Photo: Hodges Photography/Alexander Barkoff
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Vicar’s in Trouble, who galloped home 6 ¾-lengths in front of his nearest rival in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, drew the extreme outside #14 post last Monday when the field for Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford was announced.
That reality has been a source of consternation to many handicappers, but not to Joe Sharp, the assistant trainer for Mike Maker who has been overseeing Maker’s Fair Grounds string throughout the current season.
“I’d much rather have that (#14) than the one-hole,” said Sharp Wednesday morning while speaking in his office. “The outside post shouldn’t bother him. He’s not a horse that has ever had any issues in the gate. We’ve never had any gate problems with him.
“If (Vicar) can make the lead from out there with enough room to get over more toward the inside that will be fine, but if he can’t he really doesn’t need the lead. He’s been behind horses in the morning and it doesn’t bother him. He’s not going to come off the bridle. It’s not going to hurt his feelings if he doesn’t have the lead. That’s why we like to work him in company. He seems to get a little more out of it. He doesn’t need the lead right away, but I would think he’ll get it soon enough. He’s not a ‘waiting-around’ kind of guy.”
It should also be noted that Vicar’s in Trouble didn’t have the lead in the first half-mile of the Lecomte. That distinction fell to Michelle Brown’s Roman Unbridled before that horse weakened to fourth at the wire.
“I can’t say I was surprised when he ran as well as he did in the Lecomte,” Sharp said, “but I was very impressed. Obviously, there were some very nice horses in there against him. You had to have a lot of respect for Steve’s horse (the Winchell Thoroughbreds-owned Steve Asmussen-trained Gold Hawk)and Larry’s horse (the Brereton Jones-owned Larry Jones-trained Albano), so I was impressed that our horse could do as well as he did against them.”
One thing one can say about Vicar’s in Trouble as of Wednesday morning is that he’s very high-spirited. When Sharp guided some visitors to Vicar’s stall, the Lecomte winner made some serious attempts to bite his caretaker before settling down to have his face stroked and his nose kissed.
“He just acted like that at first because I’ve been playing with him,” said Sharp. “He just thought I came down here to mess with him again.”
Sharp also showed a lot of confidence in Connie Apostelos’ Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes contestant Shanon Nicole and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap runner Gentleman’s Kitten in advance of their Saturday assignments.
“She worked super last Sunday,” Sharp said of Shanon Nicole’s five-furlong move in 1:01.40. “She’s been improving all the time since her last race,” said Sharp of her first career start on dirt from seven trips to the post that resulted in a 4 ½ length tally Jan. 10 in a race taken off the turf and run on the main track.
Was it possible that Shanon Nicole should have been campaigned on the main track all along?
“Maybe,” said Sharp, “but maybe that’s being a little bit of a Monday morning quarterback.”
As for Gentleman’s Kitten, who performed very well with a 6 ½-length victory here over a Stall-Wilson turf course rated good on Jan. 9, Sharp is also very pleased with his progress, as well as the possibility that the turf course here will be less than firm on Saturday.
“He handled that turf course when it was off the other day really well,” said Sharp, “and I’m not so sure any of the others he runs against Saturday could do as well if the course comes up a little off again.”