“He really enjoys being a racehorse,” said Dutrow of Giant Wrecker, who previously was trained by Mark Hennig. “He’s happy, man. He likes it. All of us horse people care about our horses as if they were our children, and when they’re around as long as he’s been, they become someone really special to their connections. A lot goes into planning their campaigns. Mark did a great job with him.”
“He really has been a wonderful old horse, consistent through the years,” said Dutrow.
Owned and bred by Edward P. Evans, Giant Wrecker has been thoughtfully managed throughout his career, and will be making only his fourth start of the year in Sunday’s 28th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Kelso at a mile on the turf at Belmont Park. The Pilgrim and the Miss Grillo, a pair of Grade 3 juvenile turf races originally scheduled for Sunday, will be run on Wednesday, October 1.
Fifth in his 2008 debut in July, he came back and led almost every step of the Grade 3 Oceanport Handicap, only to miss by a neck to Silver Tree, and next changed gears, coming from off the pace to get a late lead and hold for third in the Grade 3 Red Bank at a mile behind Buffalo Man and Icy Atlantic.
“His races this year have been outstanding,” said Dutrow. “We think that a mile is probably his best distance, and we’re hoping he gets the kind of turf that will be to his liking on Sunday. Softer turf is not his favorite, but we don’t have a lot of reasons to think it will hurt him.”
Another veteran coming into the Kelso is Dion Recachina’s Operation Red Dawn, who has never been worse than third in nine trips over Belmont Park’s turf courses. A rallying third in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch at Saratoga in his last start, and third to Kip Deville and Godolphin Racing’s Tam Lin, another Kelso starter, in the Grade 3 Poker prior to that, the 6-year-old gelded son of Miswaki owns a victory in an optional claimer going nine furlongs here over a good course on June 5.
Soft turf should be very much to the liking of Barry K. Schwartz’s Stalingrad, who just missed scoring the biggest victory of his career in August at Saratoga Race Course, when he was second by a neck to Red Giant in the Grade 2 Fourstardave over a yielding course.
The Fourstardave was the 4-year-old gelded son of Glitterman’s second stakes start, having finished last behind Dancing Forever after pressing the pace in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap at a mile and one quarter.
“He was too fresh in the Manhattan,” said Hushion. “He never settled and didn’t have any chance.”
Something of a late bloomer, Stalingrad took a while to come into his own, finishing a close-up second after being switched to the turf last fall and finally breaking his maiden in his sixth start last December after being sent to California. Upon his return to New York, he scored two good-looking victories over firm ground before jumping into Grade 1 company in the Manhattan.
“Some time in the future we might try to run him long again,” said Hushion. “Once he started running good, he put it together. I think it’s a combination of the turf, and maturity. He was a bit of a goofy kid.”
Completing the field are Stronach Stables’ Media Play, one for two on the turf, and Zayat Stables’ Forefathers, who has but one start on the turf. However, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said Forefathers will run only in the highly unlikely event the course is firm, or, if the race comes off the turf, over a track that is not sloppy.
The field for the Grade 2, $250,000 Kelso:
PP Horse Jockey Trainer
1 Media Play John Velazquez Justin Nixon
2 Forefathers Kent Desormeaux Bill Mott
3 Tam Lin Javier Castellano Saeed bin Suroor
4 Giant Wrecker Cornelio Velasquez Anthony Dutrow
5 Operation Red Dawn Ramon Dominguez Christophe Clement
6 Stalingrad Channing Hill Mike Hushion