Aktabantay makes his Fair Grounds debut in a turf sprint

November 27, 2016 08:48am

Rainbow’s End Racing Stable’s Group III winner Aktabantay (GB) has long been held in high esteem by his connections. Originally in the care of Hugo Palmer in England, he won the Group III Solario Stakes at Sandown going seven furlongs before running a solid sixth – beaten less than three lengths – in the Group I Grand Criterium at Longchamp behind standout champion Gleneagles (IRE).
After a disastrous four-start sophomore season that saw his best performance land a fourth in the Group I St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, he embarked on a 4-year-old campaign under the care of Tom Morley. On Saturday, Dec. 3, the bay son of Oasis Dream (GB) makes his Fair Grounds debut against a full-field of turf sprinters in the day’s seventh race.
“When he came to me he was running in tough races in Florida and the initial aim was to try to win a graded stakes and retire him to Turkey,” Morley said. “Clearly the horse has not yet retained the ability he once had, but I feel that sprinting now is his game. He’s an extremely gutsy horse and the last race really perked him up. I think with adding blinkers a few races back and cutting back in trip, while giving him a chance to run at speed, helps him.
“It takes some of these European horses time to acclimatize to American racing and I think he’s catching on,” Morley continued. “Races are run at a hard pace from the word ‘go’ in America, where you have to run hard early and keep going, and I think he’s catching on to that. My hope is also that getting out of New York competition helps him.”
In races shorter than a mile, the British-bred colt has a healthy record of 2-4-1 from 10 starts. Overall, he has finished in the money in seven of 16 starts and drew the far outside post 14 in Saturday’s heat that also attracted quality New York-bred allowance horse Summer Breezing, promising 3-year-old Illinois-bred speedster Small Fortune and popular six-time Fair Grounds winner Voodoo Spell. Robby Albarado has the mount.
Since entering the Mike Stidham barn, Panic Stable’s Conquest Tiz One has done little wrong. Winning three of five, with a stakes placing on last year’s Louisiana Champions Day in her initial outing for the outfit, the daughter of Tiz the One has one blemish on her career when attempting a quirky two-turn seven furlong stakes at Delta Downs in February.
On Saturday, the chestnut filly returned to action for the first time in more than eight months and did not disappoint. Piloted by Sophie Doyle for the first time, the swift Louisiana-bred sophomore carved out fractions of 22.31 and 45.99 before coming home under steady urging in 1:11.16.
Stidham, last season’s champion trainer, said immediately afterward that the filly will likely be wheeled back in two weeks for the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint, if all goes well. Like in the Saturday’s second-level allowance, she will have to face older mares going six furlongs, as well as another talented Pelican State-bred sophomore filly in $50,000 Happy Ticket Stakes winner Sunny Oak.
One of the more exciting members of the local Triple Crown Trail contingent during the 2015-16 meet was Jensen. A homebred of conditioner Larry Jones, along with wife Cindy, the son of Haynesfield had two wins and two seconds during the meet, including a two-turn allowance romp on Feb. 25. Next out, in an experiment over the synthetic Polytrack, he was 10th of 12 in the Grade III $500,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.
The medium-sized chestnut is scheduled to make his 2016-17 season debut in a six-furlong allowance/optional claiming event on Thursday, Dec. 1, against a field that includes hard-knocking 5-year-olds Superstar Leo and Speightsong, among others.
“He’s doing well,” Jones said. “I don’t think he’s a sprinter now that I got him going long, but hopefully he can keep up with these and we can get him started back. He got hurt in the Spiral and is just now getting back to it. He didn’t have any surgeries or anything, we just gave him time to heal up. Hopefully we’ll get to rolling, but it’s a salty bunch. The main thing is getting him ready to go around two turns. That’s what he’s going to do.”
Winchell Thoroughbreds’ homebred Untapped, a talented full-sister to Untapable who romped in graduation on Oct. 26 at Keeneland going 1 1/16 miles, worked an easy half-mile in 51.20 for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Speedway Stable’s stakes-placed One Last Shot continues to work impressively for trainer Mike Stidham, negotiating a co-bullet half-mile of 82 works in 47.40.
Mt. Brilliant Farm’s promising pair of 2-year-old fillies Watch Your Six  and Desert Duchess, who were each very impressive for trainer Mike Stidham when finishing one-two in a July Arlington maiden over five Polytrack furlongs, worked quick half-miles. Desert Duchess, who has raced once since when fifth in a Keeneland maiden, shared the bullet with the aforementioned One Last Shot, while Watch Your Six – unraced since besting her stablemate by two lengths this summer – finished up in 47.80.

Source: Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots


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