Three starts into the son of Tiger Ridge’s career trainer, Scott Lake feels the timing is perfect for a first attempt in a stakes race even though his charge still has plenty to learn.
So far the youthful exuberance hasn’t kept Ju Jitsu Jax from winning. He rattled off three victories in Delaware and Maryland over eight weeks, starting with his Sept. 8 debut. He has yet to race over a ‘fast’ track and his second start at Laurel Park on Sept. 27 was a “debacle” of a race according to Lake.
“First he takes a total right-hand turn coming out of the gate,” he said. “Then he gets sent up around horses, gets to the lead and then does that thing with his ears and starts waiting again. It’s part of the reason he didn’t get a big (speed) number in the race, but he’s still learning.”
Since his last race, fate helped steer Ju Jitsu Jax to the annual clash of Florida-breds and California-breds. Lake and Cole have been dominant forces in the Mid-Atlantic by picking soft spots across the region. They had a similar plan with this colt, but both are happy Saturday will be the colt’s first stakes test.
“Right after his last race we thought about coming down here, but we looked instead at a stakes at Charles Town that ended up getting canceled,” said Lake. “We would have been favored in a race at Penn National, but they were having problems with their track and weather. In the end, we decided we’d be stupid not to make the Sunshine Millions for all the money it offers.”
Orseno: ‘Snow Cone Won’t Melt in Sunshine Millions’
Live Oak Plantation’s 5-year-old turf mare Snow Cone was doing too good to go on vacation, despite a disappointing finish in her last start, and trainer Joe Orseno convinced her owners she deserved another chance in Saturday’s $500,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park.
The Florida-bred daughter of Cryptoclearance will again face the late Harry Aleo’s Wild Promises after falling too far behind the front-runner in the My Charmer Handicap (G3) at Calder Race Course on Dec. 6. Orseno says the scene shift should improve his charge’s chances.
“I know Wild Promises is a tough filly and she ran a big race last time,” said Orseno Thursday morning. “I think this time there’s more speed to go with her. She shouldn’t get the same easy lead she got at Calder. She got loose on a turf course that was pretty chewed up and most of us had no chance to make up any ground.”
Snow Cone went to Santa Anita for this same race last year and finished in a dead heat for fourth. She won just once in eight starts in 2008, but Orseno says there were plenty of excuses.
“It looks like she hasn’t been running very well, but she’s been in some really rough races,” he said. “Honestly, we know now it looks like she needs to be on the outside. She’s been trapped in a lot of cases and hasn’t been getting a chance to show her best.”
Orseno will call on jockey Joe Bravo – a fellow star on the New Jersey circuit – to deliver the trip that will let Snow Cone show her best.
“I’ve known Joe for 20 years and I really trust him to put this mare where she belongs. I know he’s going to understand what she needs to do and that she’s going to run a big race, because she’s doing really good right now.
McPeek Sets Plans for Talented 3-Year-Olds
Trainer Ken McPeek shipped into South Florida for the winter season with divisions at Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows and high expectations after a good season in 2008. Thanks largely to promising juvenile talent, the Lexington-native has gotten the new campaign off to a fast start with eight winners, including impressive allowance victories by three different 3-year-old colts.
Lansdon Robbins III and Sam Delaney’s Danger to Society and Silver Wing Stable’s Free Country each won ‘a other than’ allowance races at 1 1/8 miles on Jan. 8 and Samotowka Stables and partners’ Theregoesjojo won his ‘a other than’ allowance condition going seven furlongs two days later on Jan. 10. All won over several other highly-regarded young prospects.
“Naturally, we’d like to keep them apart for now,” said McPeek Thursday morning. “Right now we’re looking to run Danger to Society in the ($150,000) Holy Bull Stakes (G3) here (Jan. 31 at 1 1/8 miles), Theregoesjojo in the race at Fair Grounds ($200,000 Risen Star Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 7) and Free Country in the race at Tampa Bay Downs ($225,000 Sam Davis Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 14).”
In addition to this accomplished trio of potential Kentucky Derby (G1) prospects, McPeek also has another highly-regarded 3-year-old colt in Marvin Delfiner and partners’ More Than Willing, although the son of More Than Ready is still a maiden after two starts. He finished a closing third in his debut at Churchill Downs on Nov. 8 and second as the favorite in a six-furlong maiden test on Jan. 3 behind highly regarded Checklist.
“He’s entered for a race Sunday. He’s got to get past his maiden, but we certainly think he has the potential to go on to bigger objectives once he gets that (maiden) done. It’s a nice problem to have (keeping the talented 3-year-olds apart).”
McPeek picked out for purchase three of the four youngsters at different yearling sales: Danger to Society (by Harlan’s Holiday) for $300,000 at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July, Theregoesjojo (by Brahms) for $42,000 at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October and More Than Willing for $140,000 at Keeneland September. Free Country was purchased by his owner for $10,500 as a weanling at the Keeneland November sales.
While the colts in the McPeek barn are making most of the news so far this season, the stable also hopes to be well represented by 3-year-old fillies as the season unfolds with Live the Dream Racing’s Dream Empress and Steve Stan Stable’s Striking Dancer each about to begin serious training.
“They both got a month off after their last races last year, so they are about 30 days behind the colts,” said McPeek. “Both are ready for their first breeze of the season in about a week and could be ready to run by late February or early March. They’re both on schedule.”
Dream Empress is a daughter of Bernstein who ranked among leaders of her division last year after winning the Alcibiades Stakes (G1) at Keeneland on Oct. 3 and finishing a game second three weeks later in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Santa Anita on Oct. 24. She subsequently finished fourth as the favorite last out in the Golden Rod Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 29.
Striking Dancer is a chestnut daughter of Smart Strike that has shown her best on turf so far, breaking her maiden at Churchill Downs by 5 ¾ lengths on Nov. 1 in her third career start. She started with two good tries sprinting, and finished a fast-closing second in the Caressing Stakes over the Churchill course on Nov. 29.
In addition to running Danger to Society in the Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 31, McPeek will send out Allen Paulson Living Trust’s 7-year-old A.P. Arrow in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) that afternoon as the son of A.P. Indy makes his first start since finishing seventh behind Curlin in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park on Sept. 27.
The homebred chestnut will be making his first start since being placed with McPeek after trainer Todd Pletcher guided his career through earnings of nearly $1.5 million with highlights including victory in the 2007 Clark Handicap (G2) at Churchill Downs and a half-length runner-up finish behind Spring At Last in the Donn last year.