Even Keel - By Evan Hammonds

In a game marked by incredible highs and insufferable lows, there’s something to be said for consistency in the Thoroughbred industry. A year ago in this space we discussed the life and times of Diane Perkins, a longtime breeder, owner, and trainer of Thoroughbreds in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. She, along with trainer Ignacio Correas IV, was basking in the glow of Kasaqui’s victory in the Arlington Handicap (G3T) and looking toward a run at the Arlington Million XXXIV Stakes (G1T).

The power trio was back in Chicago July 8 for this year’s Arlington Handicap, and while the outcome was not quite as successful—homebred Kasaqui finished third this go ’round—the end goal remains in sight. Last year Kasaqui ran a strong second, beaten only a neck, in the Million, and if things go as planned, he’ll make a second run at Arlington’s signature race come Aug. 12.

“You always want to win, but he showed up and we were happy with the way he ran,” Correas said of the 7-year-old from his base at Keeneland in Lexington. “He didn’t get the best trip, but he accomplished what he needed to do. We can take another shot at the Million. That’s the deal.”

What Kasaqui will get is another trip to B.D. Gibbs’ Greenfield Farm north of Lexington. Correas sends him to the farm for a week after each start to let him cool his heels.

“He’s a special horse,” he said. “He has the kind of personality that nothing bothers him. He goes to the farm and puts his head down.”

It’s a special treat for the hard-working athlete, but it’s not for every horse under Correas’ shedrow. The trainer has tried that with other horses…some unsuccessfully.

“I had a horse that it took four months to get her back to paying attention. She enjoyed the farm a little too much,” he said with a laugh.

Correas may get the last laugh Million weekend with another model of consistency: Dom Felipe’s Dona Bruja. Last year’s champion older female in Argentina, Dona Bruja scored a better-than-it-looked one-length win in the Modesty Handicap (G3T) that was run about an hour and a half before the Arlington Handicap.

Breeder Ivan Gasparotto’s Dona Bruja had little trouble dispatching rivals in her Northern Hemisphere debut June 10 in Churchill Downs’ Old Forester Mint Julep Handicap (G3T). Two-for-two equals consistency and has earned her a shot at the big time: Arlington’s Beverly D. Stakes (G1T) on the Million undercard.

“She’s one of the best grass fillies I’ve ever seen,” Correas said. “I was thrilled when the owner called and said she was coming to me. The work on her was done in Argentina—she had a very good trainer (Agustin Pavlovsky) who is a good friend of mine, and he has the best team in Argentina.

“She’s brilliant—she surprises me all the time.”

Earlier in the spring Correas went to work hoping to have his stable come to hand in the summer. Looks like he’s done a good job.

“You don’t have horses like this every day,” he said. “They are the kinds of horses that make me want to sleep in my barn.”

Consistency was also found this past weekend when trainer Chad Brown’s trio of New Money Honey, Sistercharlie, and Uni ran one-two-three in the Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes (G1T) during the New York Racing Association’s Stars and Stripes program.

Brown is well on his way to wrapping up Belmont’s spring/summer title. Through July 9 Brown has been winning at a 26% clip with 38 victories—16 more than Todd Pletcher—and has a more than $1.7 million advantage in earnings over Pletcher. Brown has 22 graded stakes wins so far, little more than midway through the racing calendar.

That’s 19 more than Correas…but both hold a steady hand.

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