Saturday, March 17, 2012
Hail the Conquering (Local) Heroine
HALLANDALE BEACH, FLA., March 17, 2012--There's just a different, special kind of feeling when a local horse makes good.
And when that horse is a defending champion who never threatened to win its season's debut over a month ago, it makes the story that much sweeter.
The champ, Musical Romance, is back.
There were extenuating circumstances in her defeat, but that's no guarantee of future victory, of course. As it turned out, however, wishes were horses.
Normally, taking a hunk of flesh off the back of a foreleg, "grabbing a quarter," isn't all that serious, but it is painful. The problem is that the injury Musical Romance sustained in her Sunshine Millions return got infected.
She didn't leave her stall for four days and didn't resume serious training for three weeks. The fact that she could return to defeat a gateful of fillies and mares in the Grade 2 Inside Information is testimony to her heart and class.
And a pretty damn good job by Bill Kaplan to get her ready, a hands on "Calder trainer" in charge of this "Calder horse" that went from nice filly to champion in a memorable 2011 campaign, culminating with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
Gulfstream Park is, according to the publicists, "Florida's biggest racetrack." If that is so, the Calder is its soul, the home of South Florida racing throughout most of the year.
For this race, “[Musical Romance] breezed beautifully,” Kaplan said, “and when we got her back, and she was OK, I knew she would be ready for this race.”
Ready, indeed, and, with a very able assist from her regular partner, Juan Leyva, a “Calder jockey,” won another big race.
“I call Juan ‘The Iceman,’ the trainer said. "He just sat in the pocket and waited and then got through. I was afraid [the hole] wouldn’t open up but then she came right on through there.”
Came though there she did, a tack that has become a trademark, the ability to jump into the breach and emerge victorious on the other side.
“I was in tight a little bit,” Leyva said, “but it was just a matter of being patient, waiting. I had a lot in the tank. I know once I ask this filly she’s going to go through anything. This filly is awesome.”
The crowd of connections and well-wishers who flooded the winners’ circle also had their priorities. “Let’s go cash,” one said, and about half the group left the circle. They collected $11.20 for every deuce.
So, what’s next?
“It’s always day-to-day,” said Kaplan. “The tentative schedule of races for her are the Vinery Madison (Keeneland, April 12), the Humana Distaff (Churchill Downs, May 5) and back to Calder for the Princess Rooney (Grade 1, Calder, July 7).”
Back to Calder, back home.
Meet the New Boss
Javier Castellano has had quite a season here at the 2011-2012 stand, and now he’s in the record books, breaking the record for most wins during a Gulfstream race meet when he won his 98th race of the meeting in the opener aboard Repenter.
Castellano set the record on the 72nd day of live racing, eclipsing three riders who were tied with 97 Gulfstream Park meet victories. It had taken Jerry Bailey 64 days to win 97 GP races: Wigberto Ramos 81 and Julio Pezua, still riding occasionally in New York, only 50 days.
“It’s a great day in my life,” Castellano said. “I’ve been doing so well lately. I’ve been so lucky. I’ve had a lot of help from all the owners and trainers and my agent, Matt Muzikar. It’s been a great meeting. I won my 3000th race and I’ve been riding a lot of good horses. I’m looking forward to my next goal, the Kentucky Derby.”
Toward that end, he’s sitting aboard two loaded guns; Risen Star winner El Padrino and the undefeated Gemologist, a very impressive allowance winner here Friday, both trained by Todd Pletcher. “Hopefully, I can win it.”
Castellano has seven mounts on the Sunday card, seeking to add to his meet record 98 winners and has the ride aboard Entrustment for Marty Wolfson in the day’s featured Honey Fox Stakes. Castellano has won seven stakes races at the session.