Barn Tour: One of Sam Houston's top trainers talks first weekend

Barn Tour: One of Sam Houston's top trainers talks first weekend
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

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J.R. Caldwell had a successful year in 2021, winning 81 races for a 21 percent clip. He also earned more than $1.8 million last year, the third-best year of his career and his best campaign since 2017. 

The trainer is set to get his 2022 kicked off when Sam Houston Race Park begins its meet on Thursday. He reviewed some of his 18 opening-weekend entries for a Horse Racing Nation Barn Tour.

Gradester. The Bradester gelding will run on Thursday’s opening day card in the seventh race, a $37,000 allowance race for Texas-breds age 4 and up. The 4-year-old will be making his first start since July, going six furlongs on the dirt.

“He’s all speed,” Caldwell said. “It’s coming up with a little bit of a layoff, so we’re a little bit concerned about fitness. But we need to get a race in him and no better way to start than opening weekend.”

Caldwell said he would expect Gradester to do well if the track is speed-favoring.

Cairo Warrior. The Cairo Prince gelding will take on seven other maidens in the ninth race Thursday, going six furlongs on the dirt. He last ran in June at Lone Star, finishing fifth on the grass.

Caldwell said the race is meant to be a building block for more down the line.

“He’s probably more of a better route turf horse,” Caldwell said. “Just giving him basically a gate work from the gate and trying to pick up a check. I’m looking more into his second start.”

Bebop Baby. Moving to Friday’s entries, Caldwell has Bebop Baby set to go in a six-furlong allowance race on the main track. She has finished eighth in her last two starts, including one on the grass at Lone Star.

Caldwell said the Too Much Bling filly did not take to the turf. He said that in her last race, he felt her rider went too fast with her, and she tired.

“I think she’ll be really live,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got two five-eighths works in her since that race so it’ll be a different game plan this time.”

Texas Whirlwind. After finishing second in her most recent start, a Lone Star allowance race in June, Texas Whirlwind took some time off. The Euroears filly is set to return in the eighth race on Friday, a six-furlong, $37,000 allowance race.

“She’s doing good,” Caldwell said. “She’s settled in the barn and doing good, so we expect her to run another big race.”

Algebra. Caldwell picked up the Algorithms gelding on a claim after his last race at Remington Park. He said Algebra fit what he was looking for in the coming meet, though he finished eighth in that race.

“He’s a solid Texas-bred,” Caldwell said. “Trying to capitalize on those stakes. They’ve got a champions day where they have a route grass race, and sprint dirt race and a route dirt race. That route dirt race should be right in that horse’s wheelhouse.”

The gelding is set to run Saturday in allowance company, going one mile.

Dream Pire. Caldwell pointed to Dream Pire, who is entered in a $36,000 maiden special weight race going six furlongs on dirt, as one he was looking forward to seeing run on Saturday.

“She’s out of Empire Maker, we bought her for $130,000,” Caldwell said. “That filly’s mama (Dream Spinner) could run a little bit and I think that’s what’s going to develop.”

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