting a half-length loss in the Grade II Dixie Stakes on Preakness Day in which he resolutely attempted to run down Calumet Farm’s loose-on-the-lead winner Skyring.  “It was sad to lose the other day.  The bias (toward speed) was in the other horse’s favor.  I think we were the best horse.”  Team Stidham and Willcox Inn will get a chance to avenge that defeat, as Skyring will line up in the U.N., as well.