Very few horses break their maiden in a graded stakes race, but Battle Hardened may yet prove to be that rarest of racehorses after the spring’s classics have been run. Waterford native Eddie Kenneally wasn’t sure which way to go with the 3-year-old colt; he’d entered him in a maiden race at Gulfstream Park on Saturday and cross-entered him in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, a Kentucky Derby prep, at Tampa Bay Downs the same day.
Kenneally opted to ship to Tampa to good effect. Battle Hardened, ridden by Julien Leparoux, won the Davis convincingly by just over a length after stalking the pacesetters. Despite his lack of a win, Battle Hardened went off the third choice in the 11-horse field and paid $11.00 to win.
“This was a really good bunch of quality horses, but no stars, and that was one reason we decided to take a shot today,” said Kenneally of Battle Hardened. “He’s been training brilliantly and we were happy with how he was coming into the race, so we decided to come here and get some of the big money.
“He showed a little more professionalism today [than he had in his three previous races]. He relaxed nicely in the thick of things. He was in a group of horses in tight and he had plenty of reasons to back out of there if he wanted to, but he showed a little bit of gameness and a little bit of toughness like you want to see going forward to the bigger races down the road.”
Kenneally described the March 10 Tampa Bay Derby as “very likely” for Battle Hardened’s next appearance under silks. The son of Giant’s Causeway is owned by Susan Magnier and Michael Tabor.
The Coolmore people may also have a runner in Festive Spirit, winner of Friday’s eighth race, a first-level allowance around two turns, at Laurel. The 3-year-old Malibu Moon colt was patiently ridden by Sheldon Russell and closed in time to reach the wire in front by almost two lengths. The Todd Pletcher trainee paid $3.60 to win.
Another happy camper is Kiaran McLaughlin, who saddled Godolphin Racing’s Alpha to victory in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday. Alpha, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, was never seriously threatened in this race, in which he stalked the pacesetters and pulled away in the lane to register a 3-length victory. The win price was $2.70. McLaughlin said that the March 3 Gotham Stakes at the Big A is likely for Alpha’s next start.
A RINGING ENDORSEMENT
Harkening back to the Triple Crown trail of 2010, a promising colt of that year named Endorsement went wrong soon after winning the Sunland Derby and was shelved by his owners, the WinStar Farm, who ended up in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs anyway, thanks to Super Saver. Fast forward almost two years and now Endorsement has been turned over to Eoin Harty and races for Bill Casner, one of the WinStar principals. Now five years old, Endorsement set a track record in Gulfstream Park’s fourth race, a second-level allowance race on the main track.
Ridden by Leparoux, Endorsement led every step of the way in getting the mile and one-sixteenth in 1:42.35, winning by just over two lengths. He paid $3.60 as the heavy favorite. Endorsement, a son of Distorted Humor, had been second in his two prior starts at Gulfstream since returning from the sidelines.
Friday’s card at Golden Gate Fields yielded a pair of wins favoring the Irish. Harty shipped Boud, Laird and Levy’s Wild Date up north to capture a maiden claiming mile on the main track. Wild Date, a 3-year-old filly, had given no hint of being competitive in five races downstate, so Harty found a spot where she could do. Aaron Gryder got her home in front by just over a length as the favorite. She paid $5.60.
That day’s eighth race saw Daniel O’Neill’s English Royal skip home a 3-length winner under Frank Alvarado against a field of open claiming filly and mare sprinters at the $32,000 level. The 4-year-old filly was claimed two races back for O’Neill (an Irish native) by trainer Steve Specht off of Jerry Hollendorfer. She ran second against allowance company last time. The win price on English Royal was $5.60.
Derrick Fisher’s Tippety Tap Tap put the wagering public on notice that he was sitting on a win when he ran second at 40-1 at Santa Anita on Jan. 2. The Pat Gallagher runner consummated the deal with his victory in the seventh race on Saturday’s card in Arcadia, Calif. David Flores sat midpack on the 5-year-old gelding before launching a rally in the stretch that saw them get up to win by a length against this field of first-level allowance runners. The win price came back $22.00 despite the good prior race.
Daniela Lynch’s Wayne the Train sure had been dropping hints that he was sitting on a win. He’d hit the board in each of his five previous starts before taking Tuesday’s seventh race, a $7,500 claiming mile for non-winners of three career races, at Parx. He chased the early pace and left no doubt as he pulled away in the stretch for a 5-length tally with Angel Arroyo aboard. Cathal Lynch trains the 4-year-old gelding for his wife. The win price was $4.60.
Cathal Lynch then got a win at Laurel out of his own Crosseyed in Thursday’s eighth race, a non-winners of three claiming sprint at the $30,000 tier. The 5-year-old gelding won his first two career starts last June at Parx, but then had settled mostly for minor awards in seven subsequent outings until scoring by three-quarters of a length under Angel Arroyo as the heavy favorite. He paid $4.00 to win.