Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Wednesday, May 15, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 06/30/2013 #

In Today’s Notes: Saint Leon Divine in 2013 Debut

Margaret Burlingham’s Saint Leon made quite the stir on Sunday in his seasonal debut at Arlington International Racecourse.  In a performance which could be a sign that he may be even better than last year, the veteran easily beat a quality allowance optional claiming field of stakes-performing sprinters in a blistering 1:09.34.

Breaking ahead of the rest from the outside post (six), Saint Leon cruised through fluid quarter-mile splits of :22.59 and :22.52, before winning by a widening three-lengths under light urging from E.T. Baird.  His final two superb eighths in :11.95 and :12.28 were eerily reminiscent of another great performance earlier in the week by Midwest Thoroughbreds’ rising star Work All Week.

Saint Leon, according to the Daily Racing Form’s Beyer Speed Figures, earned a slightly higher figure, 107, to Work All Week’s 102 at the same distance.  “He continues to amaze me,” trainer Michele Boyce expressed with satisfaction.  “He’s just an exceptional little horse – he’s done so well.

“He came out of his race very well.  He is just very happy with himself.  The older geldings – they know when they’ve won,” said Boyce.

The performance was even more impressive considering Saint Leon was not fully cranked for the race.  “I was unsure if he was tight enough for three-quarters on the main track.  I had been pointing him for five furlongs on the turf, but the six-furlong race on the Polytrack went,” explained Boyce.

“He only had a few easy works on the dirt at Hawthorne (Race Course) and one Arlington work over the Polytrack at a moderate pace.  Some horses couldn’t pull that off.  I can’t say he hasn’t got better with age, it is just that he does everything so well and within himself,” Boyce continued. 

A son of one of the fastest European sprinters of the past quarter-century, Stravinsky (whose dam happens to be Beverly D. winner Fire the Groom), and a Seattle Slew dam, Saint Leon is bred to race exactly as he has style-wise – with immense gate speed and the ability to control it up to a mile on multiple surfaces.

“He runs on everything – Polytrack, grass and dirt,” Boyce said of the gelding who has 13 victories in 28 starts.  Four of those have been on dirt and synthetics, each, and five have been on turf.  “He rates so well and doesn’t mind a horse beside him.  He doesn’t have to be on the lead because he relaxes so well, which is why he can run (on so many trips).”

As far as the future, Boyce reported that he may be pointed toward a defense of his title in the $100,000 Arlington Sprint on July 6, a race in which he defeated 2010 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Chamberlain Bridge.  If his initial speed figures are any indication, 2013 could possibly be the year Saint Leon competes on that same world stage by year’s end.

“You always have it in the back of your head, but you can’t make any plans,” Boyce said of the Breeders’ Cup.  “Invariably they’ll make you backtrack.  He’s not easy to ship and is a little high-strung, but a horse that age – you let them tell you the next step.” 

In the meantime, the focus is on Arlington.  “He’s done so well here.  E.T. (Baird) rides him so well – fits him like a glove.  E.T. told me after the race, ‘He’s so good he makes you almost want to cry,’” laughed Boyce.  “As I said, he’s simply an exceptional horse.”