Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Barn Notes 2-25

Vanquisher Gets Big League Call-up for Major League Operation

Be it the New York Yankees or Kinsman Stable, the Steinbrenner family has always been familiar with moving talented athletes from the farm, through the minors and eventually to the big leagues.

The family’s 5-year-old gelding Vanquisher doesn’t yet deserve to be compared with Derek Jeter, but he has the potential to make a splash on the big stage in Saturday’s $150,000 Canadian Turf Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.

The son of Gulch has won three straight since getting demoted last November from Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s stable to the minor league string trained by Greg Griffith at Tampa Bay Downs. He struggled in most of his stakes attempts before getting his wake-up call last fall and he now exits a half-length victory in the Tallahassee Stakes here on Feb. 7.

“He always did enjoy running at Tampa,” said Griffith. “I never had to do anything major with him. Just minor things and train him a little differently. I think he just took to the different atmosphere. Fortunately for me the Steinbrenners said since the horse was doing well for me, he would stay with me.”

Three of Vanquisher’s six career wins have come at Tampa, but he now has two victories over the turf course here at Gulfstream after the Tallahassee win. He broke his maiden on this course in 2007, beating eventual stakes winner Duveen.

Griffith has been working on maintaining Vanquisher’s form after his last-to-first move in his last start.

“He came out of his last race great,” he said pointing to a five-furlong breeze last Friday in 1:01 4/5 at Tampa Bay. “We haven’t had to do too much with him and have just been maintaining and keeping him on that path, because his last race was pretty big.”

Griffith is originally from New York where his grandfather galloped horses for ‘Sunny Jim’ Fitzsimmons and his father was an official with the New York Racing Association for 30 years. In addition his brother and cousins all were jockeys or exercise riders. He has been working for the Steinbrenners for five years.

“At first we were just working with the lower-level horses,” said Griffith. “As they’ve started to breed more Florida-breds, business has picked up and we started a string at Calder last year.”

Jack Spratt Jumps into Deep End in Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth

Thomas Conway and partners’ 3-year-old turf stakes winner Jack Spratt has completed his preparations for a surface switch when he starts in Saturday’s $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park.

Trainer Mike Maker sent the son of Candy Ride for a drill on the Gulfstream main track Monday morning, breezing a half-mile in 48 2/5. It was the colt’s fourth workout since winning the Dania Beach Stakes here on Jan. 17.

“He worked well – just a maintenance work at this point,” said Maker Wednesday morning. “He’s got plenty of racing in him and he’s been training on the dirt much better than he ever did at Churchill Downs. It’s just a matter if he’s good enough.”

Jack Spratt will team with jockey Rene Douglas in Saturday’s one-mile test, hopefully to jump on the road to the Florida Derby (G1) and the Kentucky Derby (G1).

With his turf background and closing style, strategy discussions between Maker and Douglas won’t be complicated, especially with speedy stakes winners This Ones for Phil and Notonthesamepage in the race.

“It won’t be that hard to figure out what he wants to do,” said Maker. “He’s no where near as quick as those horses and he’s pretty much going to place himself where he wants to be and we will see from there.”

Plesa Stakes Runners Take Their Chances in Saturday Stakes

Trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr. sends out J. Robert Harris, Jr.’s 3-year-old Bee Cee Cee in the $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Bea Oxenberg’s 4-year-old Hey Byrn is entered in the $150,000 Canadian Turf Stakes (G3) Saturday at Gulfstream Park, both longshots with credentials trying something new.

“Bee Cee Cee closed in the stretch going seven-eighths (3rd in Hutcheson Stakes) last time and we’ll see if likes a longer distance going a mile for the first time,” said Plesa Wednesday morning. “He needs to run and there really isn’t any other spot for him.

“Last summer at Monmouth Park I worked Hey Byrn on the turf and was getting ready to try him on it, but that’s when he got sick” Hey Byrn finished a disappointing fourth in the Long Branch Stakes (G3) on July 12 and didn’t run again until November at Calder.

Bee Cee Cee finished third behind Capt. Candyman Can in the Hutcheson Stakes (G2) on Jan. 30 after hitting the gate at the start. The son of Songandaprayer won two of six starts last year at Calder and finished third behind Notonthesamepage in the six-furlong Spectacular Bid Stakes in his 3-year-old debut here on Jan. 3.

Hey Byrn is a 4-year-old son of Put It Back that has won four of six starts at Gulfstream during his 14-race career, but will be making his first start ever on turf in the Canadian. He won the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) here early last year and an allowance race early in this meet, but bids to bounce back from finishing 10th of 12 in the Sunshine Millions Classic here on Jan. 24.

Plesa has Trilogy Stable and his wife Laurie’s 3-year-old homebred filly Ameribelle nominated for Sunday’s $150,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) at one mile, but will pass on that spot. The homebred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro finished a game second by a neck last out in the Suncoast Stakes going one mile and 40 yards at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 14.

“I’m going to go back to Tampa for the Graded stakes with her,” said Plesa. “It’s two turns and any Graded black-type would mean a lot to us since we have several horses in the family, including the dam.” The $200,000 Florida Oaks (G3) will be run on Sat., Mar. 14 at 1 1/6 miles on the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) program.

Ameribelle is out of Miz United Stakes, a daughter of Valid Appeal that won the rich My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder in 1999 for the same connections that retain the mare and siblings.

Another Trilogy Stable homebred stakes runner in the barn is 5-year-old sprint star Yesbyjimminy, who finished a disappointing seventh last out behind Georgie Boy in the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita on Jan. 24 after posting six consecutive victories at Calder, including the Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap (G3).

“He just didn’t care for the (Pro-Ride) track. I haven’t had much luck going out there (Santa Anita),” said Plesa. “Last year I took Gottcha Gold and Electrify to run in the Classic and neither one did any good, but both of them came back and won stakes.

“I plan to run him (Yesbyjimminy) in the sprint stakes here next week,” referring to the $75,000 Sunshine State Stakes for Florida-breds at seven furlongs on Sat., Mar. 7. A homebred son of Yes It’s True, Yesbyjimminy has run once previously at Gulfstream, finishing second by a half-length in the Aventura Stakes as a 3-year-old early in 2007.

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