- Road to the Kentucky Derby
- Racing & Wagering
'Applause' worthy performance in Rachel Alexandra
Summer Applause earned even-money favoritism in the January 21 Silverbulletday Stakes following an dominating seven-length victory in her Fair Grounds debut against optional claiming rivals on New Year's Eve, but could do no better than second on that day while making her first start for new trainer Bret Calhoun. One month later and the public jumped ship on the bay lass as she was sent off the 3-1 third choice in Saturday's Grade 3, $194,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes.
Summer Applause proved she just needed time to acclimate herself to a new shedrow when returning with a one-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile Fair Grounds contest under jockey Robby Albarado. The bay daughter of Harlan's Holiday was worth $8.40, $4.40 and $2.80 to those who kept the faith, and stopped the clock in 1:43 1/5 on the fast main track.
"(Summer Applause) was a great ride from the start to the end," Albarado said. "She rated kindly on the backside. We thought we'd be third or fourth and we were. I was just trying to be a good passenger. I got clear turning for home and she ran home nice. She's grown up rapidly in the last couple of weeks."
Avie's Sense took over pacesetting duties in the Rachel Alexandra as Summer Applause bided her time in fourth down the backstretch through fractions of :24, :47 2/5 and 1:12. Inny Minnie maintained a stalking trip just behind and to the outside of Avie's Sense, while 3-2 favorite and Silverbulletday winner Believe You Can tracked in fourth.
Albarado gave Summer Applause her cue, and the three-year-old miss took off after the leaders. She rallied wide rounding the turn and ranged up to challenge a stubborn Avie's Sense in the stretch. The pair dueled for a brief moment before Summer Applause slowly inched away to grab command in the shadow of the wire.
"I was a little nervous down the backside when that filly shook loose in 24 and change," Calhoun admitted. "For those kind of horses, that's pretty slow and I expected some company in front for her. So us being little bit further back of it with those kind of fractions I was a little nervous.
When asked if the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 31 would be next, Calhoun replied, "We are going to enjoy the moment. We want to get the right spacing for her. Obviously, the ultimate goal is the (Grade 1) Kentucky Oaks and we want to figure out the best way to get her there.
"I really don't know where we go from here. I would like that spot, stay right here and run in our own backyard. But we're going to look at all options and see what the best spacing is to get her to the Kentucky Oaks. I still think she's a little light; she's a slight filly. But it would be nice to run her out of her stall and save more of her for later in the year.
"Our filly ran a great race. She's going the right direction. She's maturing mentally and physically all the time, getting good at the right time, and I think she's developed the kind of style that will keep her going. There's going to be more speed in these races coming up and hopefully that will serve us better down the line."
Avie's Sense was a game runner-up, 3 1/2 lengths in front of Inny Minnie, who in turn held Believe You Can by 2 3/4 lengths on the line. Table Three Ten, the second choice at 2-1, and Annaclone completed the order under the wire after Applauding was an early scratch.
"She was maybe a little keen down the backside but she's supposed to be, you know?" said James Graham, who piloted Avie's Sense. "She just got a little tired down the lane. What can you do?"
In a funny twist, Josie Carroll is the trainer of Avie's Sense but also conditioned Summer Applause when she began her career in Canada before being transferred to Calhoun.
"She's a pretty inexperienced filly," Carroll said of Avie's Sense. "We tried to get an allowance race to go after her maiden win and it didn't fill. That maybe hurt her a little bit, but I know how good the other filly (Summer Applause) is so I'm very happy. She's graded stakes-placed off of her maiden win so we're happy with that."
As for rematch between the two in the Fair Grounds Oaks, Carroll is all for it.
"I hope so. I think we'll move on from this and I think she deserves to. She fought and she got a little tired."
Summer Applause ran sixth in her career debut at Woodbine before breaking her maiden by 2 1/4 lengths at the Toronto venue. Campaigned by Gillian Campbell, R Group Management Ltd. and breeder Greenwood Lodge Farm, the bay filly closed out her juvenile campaign by shipping to Fair Grounds for her first try against winners. She easily passed that hurdle, but ran a one-paced second in the Silverbulletday after being transferred to Calhoun.
Summer Applause improved her record to read 5-3-1-0 with this first stakes win, and more than doubled her earnings to $202,906. The Kentucky-bred filly, who was an $82,000 RNA at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale, counts as her dam the unraced Royal Academy mare Summer Exhibition. That one is a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Recoup the Cash, and this family has also produced a trio of Canadian Horses of the Year in Canadiana, Victoria Park and Viceregal.