Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Thursday, May 23, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/23/2013 #

In Today’s Notes: Casse’s Patrioticandproud Marches Into Hanshin; All Systems Go for Geier’s All Stormy and Fordubai

The Mark Casse stable, in its first tenure occupying stalls at Arlington International Racecourse, has already made its presence known with a win, a second and a solid closing rally to just miss the board in its first three races.  On Saturday, Team Casse, led by locally based assistant Randi Melton, will take its first stab at an Arlington graded stakes in the Grade III $150,000 Hanshin Cup over one mile on the Polytrack main course.

Currently 18th in North American earnings (and seventh overall in 2012), the successful stable brings Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber’s Patrioticandproud, a handsome dark bay son of Kentucky Derby runner-up Proud Citizen against a field that includes local favorite Mister Marti Gras and multiple graded stakes-winning speedster, and probable favorite, Nates Mineshaft. 

Facing such an impressive and competitive field in his first local attempt, the Pennsylvania-bred colt looks to improve upon a dismal performance on Kentucky Oaks Day in the Grade II Alysheba Stakes over dirt.  Finishing behind a freakish performance by WinStar Farm’s Take Charge Indy, the colt was making his second start of 2013.

Melton could not be more pleased with the way the colt is approaching the race.  “He is looking fantastic!  He started doing really well this winter and has definitely turned a corner.  He might be a later bloomer.  They took really great care of him down at Churchill because he came here absolutely gorgeous,” she enthusiastically reported.

As far as the mediocre performance in the Alysheba, “We know that race didn’t take anything away from him, but may have added some fitness.  If it did anything, it did him some good,” Melton explained.  “You never know with horses sometimes.  Blame (Eclipse Champion Older Horse trained by Melton’s previous boss Al Stall Jr.) worked all the time on synthetic at Keeneland and ran really well on dirt.  Sometimes it transfers and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Listed at an enticing 15-1 on the morning line, Patrioticandproud returns to the surface upon which he has competed best.  “Even with the Alysheba attempt, we have always thought of him as a synthetic horse,” explained Melton.  “We wanted to run here because of the surface, the fact that he will like the distance and it was a short van ride from Churchill where he was training.

“He went out (onto the Arlington main course) yesterday and just attacked this racetrack.  He loves it,” she continued.  “He won that race (season debut in Keeneland allowance) so easily on the Polytrack – he will really appreciate the return to this type of surface.”  If one examines his past performances, his career record of 16-4-6-1 would be 9-3-4-1 if you forego all of his dirt and turf performances.  This means that his only win not on a synthetic track was his stakes victory on the Woodbine turf in the Toronto Cup last July over fellow Hanshin Cup entrant, and 10-1 shot, Hammers Terror. 

A colt with a fluid and strong closing kick, Patrioticandproud also seems to have blossomed into his 4-year-old season.  “I’ve been working with him since he was a yearling.  He’s always been a good looking animal. But, right now, we are so tickled with how he looks.  He’s been putting on muscle and looks like a little body builder right now.”

That strength will be a great asset for Garrett Gomez, as he breaks from post eight of 10, and will have to be agile in a field filled with stalking speed.  Gomez will be flying in from California to take the mount, and Melton could not be more pleased.  “I love Garrett.  He is just a phenomenal rider and is so versatile.  No matter how the race sets up, I feel confident.  He fits the horse.”  Gomez was the regular rider for the aformentioned Blame while Melton was working for Stall, including when the rider became the only jockey to defeat Zenyatta in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Melton is not worried about the competition for the 15-1 shot (tied for second-longest shot on the board) in the solid field.  “You look at the competition and analyze the field, but try not to worry about them.  You can only worry about how well your horse is doing, and he’s doing really well,” she summarized with confidence.

As far as her first victory while leading a division for Casse, “it’s so nice just to get that first win out of the way – especially for Mark.  You can win the biggest race and beat Zenyatta and then can’t win a $25,000 claimer.  That’s how horseracing works,” she said soberly.  “It was also a really special race to win for me because Rosemary (jockey Homeister, Jr.) and I go way back.”

As far as what the future may hold for Patrioticandproud, “depending on how he runs and how he comes out of the race, he could run here again.”  One would assume this would definitely be in the cards after a good performance – especially for a synthetic specialist with a stakes win over the turf. 

Locally based trainer Greg Geier was beaming with quiet confidence in his two Jim Tafel-owned colts who enter two of this weekend’s three graded stakes.  All Stormy enters the highly competitive Hanshin Cup, while Fordubai tries to prove his runner-up in the Illinois Derby was no fluke with a run in the first leg of the Mid-America Triple, the Arlington Classic.  Each race is a Grade III and holds a $150,000 purse. 

“Everything is going great.  We are just excited to get to Saturday,” said Geier.  “We are happy to have Kent on our horses and he will do a great job.  He’s a great jockey and a good fit.”  The Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux will ride the 15-1 All Stormy from post two in the Hanshin and 9-2 third choice Fordubai in the Arlington Classic.

As far as the versatile All Stormy, “I don’t want him to be too far out of it.  There seems to be a good bit of speed in there.  Hopefully we’ll be three or four lengths out of it and improve our position from there,” Geier projected.  The colt by Stormy Atlantic has been training very well over the synthetic course leading up to the race and should offer some impeccable value if his odds do not shift too much.

As far as his slightly more highly regarded stablemate Fordubai, Geier expressed a great deal of contentment with the way the son of E Dubai is approaching the event.  “It’s a really good field and nice horses, but I think he’ll run really good.  He’s training great right now and like the turf.  We are just excited.”