Sunday, November 23, 2014

Barn Notes: Sunday, November 23



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Barn Notes:  Sunday, November 23, 2014                                                                                      

·        Sunbeam Slams Delta Mile, Takes Aim on Fair Grounds Stakes

·        Breeders’ Cup-placed Top Decile Gears up for 2015

·        Gantry Goes for Another Serving




Brittlyn Stable’s Sunbean dismantled four other competitors in Saturday’s $250,000 Delta Mile Stakes at Delta Downs – including defending champ and fellow Fair Grounds-based runner Grand Contender – en route to a five-length, hand-ridden victory under Richard Eramia.  The victory was the son of Brahms’ fourth in his last five races and 11th stakes victory in just 19 career starts.  Trained by Ron Faucheux, the bay gelding will now focus on stakes at his New Orleans base.


“To win that easily in open company shows just what an awesome horse he is to be around,” Faucheux said Sunday morning.  “He’s just a pleasure to train and is getting better with age and maturity.  Hopefully he’ll be a better 5-year-old than 4-year-old (in 2015).  Today he came out the race well and we’ll sit and train him lightly and make a decision on what’s next.”


            Possibly next could be a defense of the $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic on Dec. 13, but such would come on only three weeks’ rest and after two races in November.  Prior to the Delta Mile, Sunbean easily annexed the course and distance prep in the $100,000 Delta Gold Cup Stakes.


“We’ll decide about Champions Day the week of the event,” Faucheux said.  “We’ll let him tell us.”


With a rich older horse stakes program at his feet at Fair Grounds this winter – including the Grade II $400,000 New Orleans Handicap on Mar. 28, a race in which he finished third last year – the earner of $910,150 could have ample opportunity to break the $1 million barrier. 


“It would be amazing to win the New Orleans Handicap,” Faucheux said.  “That being said, I think his better distance is between a mile and a mile and a sixteenth.  That’s his ideal trip, but we have plenty of options over the winter.  We have state-bred and open races to consider.  He just ran two races pretty close together, so we will take it easy with him and then make a decision.”




A poor start and a speed-favoring course are arguably all that stands between Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s Top Decile and an undefeated championship season.  Still, the daughter of Congrats could have even bigger accomplishments on her horizon as she prepares for her sophomore year with trainer Al Stall, Jr. 


A stellar first-out maiden winner at Saratoga this summer, the chestnut filly missed the start in the Grade I $400,000 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland next out and recovered to finish a half-length second after a tumultuous trip.  Subsequently shipping across the country to take on the best in the Grade I $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, she ran into a different kind of adversity: a track that was arguably speed-favoring earlier in the card after metropolitan Los Angeles received rain for the first time in months.  This time, Top Decile once again fell a half-length short of Grade I glory, with loose-on-the-lead 61-1 shot Take Charge Brandi – a filly she had beaten by 11 lengths at Keeneland – winning.


Since then, the petite chestnut has enjoyed some leisure and is now back in the care of her conditioner at his Fair Grounds base.  “She’s doing great right now,” Stall reported.  “She got three weeks off by design.  There was nothing for her and we just gave her a little break before bringing her here.  As far as her races, things have been a little awkward for her.  She missed the break at Keeneland and what happened at Santa Anita with the track and it having rained for the first time in six months.  They had it sealed up.”


Such is in the past for Stall, who remains very high on his filly and expects a big year out of her.  “I purchased her myself on behalf of Klaravich Stable and Bill Lawrence and she started getting our attention in June at Churchill and then we took her up to Saratoga and she kept going forward,” he explained.  “Rosie (Napravnik) worked her a few times and – interestingly enough – the first thing she said was that she was a route filly.  I had thought she might be a speed horse, but obviously Rosie was right.  That’s why I waited for the six and a half (furlong race) at Saratoga to get a little more ground underneath her.  Once we won that, we took a long look at the (Alcibiades) and that’s how she ended up in there.  There was (initially) no plan to go to Santa Anita – she earned her way out there.”


            A social and very kind personality around the barn, Top Decile can often be found observing her surroundings and curious as to what the humans around the barn doing.  “She is always in front of the stall and spends most of her time looking at what’s going on,” Stall said.  “That’s just the way she is.  Some horses will just go to the back of the stall and stay there, but not her.  She spends 95% of her time with her head out.”


Even with her gregarious disposition, the athletic charge amplifies herself once it is time to do her work.  At Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup, she was noticeably on her toes prancing around the paddock and often seen with her head high in the air in the mornings during training.


“She was really fired up and on her toes leading into the Breeders’ Cup,” Stall explained.  “She was ready to run, but she has the right kind of energy you want to see.”


With a lucrative local stakes set that lends itself as a preparatory program for the Grade I $1,000,000 Kentucky Oaks, it will be no surprise to see Top Decile race once or twice this Fair Grounds season – perhaps even as early as the Grade III $175,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Feb. 21. 


“I will look at two races for her (leading into the Kentucky Oaks),” Stall confirmed.  “It’s hard to dance every dance.  We’ll look at the Fair Grounds Oaks or Ashland and a race back of those to get her started.”



Brittlyn Stable’s Gantry will get back to work this Thursday and defend his $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap title in what will be his first start since June 21 for trainer Ron Faucheux.  Fifth in said race – the $300,000 Evangeline Downs Turf Sprint – to the swift Heitai, the son of Pulpit will look to return to the Fair Grounds winner’s circle for the first time since the $60,000 Colonel Power Stakes on March 15. 


“He’s doing really well and we’re definitely ready to run him in the Thanksgiving Handicap,” Faucheux said.  “We gave him a little freshening after his last start and usually he runs well off that.  We know he likes this racetrack – he’s already won this race twice – and even if he is getting older, he shows he’s just as talented as ever in the mornings.  Being a horse his age – to run at the caliber he has – the time between races really has extended his career.”


The Thanksgiving is coming up as a salty event, to say the least, but Faucheux hopes on a personal level to get the job done with Gantry once more. 


“He’s a graded winner, Delaunay is tough and a graded winner and Nates Mineshaft is a graded winner – it’s a great race for $60,000,” he noted.  “Thanksgiving – especially if you’re from New Orleans and grew up around the track – means so much to you. There’s a lot of tradition that goes along with it.  It’s just an awesome race to win; I’d almost rather win this race than any.”

            If Gantry succeeds, he will become the first three-time winner of the Thanksgiving Handicap. Seven others have also won the Thanksgiving Handicap twice in its previous 89 runnings.




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