Tucked away in Bret Calhoun’s barn 22, a considerable
distance from the Kentucky Derby backside
bustle, is Kentucky Oaks-bound filly Summer Applause, who was casually
eating a hearty hay breakfast the morning of May 2.
In spite of posting a convincing victory in the Rachel Alexandra (gr. III) and a strong runner-up effort in the Fair Grounds Oaks, however, the daughter of Harlan’s Holiday has flown under the radar a bit in recent weeks.
Summer Applause, who is 15-1 on the morning line, hasn’t posted a work since her bullet effort April 20, when she drilled five furlongs under the Twin Spires in a swift :59 3/5, which was the fastest of 24 works at the same distance that day.
One shouldn’t be alarmed by the lapse in time since that last work, however.
“She had such a strong work the week before…she did it like she needed to,” said Calhoun’s assistant Dennis “Peaches” Geier. “As you can see, she’s not a massive, stud-looking filly. She’s just kind of light-made.”
Summer Applause, who has won half of her six starts and earned $302,906, is owned by Gillian Campbell, R Group Management, and Bill and Carol McAlphin’s Paris, Ky.-based Greenwood Lodge Farm. The latter operation bred Summer Applause in Kentucky.
The McAlphins were so impressed by Summer Applause as a foal that they decided to keep her when she failed to meet her reserve at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling sale. Consigned by Bluewater Sales, agent, the bidding stopped at $82,000.
“She was always very elegant and she has a wonderful temperament was very sweet (as a foal),” said McAlphin of Summer Applause. “We thought she’d have a good chance to be successful on the racetrack.”
In addition to her spaced out works, Summer Applause has also been noticeably absent from the track during prime training hours. That’s because Calhoun and Geier have chosen to gallop the bay filly before dawn.
“We take her out at the same time—5:45 every morning,” said Geier. “I’m not knocking the (Churchill) track, but up until now, when we’ve got this rain, if you go after the second or third set, the track is so deep that with a good horse, you just don’t want to take your chances.”
Geier said he had seen some big changes in Summer Applause since the filly came to the barn as a 2-year-old.
“She’s trained and developed good, but she’s really trained better here (at Churchill) than she did at Fair Grounds (where she was stabled over the winter),” he said. “Down there, she wasn’t as aggressive as she is now. Every work, she gets more aggressive. She works hard.”
While she may be all business on the racetrack, Geier said Summer Applause is “an angel” around the barn. “She’s a pet…she would stand there and eat one of those big bags of candy if you’d feed it to her,” he said.
Geier predicted Summer Applause would race mid-pack, around eight to 10 lengths off the pace in the Oaks, and then unleash her typical come-from-behind charge.
“She’s coming into it really good,” said Geier. “Look for a really big effort from her.”