“We got in about ten o’clock this morning and he was bouncing around when he got off the van and everything looked good,” trainer Ron Faucheux said. “He’s been training great, and our plan was to get him here with enough time to get in a work over the track, which we’ll probably do on Sunday.”
“I hope having him in that barn is going to bring back some of those good memories,” Faucheux said.
Through the early stages of his racing career, while under the tutelage of trainer Michael Hushion, Gantry competed with some success on both dirt and turf, and was experimented with at distances up to a mile-and-a-sixteenth, including a close fifth in the Grade 3 Jaipur over seven furlongs of Belmont green.
But after prevailing in a six-furlong dirt allowance at Belmont in late November, Gantry found himself on a van headed for New Orleans, and a new home with Faucheux.
“He was purchased privately with thoughts on making him a dirt sprinter,” Faucheux said. “The old owner tried some different things with him, and he does have pretty good turf breeding, but I believe he is at his best, and is most comfortable, as a stalking sprinter.”
That belief proved immediately true as Gantry won his first start at Fair Grounds, the $75,000 Thanksgiving Handicap. The son of Pulpit then prevailed in his second start for Faucheux, the $75,000 F. W. Gaudin Memorial Stakes, before completing his Louisiana hat-trick when taking the $150,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes.
From there, the 5-year-old gelding was sent to Churchill Downs for his biggest test-to-date, an assignment in the Churchill Downs Handicap.
“He was training great and we thought we would take a chance in a big race on Derby Day and see just how good he was,” Faucheux said. “The race didn’t really set up the way we wanted. He didn’t get a good break and never showed his usual strong punch. But to run third to those two horses, we were still happy.”
With the Smile as his next target, Faucheux began preparations for the race at his current home base, Evangeline Downs Training Center, where the gelding has posted three published workouts since his last start. The final piece of the preparatory puzzle will be put in place at Calder.
“The training center at Evangeline is a pretty deep surface, which I think helps when coming to a track like this,” Faucheux said. “And like I said, we’ve got him here with enough time to get him acclimated and to get him a work. That can only help.”
Faucheux will employ the riding services of Richard Eramia for the Smile. Eramia, far and away the leading rider at the current Louisiana Downs meet, has been aboard Gantry in all four of his starts for Faucheux.
“He’s the best rider in Louisiana,” the trained said.
BOUQUET BOOTH AND NICOLE H ARRIVE FOR PRINCESS ROONEY
Also arriving at Calder on Thursday morning was Right Time Racing, LLC’s Bouquet Booth, a 4-year-old filly slated to contest the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap.
Trained by Steve Margolis, Bouquet Booth exits a commanding six-length victory in a top-shelf allowance at Churchill Downs on May 24.
Last year, the daughter of Flower Alley won the $100,000 Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds and was beaten just over three lengths when fifth in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.
Bouquet Booth will call barn 30 her temporary home while at Calder.
Another Princess Rooney hopeful cleared the Calder stable gate Wednesday morning with Gem, Inc.’s Nicole H arriving from New York. In her last start, the daughter of Mr. Greeley finished second when beaten a neck in the Grade 2 Vagrancy at Belmont.
Nicole H was led to barn 72 where she is housed with trainer Dave Fawkes.
KENNEALLY UNDECIDED AS TO SUMMIT STATUS
Trainer Eddie Kenneally, who currently has split stables at Belmont Park and Churchill Downs, nominated three horses to the Summit of Speed stakes, although as of Thursday just one remains possible for a local appearance.
“I’d say that Ullapool is on the fence for the Azalea,” Kenneally reported via phone Thursday afternoon. “We’d like to come down and run her, but right now getting her there is the issue.”
Ullapool was claimed by Kenneally for $25,000 out of an eight-length win at Belmont Park on May 24. The daughter of Langfuhr returned three weeks later to dominate starter allowance rivals when prevailing by 9 ½ lengths.