Son of Posse finished third in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes behind Positive Response, the Spiral Stakes 3-1 morning line favorite. “I think we have a good shot,” said Son of Posse’s trainer, Rhiannan Vitiello. “I don’t know if we can beat the favorite. My horse likes to stalk right behind and give a couple bursts of speed. I expect he will be laying third or fourth if he gets a good start and doesn’t get bumped around.”
Son of Posse has been in Vitiello’s care only three weeks, since Karma Stables transferred him to Kentucky from Philadelphia, where he was trained by Janis Gerace. The 1 1/16-mile John Battaglia Memorial was his first race for Vitiello. “The owners wanted to try him in a stakes race and thought he was better than the allowances he was running at Philly. And they missed a lot of training due to all the bad weather in Philadelphia. So they moved him here.
“They claimed him out of his first race, sort of on the spur of the moment. They believe in their karma. They liked how he looked and took him.”
Bourbonette Oaks (G3) and Rushaway Stakes
Trainer Larry Jones brings speed in the sleek form of Summer Soiree to the $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks (G3), a one-mile prep for the Kentucky Oaks (G1). The filly comes in to the Bourbonette off a 9 3/4-length front-running victory in an allowance race at Oaklawn, her first race at the Arkansas track. She had previously raced at Delaware Park, scoring her maiden win and three thirds along with a couple of off-the-board finishes that began her career.
“She ran very well at Oaklawn,” said Jones. “As soon as we got her down there we could tell she preferred the Oaklawn track to Delaware. It’s not so much that she figured (racing) out but that she preferred the track.”
Noting that Summer Soiree has never raced on Polytrack, Jones grinned and said, “Well, she’s a Danzig (who sired her sire, War Front) and I had a Danzig that did pretty well there at Turfway,” referring to Hard Spun, who in 2007 won what was then the Lane’s End Stakes as well as the Kentucky Cup Classic. “I galloped her this morning and she loved it. She got over it like she was bred for it. I had entered her in (Oaklawn’s) Honeybee with Joyful Victory but the horse right next to her in the gate had a bug rider and I thought I didn’t want to do that in a Grade 3, so we scratched and came here. We’ve been talking about this race for a little while. It’s been on our radar.”
Summer Soiree breezed at Oaklawn on Monday, going five furlongs in :58.40, the best of 16 at the distance.
Jones won the Bourbonette Oaks in 2008 with Maren’s Meadow.
Jones also has a live entry in the $100,000 listed Rushaway Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile test for three-year-olds. The Ole Gen won a hard-fought battle last out, defeating Supreme Ruler by a head in an allowance race at Oaklawn. “He’s very determined,” Jones said. “He actually made the lead in that race coming into the stretch and then got passed around the eighth pole, and he came back. He has the attitude for racing.”
Jones said The Ole Gen also preferred the Oaklawn surface to Delaware’s, but after taking him to the Turfway track Thursday morning the trainer was less sure about the colt’s affinity for Polytrack. “He really trained well at Oaklawn. I wish I could say he took to the Polytrack right away like Summer Soiree did. I can say I was happier at the end of his gallop than at the beginning. It seemed like he was figuring it out.
“I can tell you that seeing how he was going over it made me feel that much better about Summer Soiree.”
The Ole Gen also breezed Monday, finishing his five furlongs in :59.20, second-fastest of the 16.
Owner Jim Covello, a 38-year-old analyst from New Providence, N.J., has about 10 horses in training, half of which were purchased privately after their racing careers commenced. Two of those—both brand new acquisitions—will be in the starting gate at Turfway Park on Saturday: Lilacs and Lace in the Bourbonette and Swift Warrior in the Rushaway. Both will be saddled for the first time by New York-based trainer John Terranova and ridden for the first time by Javier Castellano.
“Lilacs and Lace is a horse that bloodstock agent Nick Sallusto brought to my attention,” said Covello, who purchased a share of the filly from her breeders Judy Hicks and Katherine Nikkel. “I really liked what she did last time out (a win in the California Oaks on New Year’s Day at Golden Gate Fields) when she took the blinkers off. I think she’s a filly that wants to go longer. We actually shipped her to Fair Grounds for the Rachel Alexandra stakes, but she tied up very slightly just ahead of the race, so we did the safe thing by scratching her. She has really thrived since then. She’s been breezing great at Palm Meadows, and I think she is ready to run a big race.”
Swift Warrior was purchased on the advice of both Sallusto and Thoro-Graph owner Jerry Brown.
“I’m an avid user of Thoro-Graph figures in my handicapping, and Jerry Brown will also make recommendations to clients about horses to buy,” said Covello, who owns the First Samurai colt in partnership with James Dolan. “Nick looked at Swift Warrior as well, and we made the deal.
“The horse is doing phenomenally well and has put on a hundred pounds since we got him. That’s a tribute to John Terranova, who I think is a tremendous, underrated trainer. I thought long and hard about running Swift Warrior in the Spiral instead, but I knew that Javier Castellano was committed to ride King Congie in that race, and in the Rushaway we’d be getting weight, and we’d also be getting Javier.”
Trainer Ken McPeek hopes to repeat in the Bourbonette Oaks, which he won last year with Orchestrator. His filly Harlan’s Ruby likely will be one of the top picks based on her impressive record on Polytrack. She won at a mile at Turfway exactly a month ago in the Valdale Stakes and last fall was second, beaten just two lengths, in the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland.
“She’s done really well. She has several good races on synthetic surfaces,” said McPeek. “(Jockey) Perry (Ouzts) did a great job with her last time (in the Valdale) and I expect another good race this time.”
Harlan’s Ruby breezed last Saturday at Keeneland, going five furlongs in 1:01.40. She will ship up to Turfway on race day.
McPeek also will saddle Hyperlink in the $50,000 Queen Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares. “She set a track record at Tampa Bay Downs and then was a little flat at Gulfstream but she’s done everything right since we bought her. We only had her for her last three races and won two of them,” he said.
Graham Motion, who will saddle Animal Kingdom in the Spiral and Crimson China in the Rushaway, brings Marion Ravenwood to the Bourbonette. “She worked (Monday),” Motion said, referring to a 1:05.40 grass workout at Palm Meadows in Florida. “She is a filly we have always thought a lot of. I entered her in the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, but she didn’t draw in. The Bourbonette then became our next option.
In addition to the Queen, the Rushaway, and the Bourbonette Oaks, the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes undercard also includes the six-furlong $50,000 Hansel Stakes for three-year-olds.
The first of 12 live races Saturday at Turfway goes off at 1:10 p.m., but the gates open at 9:30 a.m., half an hour earlier than previously announced, for the simulcast of the Dubai World Cup races from Meydan Racecourse. The five stakes races at Turfway begin with the Queen at about 3:35 p.m., followed by the Hansel, the Bourbonette, the Rushaway and the Spiral Stakes.
While the weather is expected to be chilly, Turfway’s commodious grandstand offers plenty of first-come, first-served seating with $10 general admission. Parking is free.