Photo: Eclipse Spotswire
Whomping Willow might be ready to build on her early promise tomorrow
in Gulfstream's featured $75,000 Any Limit Stakes for 3-year-old
fillies. Runner-up to a pair of future stakes winners in her first two
starts last summer, the daughter of Mineshaft returned from a
three-month break to finish second behind In Tune--another next-out
winner--in a maiden at Gulfstream on January 12. She put it all together
with an authoritative success going seven furlongs on February 16, and
trainer Dale Romans is confident about her chances.
"That race looked like it was a breakthrough race for her," Romans
said. "She finished up well and ran like we'd been waiting for her to
do. She'll be tough."
Whomping Willow is owned by Mark and John Bacon and Dana Wells. They
also campaign Silver Max, who famously handed Horse of the Year Wise Dan
his sole defeat in 2013. Whomping Willow hasn't quite scaled those
heights yet, but her connections hold her in high regard.
"We had thought about stretching her out, but (the Any Limit) came up
looking like a pretty good spot," Romans said. "We might stretch her
out next or go right to the (G3 Eight Belles Stakes at Churchill Downs)
on Derby Day."
Romans is still debating the next target for Medal Count, who scored
over the Gulfstream turf course in January before running an even fifth
in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) on the dirt on
February 22. The 3-year-old son of Dynaformer is owned by B. Wayne
Hughes' Spendthrift Farm.
"It wasn't terrible, but I still haven't decided what to do with
him," Romans offered. "I'd like to give him one more shot (on the dirt).
Mr. Hughes is kinda hedging a little bit, but we'll see how that
unfolds. Maybe he'll go in one of the last major preps (for the Kentucky
Romans also trains a pair of colts for Donegal Racing, Cleburne and
Smart Cover, that were benched after filling the exacta in the Iroquois
Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs on September 7. Smart Cover recently
returned to action in the Palm Beach Stakes (G3) on the turf last
Saturday at Gulfstream, but showed rustiness and finished 11th. The son
of Any Given Saturday will likely head out of town for his next
"He came out of (the Palm Beach) good--it was really more of a
training race than anything," Romans added. "We're thinking of taking
him to Turfway next weekend."
Iroquois hero Cleburne was scratched from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile
(G1) at Santa Anita with a sore shin. The son of Dixie Union is making
quick progress since getting back on the Gulfstream worktab in
"Cleburne is coming back quicker than expected,"