Spring Meet is Chance for New Beginnings


Medal Count - Anne M. Eberhardt Photo

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 3, 2014) -- Dale Romans liked Spendthrift Farm's Medal Count from the start.

"I think he's a special horse and I think he's going to go on and get better and better," the trainer said April 1, looking ahead to the $100,000 Transylvania Stakes (gr. IIIT) and the April 4 opening of the spring meeting at Keeneland. "I've been high on him since the first time he breezed for me at Churchill Downs."

Medal Count, a $360,000 purchase from the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale when consigned by Three Chimneys for breeder Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, is bay son of Dynaformer out of the winning grade III-placed Unbridled's Song mare Brisquette. He broke his maiden at first asking last September by 6 1/4 lengths going a mile on the dirt, struggled a little with a fifth in the Bourbon Stakes (gr. III) on Keeneland's soggy Polytrack last October, found himself in the deep end in November with an 11th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), and returned to winning ways with a fast closing run in a Jan. 12 allowance going seven furlongs on the Gulfstream Park loam. A surface switch to the Feb. 22 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (gr. II) did not go so well; after running fifth, Medal Count finds himself back on the lawn.

"His whole mother's side is turf, but we took a shot, which is what you do with any 3-year-old you think highly of," Romans said. "He's the total package -- athlete, pedigree, looks -- he's been that way from day one; he's smart and talented, it's just taking him a little while to put everything together."

Romans also has Frank Jones' homebred Hesinfront, a War Front runner who is a winner on grass but comes off a 12th in the Fountain of Youth, in the 1 1/16-mile turf test for 3-year-olds. Medal Count drew the rail under Robby Albarado, while Hesinfront will be ridden by Corey Lanerie from post 4. For a full preview of the Transylvania, which is headed by Storming Inti and Global Power, click here.

"We're not going to be gangbusters, but we're trying to develop some new names," Romans remarked of his plans for the upcoming meet. "I'm just glad to be back in Kentucky in the spring."

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The Transylvania will mark the Keeneland debut for trainer Chad Cook when he sends out Kody With a K. Cook, who has five horses at the Lexington oval -- all for owners Michelle and Mark Brown -- laughed when asked if he is nervous about the coming activity.

"Oh, no. Not at all," he said, quickly adding: "I'm lying."

The Transylvania will be the ninth race for Kody With a K, who made the first four starts of his career on turf and most recently raced on dirt at Delta Downs. In February at Delta, after undergoing surgery for an entrapped epiglottis, he broke his maiden by 121/4 lengths going 61/2 furlongs and won a 71/2-furlong allowance race by 4 lengths. Returning Kody With a K to turf seemed a reasonable next step.

"He's grass-bred, by Stormy Atlantic," Cook said. "What the heck? Here we are. We're going to give him a shot to see if we're good enough."

The Browns are retired farmers from Robinson, Ill., who Cook said decided to buy a few racehorses after they sold their operation. Cook, 39, is from nearby Martinsville, Ill., most famously the home of the late Dale Baird. Baird's brother Dean and Dean's son Ron are working with Cook at Keeneland.

Cook, 39, grew up with horses and began working with Thoroughbreds at the county fairgrounds in Martinsville. He became an exercise rider and soon turned to training, sending out his first starter in 2002. Among the horses he trains for the Browns are Roman Unbridled, winner of the Big Drama Stakes at Delta in January. Roman Unbridled was fourth in the Delta Downs Jackpot (gr. III) last November and most recently was fourth in the Lecomte (gr. III) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Kody With a K will be ridden in the Transylvania by Chris Rosier, who has been aboard the colt for the past four consecutive races. They will break from post five in the 12-horse race.

"Here's our ideal situation; we've talked about this a lot," Cook said about how he hopes the Transylvania will unfold. "We're hoping we just get out there, make a nice easy lead and he can just relax. He's got the talent, got the speed. He can go the distance." 

***


Stewart Elliott - Anne M. Eberhardt Photo

Another new name at Keeneland is Stewart Elliott, of Smarty Jones fame. The 2004 Kentucky Derby (gr. I)-winning jockey, who based his tack in the Pennsylvania area and Mid-Atlantic regions for the majority of his career, made a brave new shift to the bluegrass with agent Nelson Arroyo, and was out walking the barns April 1 to hustle up business as the new guy in town (full story here).

Elliott, 49, seems to have done well drumming up support for opening weekend. On Friday, Opening Day, he rides Maybe Lily in Race 2 for Roger Anderson, gets aboard Geaux Wando for Tevis McCauley in Race 3, and partners with two for Mark Casse -- Sisterly Love (R7) and Moon Traveler (R10). Saturday he is double-booked for Casse with Skyway or Sky Racer in the first, has Shun in Race 2 for J. Michael Rogers, gets on War Ready in Race 3 for Mike Trombetta, rides the next two for Casse with Creative Spirit (R6) and Jagger M (R7), partners Jet Cat for Edward Frederick, and will be aboard Resistivity for Casse in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (gr. I).

***


Enchanting Lisa - Coady Photography

House horse Wise Dan is gearing up for an April 11 return to the races in defense of his Maker's 46 Mile (gr. IT) title, but the two-time Horse of the Year and six-time Eclipse Award winner isn't the only offspring of 2013 Broodmare of the Year Lisa Danielle that trainer Charlie LoPresti has pointing toward the spring meet. Morton Fink's homebred Enchanting Lisa, who last ran a good second by a head in a one-mile turf allowance during the fall meet, is a 4-year-old War Chant filly seeking her second victory for LoPresti on the lawn. She has never been out of the money, with a 1-1-2 record from four starts.

Enchanting Lisa has been working steadily toward her Keeneland return, including an April 1 six-furlong breeze in 1:14 4/5 on the same day her older half brother Wise Dan went an easy five furlongs in 1:00 3/5. Another "Dan," Casino Dan, is also slated to run for the first time since last June. 

"They're both doing good, they're all at about same stage all the rest of my horses are at," LoPresti said. "Casino Dan, there's a race for him on the 18th, and Enchanting Lisa will run on the grass on the 19th, hopefully, if they both get in and stay on track according to schedule."

Casino Dan, a 6-year-old Mutakddim gelding, ran second to Reload last spring in a six-furlong Polytrack allowance; Reload went on to become a grade III winner last time out in Florida when taking the Canadian Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT), and is expected to face Wise Dan in the Maker's 46 Mile. Switched to turf later in the season, Casino Dan missed by a neck to multiple grade III winner Potomac River in an allowance last June at Churchill Downs.

"If you look at who he ran second to, he held his own and ran some good races," LoPresti said. "He got some bone bruising and I had to stop on him, but he was running against good horses last year.

"Enchanting Lisa, I'm excited to get back to the races. She was pretty green last year; we had a couple of green efforts from her. Her first race was more impressive at Presque Isle, but you have to figure that was a lesser field. We're going to get Jose Lezcano to ride her back; he really likes her. She looks like her older brother (multiple grade II winner Successful Dan)."

Of course, Wise Dan is still the star of the show. Read about his April 1 breeze here.

[brightcove videoid="3418403131001"]

"The Keeneland Files" will appear at BloodHorse.com twice a week through April 25.

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