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Hawthorne Race Course
|Hawthorne Racecourse (9/27/06)
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“Kid” May Grind His Way to Gold Cup Glory
Kid Grindstone Carries the Local Hopes of Team Campbell
Having the home court advantage in the Hawthorne Gold Cup certainly doesn't hurt.
Seven of the last 16 winners of Hawthorne’s fall classic were locally based horses, and on Saturday, Wexler Racing Stable’s Kid Grindstone hopes to add his name to a list that already includes: Dust on the Bottle (2000), Buck’s Boy (1997), Come On Flip (1996), Recoup The Cash (1994), Evanescent (1993), Irish Swap (1992) and Black Tie Affair (1990).
Claimed for $40,000 at Oaklawn in the spring 2005, the now 4-year-old gelded son of Grindstone has come a long way under the tutelage of longtime Chicago trainer Mike Campbell.
“He used to show speed and stop,’ Campbell said. “I thought if I claimed the horse I could teach him to come from out of it. Initially, he wasn't willing to do that. It took months of anxiety training to get him to discipline himself to where he would listen to the rider instead of running wildly on the front end.”
Following the claim, “Kid” ran the majority of his races on turf, although he did show an ability to compete on both surfaces.
“Once we got him to where he was willing to fall in place and follow instructions, then it became a progressively good situation,” Campbell explained. “We had a feeling all along that he was a terrific horse, and I always thought he was going to eventually define himself on one surface. This season we learned that he’s better on dirt.”
Campbell’s first inclination came this spring at Oaklawn. On paper it appears that Kid Grindstone was a turf horse just getting in a little early season work, but his trainer knew better. Following a sharp second in his seasonal debut in a conditioned allowance race, Kid Grindstone upset the Grade III Fifth Season with a scintillating stretch kick.
“I told everybody that he would win that race two months in advance,” Campbell boasted. “He was training so forwardly that I just loved him, but even then I still wasn't sure that he would necessarily be better on dirt. In March and April, with the winter chemicals out of it, the main track at Oaklawn is outstanding. Even back then I said to myself ‘this is a grass horse,’ but he was handling that surface so well that I’d knew he'd be live in the Fifth Season.”
It appeared to be full steam ahead into the Arlington meet, and a return to turf for Kid Grindstone in the $100,000 Avers Wexler Stake, a race restricted to horses with Illinois owners named for the man who pays Kid’s bills.
“But then he bruised his foot the day before the race,” Campbell said. “That was really tough news to give a client. Mr. Wexler was really excited about the race. His whole family was here. Foot bruises are not that significant, unless they turn into an abscess, and from there you go to the farm for some time. Going in we looked like the horse to beat, but the racing gods did us a favor. As it turns out missing kind of forced us to get him back on the dirt.”
Kid Grindstone overcame the hoof bruise, and was back training steadily. The team had circled the Sea ‘O Erin on the Arlington turf as a late summer goal, but in order to make it into the race on edge, they needed to find a prep.
“Finally we got his feet right, and he’s feeling good,’ Campbell recalled. “It was the day before nominations for the Dr. Fager were due and I told Mr. Wexler I thought we could win. We went into that race with two very average, non-taxing works and in our mind we figured if nothing else it would be a good prep for the Sea O’Erin. We entered him, and the son of a gun won it. He can run all day long, and he’s very determined. When he’s in a horse race, he doesn’t like to lose.”
He returned to the turf five weeks later for the Sea O’ Erin, only to finish a non-threatening eighth.
“We had no excuse in the Sea O’Erin, other than I shouldn’t be running him on turf,” Campbell admitted. “Jesse (Mike’s son and jockey Campbell) had him in a good spot, gave him a shot, lined him up straight, made a little move but when they re-broke the better turf horses ran on and we stayed flat. We got dusted. We licked our wounds, started refocusing on getting him back on dirt, and the Gold Cup became our focus.”
It was on to Canterbury for the $40,000 Minneapolis Stakes, a race that would serve as his prep for the Gold Cup.
“The track came up so bad that they (Canterbury management) actually talked about canceling,” Campbell said. “By any good measure of horsemanship, I should have probably never risked this kind of a horse on that kind of a surface. I did because we knew he was the best horse, and that if he didn’t run, we probably couldn’t get him to go ten furlongs off works.”
“He was blocked the entire way around,” Campbell continued. “We didn’t run a mile and 70 yards, we ran 3/16ths of a mile. Jesse saw an inch of daylight, split horses, hit the finish wire in front, galloped out immediately six or seven lengths passed everybody into the turn, and he was a bear to pull up. He’s had two fabulous works since. He’s ready to rock. Gold Cup here we come.”
Kid Grindstone has never run a race over Hawthorne’s main track, nor has he ever been tested over nine furlongs.
“He’s got a great respiratory system, his legs are perfect, and I wouldn’t trade chances with any two horses in the race,” Campbell said with confidence.
His game plan for Saturday and a prediction of the outcome?
“If the speed doesn’t get away, we’ll win the race,” Campbell said. “If they pound this track down into a very hard and fast surface, and nobody goes with that horse from Emerald Downs (Flamethrowintexan) we’ll have a tough time catching up. We’ll sit last, and have at ‘em down this long stretch.”
Campbell also has No Tolerance, a horse he also claimed for last spring at Oaklawn for $30,000, set to go in Saturday’s Grade III Carey Memorial over the Hawthorne turf.
“Unlike Kid Grindstone, he’s not rateable,” Campbell said of No Tolerance. “He’ll try to build the lead and hold on.”
“This is exciting stuff,” Campbell continued. “These are two significant horses. Trainers wait a lifetime to run in races like this. I feel very fortunate to have two, running on the same day, in my own backyard.”Gold Cup Notes:
Although all three are entered at Turfway for Saturday’s $350,000 Grade II Kentucky Cup Classic, Hawthorne stakes coordinator Debby Lindsay has reason to believe that Alumni Hall, Good Reward and It’s No Joke could all be entered in the Gold Cup as well. Entries will be drawn Thursday morning.
The $500,000 Grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap, 1 ¼ miles, 3yo&up (with trainer):
Probable: Flamethrowintexan (Penney), Papi Chullo (Vargas), Kid Grindstone (Campbell), A. P. Arrow (Pletcher), Nolan’s Cat (Romans) and Summer Book (O’Callaghan).
Possible: Alumni Hall (Howard), Good Reward (McGaughey) and It’s No Joke (R. Maker).
For a list of nominations and past performances for the Gold Cup, Carey and Indian Maid, go to www.hawthorneracecourse.com/horsemen_tb/stakes.php.
The 2006 fall Thoroughbred meet at Hawthorne Race Course runs September 15 through December 31 with live racing five days per week: Wednesday through Sunday (except Nov. 23). The dark days are Monday and Tuesday (except Oct. 9). Post time on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday is 1:10 p.m. Friday post time through November 17 is 3 p.m., at which time it will revert back to 1:10 p.m. for the remainder of the meet.
Hawthorne’s spring 2006 Standardbred meet ran May 6 through June 17.
Hawthorne’s spring 2006 Thoroughbred meet ran February 24 through May 2.
For more information visit www.hawthorneracecourse.com.
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