Gilligan's 'big horse,' Silver Dust, one to beat in Schaefer Memorial

By Jennie Rees/Indiana Grand
July 11, 2019 05:21pm

In his sixth year as a jockey, Jack Gilligan won his first graded stakes when the persnickety gelding Silver Dust captured the Fair Grounds’ Mineshaft Handicap (G3) this past winter. In two starts since, Tom Durant’s Bret Calhoun-trained Silver Dust was a close second in the New Orleans Handicap (G2) and fourth in an especially tough running of the Alysheba (G2) won by highly ranked McKinzie, with Tom’s D’Etat and Seeking the Soul filling out the board.


Now Silver Dust could be the horse to beat in Saturday’s $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Memorial on the Indiana Derby card.


“We ran in the Alysheba on Oaks Day and he ran great, fourth that day behind McKinzie and beaten a length by Seeking the Soul,” Gilligan said. “He was going to run back in the Stephen Foster (won by Seeking the Soul), but he wasn’t 100 percent for that race. Bret gave him a little time between races, which was definitely a good move because now he’s doing really well.

"I feel we’ve got him where we need him. His last work Saturday was perfect, and we’re hoping for the best Saturday.”


Gilligan called the opportunity to ride Silver Dust “huge.”


“He’s a horse that can put you on the map,” he said. “He has a special place with me, for sure. He’s been my first kind of real big horse. I thank Tom Durant and Bret Calhoun for letting me ride him.”


Silver Dust has been an ongoing project for Calhoun, including the decision to geld the son of world-class stallion Tapit.


“He is difficult,” Gilligan said. “He’s starting to sweeten up more recently. He’s starting to re-enjoy his job. He made a ton of progress over the winter at the Fair Grounds. He used to be quite temperamental and you really had to persuade him to do his job. But he’s a little more willing to do it now and doing everything a little better. He used to be real bad in the gate and it seems like he’s gotten over that.”


Calhoun acknowledged that Silver Dust has been a very difficult horse to train.


“He put it together this year, had a really nice Fair Grounds meet,” the trainer said. “He came up here and ran a nice race. We even thought about running him in the Stephen Foster, knowing it was a tough race, but it was out of his own stall. It came up pretty tough, and I don’t think he was peaking out at the time. So we backed off and pointed toward this race and he seems to be coming into it very well.”


Calhoun said the difference seems to be maturing mentally.


“He was castrated over a year ago, and it took a while for that to take its effect with him,” he said. “Just repetition and mental maturity. He’s a talented horse, but he is difficult. A $500,000 Tapit, you have to think about it for a little bit (before gelding). But Tom Durant understands the game and was very good about it. He said, ‘You know, if that’s the only way we’re going to get there, that’s what we’ve got to do.’ He said, ‘I’m in the racing business, not the breeding business.’ So we castrated him and luckily it’s turned out well for us.”

2019 Michael G Schaefer Memorial (LS)


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