Sir Winston wins an allowance race on Jan. 31 at Aqueduct
Tracy Farmer’s reigning Grade 1 Belmont Stakes winner Sir Winston returned to familiar surroundings at Belmont Park after clearing quarantine on his return from Dubai.
Trained by Mark Casse, the Awesome Again chestnut was a leading contender for the Group 1 Dubai World Cup which was postponed due to the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Sir Winston hasn’t raced since capturing an optional-claiming tilt on January 31 at the Big A, a one-turn mile where he broke last of seven, but rallied to win by 2 ¼ lengths while garnering a 93 Beyer Speed Figure.
Casse said Sir Winston cleared quarantine in Newark and was reunited over the weekend with assistant trainer Jamie Begg.
“He’s at Belmont with Jamie and was to gallop this morning,” said Casse. “He lost a few pounds on the trip even though he didn’t run. We’ll let him regroup and see when we start up running again.
“I think he can compete with the better older horses running a mile and an eighth or farther,” continued Casse. “For now, we’ll put a few pounds on him and keep him happy.”
Gary Barber’s Grade 1 Preakness winner War of Will has posted back-to-back breezes on the Palm Meadows turf in preparation for his seasonal debut.
“Our hope is to make him a dual Grade 1 winner, dirt and turf,” said Casse.
Casse said he was targeting the Grade 1, $500,000 Shoemaker Mile, a one-mile turf test for 3-year-olds and upward slated for May 25 at Santa Anita Park. However, with racing at Santa Anita currently suspended, the Canadian Hall of Fame conditioner is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“He’s pretty well ready to run. We just need a place to run him. I was looking at the Shoemaker Mile, but we’ll have to see if Santa Anita reopens,” said Casse. “Every day is something new, so we play it one day at a time.”
Gary Barber’s multiple Grade 1-winner Got Stormy finished second, by a neck, to River Boyne in her seasonal debut in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on March 7 at Santa Anita.
The 5-year-old Get Stormy chestnut breezed a sharp half-mile in 47.65 on March 29 at Palm Meadows in Florida in her first breeze back.
“She was getting bored. We breezed her, but with no real target. She loves to train on the turf,” said Casse.
In August, Got Stormy bested the boys in the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave at Saratoga, covering one mile over the firm inner turf in a track record 1:32 flat.
“She’ll definitely be ready for Saratoga,” said Casse.
The Kentucky Derby is the lone remaining American Classic that Casse yet to capture and the veteran conditioner has John Oxley’s Enforceable currently sitting 12th on the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard with 33 points.
The late-running Tapit grey has made his last three starts at Fair Grounds. He rallied from 11th to win the Grade 3 Lecomte in January and was a late-charging second in the Grade 2 Risen Star in February. Last out, Enforceable closed to be fifth in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby won by a prominent Wells Bayou.
Casse said a dawdling pace in the Louisiana Derby didn’t play out well for Enforceable.
“It was a merry-go-round race for the most part. They ran around there in single file,” said Casse. “Only Enforceable and the fourth-place horse (Major Fed) made a run.”
Casse said the re-scheduling of the Kentucky Derby to September 5th should benefit Enforceable.
“Physically, he still has to grow up a bit,” said Casse. “We’ve sent him to our training center in Ocala for a couple of weeks.”
Casse said Enforceable’s strong stretch kick is best served by a swift early pace.
“He doesn’t have the ability to get involved early. It’s not in his make up,” said Casse. “If we get a big pace, you saw what he could do in the Lecomte. And you saw what happened when you don’t get a big pace like in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby.”
Gary Barber and Michael B. Sebastian’s Untitled is also at Casse’s Ocala facility following a good runner-up effort last out in the Grade 3 Gotham, a one-turn mile won by Mischevious Alex.
Casse said Untitled, a Florida-bred son of Khozan, is another horse who will benefit from a later start to the Kentucky Derby. The conditioner had planned to bring Untitled back in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Wood Memorial, which was originally slated for April 4.
“We were going to run him in the Wood,” said Casse. “But now, I try to look for some of the positives in not running, and we have plenty of positives in that my family and the people that work for us are healthy.
“From a horse racing standpoint, if there’s any horse that will appreciate a little extra time it’s him,” added Casse. “He’s a big, leggy colt and when he fills out he’s going to be the man.”
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