Arlington International Festival of Racing Notes (8/12/15)
Contact: Michael Adolphson
In today's notes:
QUIET FORCE A BIG HORSE WITH BIG HOPES FOR WARNER
“I’m just a small guy with a big horse,” Kevin Warner quipped.
Humble in delivery and palpably personable, the principal of Warner Thoroughbreds is preparing his graded stakes winner Quiet Force – a $40,000 claim one year ago – for the biggest battle of his career, the Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million XXXIII on Aug. 15. While the son of Dynaformer is sure to be tested, it is Warner’s own trials and adversity that have led the two to Saturday’s marquee event.
“The reason I got into racing goes back to when I was the manager of the University of Kentucky basketball team. During the summers, I worked at Gainesway Farm and rubbed on yearlings. I loved it and I said if I ever had an opportunity to get into racing, I would.
“Then, two years ago, I had a brain tumor as big as my fist,” Warner continued with lucid sincerity. “I have a big scar in my skull where they took the tumor out. They told me I would have to have physical therapy and maybe speech therapy afterward – but I came out fine. I had no issues at all and was even released to drive a car in nine days.
“That’s when I decided that I was going to live life and do what I wanted to do – and one of those things was to get into horseracing,” he said. “I started planting seeds and educating myself, instead of just jumping into it. As far as Quiet Force, I looked at every claiming race every day for about three months and I didn't find anything. Then I saw him and I loved the Dynaformer and that he was bred by (Wertheimer & Frere). Plus, I know (Hall of Fame trainer Richard) Mandella had him and I know he was conservative and took care of him. It was a four-way shake at $40,000 and Dan Blacker, who is a good young trainer, put in the claim for us. Then I gave him to Mike (Maker), who trains my horses.”
Quiet Force has gone from minor stakes winner and ex-claimer to one of the logical choices in one of the most prestigious turf races in the world. In just two starts in the last 13 months, the brilliantly bred 5-year-old six-time winner has shown enough talent to be seen as the most improved and among the most dangerous horse in the race.
Flourishing under the care of Maker, the good-looking dark bay began his season in an allowance event at Parx on May 26, finishing third with a flourish behind well-regarded Mr. Online. Six weeks later and moving up in trip for the first time beyond 1 1/8 miles, the son of Group I-placed Quiet Royal displayed grit and class when taking the Million’s local prep, the Grade III $100,000 Arlington Handicap on July 11 over 1 3/16 miles. Left in his wake that day was Grade I-winning fellow Million runner Up With the Birds, as well as classy Christophe Clement trainee Middleburg.
On Saturday, Robby Albarado, who rode the dark bay charge to victory last year in the $103,000 J. Kenneth Self Stakes Indiana Grand, returns to the saddle after Julien Leparoux guided him to victory in the Arlington Handicap. Quiet Force turned in his final preparatory breeze when going five furlongs in 1:01.80 at Churchill’s Trackside Training Center.
“Mike said he looked great in his work,” Warner said. “I think this will be similar to the Arlington Handicap in that we are flying a little bit under the radar and I'm fine with that. I think there are two or three real class stand-outs in the field and I think we can compete.
“The style we ran with Julian in the (Arlington) Handicap actually was not his typical style,” Warner continued. “There wasn’t much pace and Julian had done his homework and did a great job of keeping him closer. He actually barely hit him down the stretch and I think the win was easier than it might have appeared. In this race, there’s definitely going to be some pace and we’ll probably come from off the pace. The post doesn’t matter, except for maybe the rail. Robby rode him in what might have been his best race last year at Indiana. I have all the confidence in the world in Robby.”
A horse who symbolizes living life to its fullest is racing against some of the top equine athletes in the world after having earned his way into the event the hard way is an enthralling storyline. Perhaps even more exciting is that the 6-for-13 Kentucky-bred’s ceiling of potential has yet to be seen – but Warner, who has experienced the power of hope and promise first-hand, is well aware of that. He may be owned by a self-proclaimed small guy, but there is nothing minor about Quiet Force’s place in Arlington Million XXXIII.
EURO CHARLINE: THE CHAMP RETURNS
Team Valor International’s defending Grade I $700,000 Beverly D. champ Euro Charline has made every impression since arriving earlier this week that she is as good or better than last year. A charging winner last year by three-quarters of a length over Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Stephanie’s Kitten, the daughter of Myboycharlie has raced only twice since – a fourth-place finish in the Group I $6,000,000 Dubai Turf at Meydan in March and a runner-up finish last out in the Group I $335,000 Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket in early July.
“She shipped very well and she was very fresh this morning,” assistant trainer Lucie Botti reported. “She has grown up a little bit. She’s traveled a lot since last year, which was her first trip when coming to Arlington. She has traveled to Dubai and Europe and she knows what to do. It makes it a little bit easier.”
Despite only two races, the muscular bay filly seems to have put on more weight and carries herself with a great deal of class.
“She’s done well from three to four, as we expected,” Botti continued. “Her preparation went smoothly. She has moved forward from her race at Newmarket, as we expected her to, and she is ready to run. I haven’t looked too much at the field. I think Secret Gesture and Wedding Vow will be ready and have a good chance. Secret Gesture seems like the one to beat.”
With 2014 pilot Ryan Moore on the sidelines with an injury, American-based jockey Jose Lezcano picks up the mount on the 5-2 morning-line favorite.
“She’s uncomplicated when she runs,” Botti said. “You just take cover and then you give her room to run. She relaxes well and has a great acceleration. Even last year, when Ryan had to move her too soon in order to get position, she still was good enough to get it done. You need a jockey who is going to make those decisions.”
After winning the 2014 decision and becoming the first 3-year-old filly to win the Beverly D., the bay British-bred will look to buck another ‘never been done’ when she attempts to become the first to win back-to-back Beverly D. editions. In fact, no charge has ever won two editions at all.
“They said we couldn’t do it last year because she was a 3-year-old and she did it and beat a good field,” Botti said. “This time they say we can’t do it because no one has won twice. I hope we prove them wrong again.”
Given over to American trainer Todd Pletcher after her Arlington victory last year, Euro Charline was training forwardly in New York for the Grade I $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland until an injury. Needed recovery time and an eye on the Dubai Turf necessitated a move back to the Botti barn.
“It was the right decision of them to take her to America because there was no calendar last year for 3-year-old fillies in England, but it felt great to get her back,” said a relieved Botti. “It always feels nice to get your best filly back in the barn. We were delighted.”
Botti, whose husband Marco is the head trainer, has visited Arlington each of the last three years and never failed to take home a trophy. Prior to taking Euro Charline’s Beverly D., the Newmarket yard landed the first two editions of the American St. Leger with top stayers Jakkalberry and Dandino.
“It’s our fourth time here and we’ve done well,” Botti said. “We’ve brought good horses, which makes it easier. It’s difficult to target the right horses, but that’s the key. Also finding the clients who want to do it is important because you have to put up a lot of money beforehand in order to make the trip. It’s good prize money, but it’s not easy. If the horse doesn’t travel well or doesn’t race well, it’s a big risk.
“We think she will run big here,” Botti concluded. “She’s quirky and tricky, so it’s nice when you can get them to run for you when they’re like that. It’s cool. Not many people in the yard deal with her and the key for her is to know her. We have a system and we know her well and it seems to be working. She still can be tough, but that’s her and that’s what makes her good.”
MAVERICK WAVE RIDING FAMILIAR TIDE TO MILLION
The powerful John Gosden yard returns to Arlington for more Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million glory with Godolphin Racing’s intriguing charge Maverick Wave. Both Godolphin and Gosden have won past Millions, including the former’s Sulamani in 2003 and the latter’s Debussy in 2010. Maverick Wave, an attractive chestnut son of Elusive Quality, draws some interesting parallels to Debussy and could be one to watch, despite never winning above the Group III level.
Marcel Koren, assistant and traveling lad for Gosden, has been extremely pleased with how the Kentucky-bred has taken to his first trip overseas.
“He’s lovely. He was flying for the first time in his life and he took it really good. He is really happy,” Koren said. “It’s a good field of horses and I think he is perfect for this race. He’s been training for this race and is a front-runner and should be placed up there. He breaks well and gets a bit keen if he’s back, so I think he will likely go forward.”
Like Debussy, Maverick Wave has done little except for race consistently and deliberately climb the ladder of stakes classes. Last out, in his first attempt at a Group III, he was a sharp winner in the $91,000 Huxley Stakes at Chester going 1 5/16 miles under William Buick, who has the return call and also rode Debussy. Unlike Debussy, who also won the Huxley, he has been freshened since.
“At Chester, which is a similar tight track to Arlington, he won from the front and that race has had pretty good form,” Koren said. “Cannock Chase is a good horse who was second and the horse who finished third came back and ran well.
“He had a lovely break to freshen him for a month after Chester and has been pointing for Arlington since,” Koren continued. “He’s American-bred and has been running the same types of races as Debussy, who won here at Arlington, so we feel like he can win it.”
SECRET GESTURE LOOKING TO SHINE
After placing in three Group I races in her 14-race career, Qatar Racing Limited and Newsells Park Stud’s Secret Gesture will hope to break through at the top level when she enters the Grade I $700,000 Beverly D. on Saturday at Arlington International Racecourse. A four-time winner, the daughter of Galileo was an eye-opening winner in her first run of the year when taking the Group II $173,000 Middleton Stakes at York on May 14. Since, she was a game fourth in the Group I $279,000 Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh on June 28.
“The trip went well and she traveled good,” reported Gary Plasted, head lad for trainer Ralph Beckett. “She’s quite used to it, actually. I’m hoping she comes back for the Breeders’ Cup, but I don’t know what the boss’s plan is. I hope (the distance) will be okay. We are confident she will like it, otherwise (Beckett) wouldn’t send her. (Euro Charline) is going to be tough.”
Exercise rider James Rogers was also confident in 5-year-old mare.
“In her first run back in England in the Middleton she made all and won it very easily,” he recalled. “I think she will be very tough here if she runs like that. She has plenty of cruising speed and won’t mind the sharp track. I don’t think she’ll mind the distance.”
In her lone stateside trip, the Newsells Park homebred was fifth – beaten only two lengths – in the Grade I $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf in November behind eventual champion Dayatthespa. In that race, she was forwardly placed in third, but could not cut into the winner’s margin after the Chad Brown trainee set soft fractions over Santa Anita’s tight turf course.
BELGIAN BILL AND BOOKRUNNER PRIMED FOR MILLION
Arlington Million outsiders Belgian Bill and Bookrunner have settled in nicely for their respective connections since arriving Sunday evening. Both slated to contest the Grade I $1,000,000 event, they will each be stepping up in trip and class and have been assigned morning-line odds of 30-1 and 15-1, respectively.
PJL’s Belgian Bill was charismatic, playing around on the way to the training track on Tuesday morning. He displayed the same attitude Wednesday, though to a slightly lesser degree under head lad and exercise rider Patrick Murphy.
“He’s very good right now and always a good traveler,” said Murphy. “He’s very fresh and he is definitely enjoying himself.”
The son of Exceed and Excel – also the sire of fellow Million runner Legendary – exits a good second in handicap company over a mile trip just two weeks ago at Goodwood on the good-to-firm ground he relishes. Jamie Spencer picks up the mount from the outside post 13.
Bookrunner, who has only started six times and never raced beyond a mile, has always been highly regarded. He was extremely relaxed both Tuesday and Wednesday mornings training and seems to show no ill effects from the trans-Atlantic trip.
“He’s doing okay,” reported head lad and exercise rider Eric Camus, who represents trainer Mikel Delzangles this week. “I think he’s a good horse. I think he can handle the distance on an American course, but maybe not in Europe. He’s very relaxed and a little lazy, but that’s him.”
Bookrunner, a son of Tiznow, is owned by Papillon Stables and Tony Chedraoui and will start from post three under veteran rider Gerald Mosse.
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