Friday, May 2, 2014

Arlington International Barn Notes: Fri., May 2 - Opening Day

                                Contact: Michael Adolphson
(847) 385-7558
Barn Notes:  May 2, 2014       
In Today's Notes: 
  • Promising Ghostly Wonder Returns in Sunday Feature
  • Nine-Year-Old Illinois Veteran River Bear in Derby Day Stakes

        Many quality juveniles broke their maidens at Arlington International Racecourse in 2013, but few looked as impressive as one of the first to do so – Ted and Jean Barlas' and Diana Jacobs' Ghostly Wonder.  On June 2, the gray son of Corinthian bounded away as the longest shot on the board in a 4 ½-furlong maiden special weight by 4 ½-lengths.  In his wake that day finishing second was another talented gray, subsequent Grade II Swale Stakes winner Spot.  The victory was so impressive that it caught the eye of Irish-based International powerhouse stable Coolmore, who subsequently vetted him to possibly make an offer on the horse. 
Unfortunately, things have not gone as well since his debut.  "He had a little knee issue and he just needed to grow into it," said trainer Andy Hansen.  "With a young horse, you can't keep pounding them with training when that happens, so we decided to give him the time. I kept him the whole time at the barn over the winter."
Ghostly Wonder returned after a 10-month reprieve in a six-furlong allowance at Keeneland on April 12.  "He's a difficult and smart horse," Hansen explained of his race.  "If you don't know him, he'll play with you.  He decided he could get away with not going in the gate that day – then he got aggravated when they forced him.  I think he sulked the first part of the race, then he decided to start running."  After his apparent attitude cost him 15 lengths on the field, the colt made up considerable ground to finish a gaining fourth, 8 ¼-lengths behind.
By the young Pulpit stallion Corinthian out of the female family of Kentucky Oaks odds-on favorite Untapable (also an offspring of a Pulpit stallion), expectations have always been high for the handsome gray.  "I know he's my horse and I can be prejudiced.  He's one of the nicer horses we've ever had; maybe even the best," said Hansen.  "Right now, he's doing so good.  He had a great winter and had that bad race at Keeneland, but he's been training more aggressively since."
"I think he's going to want to go long and maybe grass later on.  We have him nominated for the Mid-America Triple here at Arlington, just in case," Hansen continued.  "This first time (on Sunday) he'll tell us where he wants to go.  (Jockey Danush) Sukie will be on him.  He just needs someone who knows him.  Sukie worked him all winter."  Ghostly Wonder will break from post seven of eight in the six-furlong allowance optional claiming event, which goes as race seven of nine.
        "He defies all odds," trainer Rusty Hellman belted with pride in reference to the star of his barn, the 9-year-old gelding River Bear he conditions for owner/breeder Dana Waier.  On Saturday at Churchill Downs – Kentucky Derby Day – the Illinois-bred son of Unreal Zeal who has made 15 of his 55 starts at Arlington International Racecourse (with three wins, including the 2009 White Oak Handicap) will race in the Grade II Churchill Downs Stakes, where he will face Eclipse finalist Sahara Sky and Grade I winners Capo Bastone and Shakin It Up.
"If he wasn't 110% I wouldn't be here," Hellman explained.  "He's doing great.  He came out of his last race really sharp.  Almost a little too sharp and wound up.  He's always been a handful, so I guess that's a 'good normal' for him.  As he's gotten older, he's mellowed a little bit, but he's acting like he's three or four now.  Maybe it's because he's had 190 days off (before starting his 2014 season).  The girl who galloped him today said he hasn't felt this good in years."
        In his two 2014 races, the late-closing bay won a solid allowance optional claiming event over graded stakes winner Hogy in March, then returned four weeks later to take the restricted Robert S. Molaro Handicap under highweight of 122 pounds, at Hawthorne Race Course. 
"I've always placed him so well his whole life.  There's a part of me that wishes I would have tried him in graded races because he's beaten so many graded stakes winners," said Hellman. "He's sharp right now and as good as he's ever been.  In a perfect world, I would have preferred another week between races, as it's only been two weeks since his last. But, I was looking for a reason why to not run him and he wouldn't give it to me.
"Before he is retired, I wanted to try him in a graded race.  Maybe I'm drinking my bathwater, but he's won 7 of his last 12.  Plus it's an exciting day, Derby Day, and I've always been one to place my horses in as good a spot as I can.  I guess if you don't step him up you never know," he continued. 
As far as the race itself, Hellman greatly respects the formidable competition. "I would like about four or five more speed horses; I wish there was more pace.  But, he is going to run the same race he always runs and (Arlington-based jockey) Timmy (Thornton) knows the horse really well.  If the competition is too much, he will take care of him."
"I take it one race at a time.  I don't know if this is his last year or his last race, but he's given me plenty already," Hellman concluded.  The Churchill Downs goes as race nine of 13.
David ZennerSenior Manager of Communications
Arlington International Racecourse
2200 W. Euclid Ave. Arlington Heights IL 60006-0007
P 847.385.7535│C: 847.371.1670 | F: 847.870.6727│E:


This Churchill Downs Incorporated communication (including any attachments) is intended for the use of the intended recipient(s) only and may contain information that is confidential, privileged or legally protected. Any unauthorized use or dissemination of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please immediately notify the sender by return e-mail message and delete all copies of the original communication. Thank you for your cooperation.