Promising 2-year-old Almost Famous
came out of Saturday’s six-length allowance romp at Churchill Downs in perfect shape, so trainer Pat Byrne now has the $175,000-added Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) on Nov. 30’s “Stars of Tomorrow II” racing program as the next and final stop of his juvenile campaign.
Chuck and Maribeth Sandford’s son of Unbridled’s Song won at first asking over the well-regarded Coastline in his September debut, but finished a dull fourth to that rival in their next meeting in the $60,000 Street Sense Overnight Stakes on the Oct. 27 “Stars of Tomorrow I” program for 2-year-olds that opened the Fall Meet.
Byrne quickly added blinkers to the colt’s training equipment, worked him sharply in a three-furlong move from the starting gate and entered him in last week’s 1 1/16-mile allowance test – his first race at two turns – off just two weeks rest.
“He’s fantastic,” Byrne said. “It was like a breeze. So all systems are 'go' and at this time I’m looking forward to the Jockey Club for sure.”
Corey Lanerie, a pinch-hitter for the injured three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel, rode Almost Famous in the allowance victory and will be aboard for the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club.
“He’s a nice horse,” Lanerie said. “He’s made right. He’s got all the credentials to be a good horse. His disposition is good and he’s got a lot of class about him. He was in high-cruising speed (in the allowance win) and the good thing is he looked like he could have gone a little bit further.”
Given that he has run twice in 2 ½ weeks, Byrne said Almost Famous won’t need much in terms of serious work during the 2 ½ weeks leading up to the Kentucky Jockey Club.
“If I do, I’ll maybe go three-eighths with him,” Byrne said. “The horse gallops very strong on a regular basis – he just does it so effortlessly. If I work him it’ll be a little blowout a couple of days out, or something like that.”
Byrne has repeatedly accepted blame for the poor run by Almost Famous in the Street Sense, saying that he “babied” the $500,000 sales purchase between his first two races. Byrne said the colt has developed so quickly, there is no danger of a repeat of that mistake.
“I’m just putting the blinkers on him now to breeze and race,” Byrne said. “He’s a very smart horse. He’s already figured it out that he’s got to run, not to play around.”
Regardless of the result in the Kentucky Jockey Club, the race will be the colt’s final start of 2013. He hopes that Almost Famous will come out of that race as one of the horses on the short list of contenders for the 140th Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on Saturday, May 3.
“We’ll give him December off and head to (Florida’s) Palm Meadows,” he said. “We’ll look for something in February to run him in. He won’t run in January.”
Almost Famous has earned $56,479 in his 3-2-0-0 start on his racing career.
Another of the Sandfords’ talented 2-year-olds, Chas’s Legacy
, has finished his work for the year. The gelded son of Bernardini won a Churchill Downs maiden race last week and Byrne had briefly considered him to be a Kentucky Jockey Club candidate, but the trainer has decided to put him away and prepare for a return in Florida after the first of the year.