Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Thursday, Sept. 15

| Churchill Downs Communications | 09/15/2011 #

In Today's Notes: Pucker Up's Maid of Heaven Brings Kellyn Gorder Back to Town; Lassie Runner-Up Essence of Bubbles Louisiana-Bound; Hogy Headed Back to Sprint Competition; Geroux Takes Off All Mounts Thursday

Arlington racing fans may be unfamiliar with conditioner Kellyn Gorder, but among the horses he trained as yearlings and early in their 2-year-old seasons was last year's Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, last year's Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer and the 2009 Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed.

That was when Gorder worked for WinStar Farm, but for the last three years the 44-year-old native of Worthington, Minnesota, has been out on his own and brought two interesting 3-year-old fillies to Arlington this summer. Both of them made their trips worthwhile by visiting the winner's circle.

One of them, Joe Allen's All for Georgia, broke her maiden here Aug. 26 after making her only other start last May in France. She was considered by Gorder as a possibility for Saturday's Grade III Pucker Up Stakes before the trainer decided she needed more experience.

The other one, Dreamfields Farm's Maid of Heaven, broke her maiden over firm going at Churchill July 2, came to Chicago to win over Arlington's grass course Aug. 6 on a day it was rated "good" and will now be coming back to contest Saturday's 47th renewal of the $100,000 Pucker Up as the last stakes race of Arlington's 2011 season. The local season brings down the curtain on its 86-day meeting Sept. 25.

Dreamfields Farm, incidentally, is the nom-de-course of Hall of Fame jockey Steve Cauthen, but Gorder was not sure Thursday morning if Cauthen would be able to attend Saturday's headline attraction.

"I've kind of had Maid of Heaven on the radar for the Pucker Up all along," said Gorder, who grew up on the racetrack, graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a B.A. degree in animal science, rode briefly on the Nebraska circuit, and worked for Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg for a number of years before moving to Lexington, Ky., 20 years ago.

"This filly has been improving throughout the summer," Gorder said, "and I feel she will love the extra (nine-furlong) distance of Saturday's race. She had every excuse to get beaten in that last race at Arlington. She got in a lot of trouble. She got bottled up behind horses and had to tap on the brakes a few times, but she still finished very well and got up in time even though she was only going a mile."

Richard Ravin's Essence of Bubbles, who made the pace in last Saturday's Grade III Arlington-Washington Lassie before grudgingly giving way by a half-length to Frank Fletcher's Rocket Twentyone in the late stages, will be headed down to Cajun Country for her next trip to the post, trainer Larry Rivelli indicated earlier this week.

"We'll probably send her down to Delta Downs for her next start," said Rivelli, speaking of the Louisiana track located in the western portion of the state. "There's a stakes race down there for her in about six or eight weeks."

Essence of Bubbles would be a prime candidate for the Grade III Delta Downs Princess Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on Delta Downs Jackpot Day Nov. 19.

"She should have won the Lassie but she got too wound up in the paddock and left some of her race there," said Rivelli, who only got the juvenile filly in his barn in the days before the Lassie. "Now that I know that characteristic about her, we will be able to address that issue."

Alice Mettler's Hogy, who suffered the first defeat in his four-race career when he finished fifth in last Saturday's Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity, had trainer Joel Berndt second-guessing himself earlier this week.

"(Hogy) came out of his race in the Futurity just super," said Berndt. "He had his head out of his stall the next morning looking just like he hadn't even run.

"What I got out of the race was that I should have let the jockey take him back a little bit more," Berndt said. "If I could have a 'redo' of the instructions I gave, I would have told Frenchy (jockey Florent Geroux) to lay back about eighth and then make a late run.

"I'm not disappointed in the horse at all," said Berndt. "I especially liked the way he fought off the group that finished behind him. I think now I'll go back to sprinting with him and see where that takes us."

French-born jockey Florent Geroux cancelled all of his riding engagements Thursday to be on hand for the birth of his first child.