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Almost Famous Bounces Back at Churchill

A couple of weeks can make an enormous difference in the life and career of a young horse, and Chuck and Maribeth Sandford’s Almost Famous is vivid illustration of that fact.

Just two weeks ago, trainer Pat Byrne was at a complete loss to explain a dull fourth-place run by the son of Unbridled’s Song in the $60,000-added Street Sense, a one-mile overnight stakes for 2-year-olds that was the co-featured event on the “Stars of Tomorrow I” program on the opening day of the Churchill Downs Fall Meet.

A $500,000 purchase by the Sanfords at the Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-old sale in March, Almost Famous had dazzled in his in September debut at Churchill Downs.  Coastline, the runner-up that day, soundly whipped Byrne’s colt in their rematch.

After hours of pondering, Byrne concluded that he had “babied” the colt in the weeks leading up to the Street Sense and decided to tighten the screws on Almost Famous.  He gave him one day of rest, outfitted the colt with blinkers for his gallops and worked him out of the starting gate with those blinkers in a sharp time of :35.40 on Nov. 2.

Byrne’s tactics were validated Saturday when Almost Famous returned on just two weeks rest and rolled to an easy front-running victory over a promising group of young rivals in a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claiming race, the colt’s first test at a two-turn distance.   The margin under jockey Corey Lanerie was six lengths in a winning time of 1:44.98 over a fast surface.

“He came out of the race super good and he ate-up quick last night,” Byrne said.  “It was easy for him.  There’s no doubt he’s got a lot of talent.”

The official Equibase chart noted that Almost Famous “hopped” at the start from his rail post.  But he quickly gathered himself under Lanerie and galloped to the lead.  At that point, the race was essentially over and he drew off easily in the stretch.

“I really didn’t want him on the lead, but he just kind of out-galloped the others to the lead,” Byrne said. “My instructions to Corey were that we’d like to see him win, but we’d like to see him come from off the pace.  But he broke, Corey had a split-second decision and the horse kind of took himself to the lead.  He’s got a big stride on him and he just out-galloped them to the first turn,  and after that he just kind of dragged Corey around there.”

The next race for Almost Famous could be the $175,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club (GII), the 1 1/16-mile co-feature of the “Stars of Tomorrow II” program on Nov. 30, the Fall Meet’s closing day.  But he is one of two horses owned by the Sandfords and trained by Byrne that could be in the starting gate that day.  Their Chas’s Legacy, a 2-year-old gelded son of Bernardini, scored his first win in three races at odds of 14-1 when he defeated a well-regarded group of maidens at 1 1/16 miles on Thursday, Nov. 7.

“We’ve got two horses now and I don’t know if we’ll run both in the Jockey Club, but I know we’ll run one,” Byrne said.  “We’ll talk with the Sandfords about that possibility.  The important thing is that both horses came out of their races great.”

With Saturday’s impressive second victory in three starts, the career bankroll of Almost Famous rose to $56,479.

"We got both of these started now,” Byrne said.  “They’re both nominated to the Jockey Club.  I’ve got no interest in going to New York with either for the Remsen (GII).  There’s plenty of races without going all over the countryside.”   
 

 

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