If all goes perfectly, Southern Ridge will run a huge race
in Saturday’s $175,000 Long Branch Stakes and gain a coveted invitation to
Monmouth’s $1 million IZOD Haskell Invitational.
In the case of a 3-year-old making just his third lifetime start, “perfectly”
is the operative word here.
“That would be great,” said trainer Pat McBurney. “We’d love to get invited to
the Haskell. But he has to step forward with an eye-opening kind of effort.
Then we’d have something to talk about.”
Southern Ridge, a Kentucky-bred son of Southern Image * Michigan Bluff, by
Skywalker, did not start his career until May 22, when he ran third in a maiden
event. He came off that to score an impressive first win here on June 5,
drawing off by more than seven lengths, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 95 in
“He wasn’t quite prepared to go long in his first start,” said McBurney, who
trains the horse in company with John Forbes for the partnership of Dinan, BDL
Stables & Phantom House Farm. “But he ran well at a big price (46-1).
“In his maiden win, he ran such a big race that he really surprised us,” the
trainer said. “We weren’t expecting that kind of effort.”
McBurney said he and Forbes would have preferred to get an allowance race into
the colt, but the schedule didn’t work out.
“The timing has been a little bit off the whole year,” McBurney said.
McBurney and Forbes buy pedigrees that suggest distance, and Southern Ridge,
who was purchased for $52,000 at the Keeneland yearling sale in 2008, fits the
“We took it easy with him as a 2-year-old, and then started to train him at
Westampton (N.J.) Training
Center late last year,”
McBurney said. “He was ready to run by early January. Then the snows came and
interrupted his training. So we backed off on him for a few months.
“He was supposed to go in a sprint for his first start,” the trainer said, “but
the way things worked out with our maidens, he became the substitute starter in
the long race, so he wasn’t quite ready to go that far.
“But the Long Branch
will continue his education,” McBurney said.
Forbes and McBurney had a similar experience with
Cable Boy in 2007. That colt broke his maiden sprinting on May 13, and then won
a mile and a sixteenth allowance on May 26. He jumped into stakes company and
won the Coronado’s
Quest on June 24, and that earned him a berth in the Haskell Invitational, where
he ran fifth behind Any Given Saturday.