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Breeders' Cup 2017

Margolis runners ready to strike

Trainer Steve Margolis, winner of 13 races from 42 starts (31-percent) at Fair Grounds and a perfect two-for-two at Oaklawn Park (including one with Northern Belle in Sunday’s American Beauty Stakes), is represented with logical contenders in four of Saturday’s six stakes: 3-year-old filly Visavis in the $75,000 Tiffany Lass Stakes, 5-year-old mare Lady Chace in the $75,000 Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial Stakes, 3-year-old gelding Cool Bullet in the Grade III Lecomte and 4-year-old gelding Cash Refund in the $75,000 F.W. Gaudin Memorial.


Martin Cherry’s Visavis, by Indian Charlie out of Lady Cerise, is the younger half-sister to Northern Belle, who won here in November and finished third in the Esplanade Stakes before earning her first stakes win at Oaklawn. Last month Visavis just missed her own first stakes win in the final strides of the Letellier Memorial, losing by a nose to My Jen in one of the best finishes of the season.


“She had a big race off a layoff and we would have liked to have won but you move on,” Margolis said. “She’s a young filly and I didn’t want to have to ship her around so we’ve been training up to this race. She’s a filly with a lot of talent.”


Margolis will be busy Saturday afternoon, as his four starters run in consecutive races, 8-11. After the Tiffany Lass, Race 8, he’ll head back to the paddock to saddle Gold Square LLC’s Lady Chace in the Leggio, Race 9. Winner of six races from 18 starts (including a 4-2-2-0 record at Fair Grounds) and second in this race last year, Lady Chace enters the Leggio Memorial off an easy three-length win in an allowance over a sloppy main track at Delta Downs.


“She’s run very well over this course and is coming off kind of an easy win,” Margolis said. “We had to freshen her up a little after the Delaware race (fifth in the Grade III Endine); she kind of threw a clunker in there. She had a really good year, though. The Saratoga race (fifth in the Grade II Honorable Miss) wasn’t bad; those were really good horses. She won the Saylorville (at Prairie Meadows), she ran a big race in the (Grade III) Winning Colors (at Churchill Downs, second by a length to Dubai Majesty before being disqualified to third). We got Robby (Albarado) to ride her, I like my post, she can kind of stalk a little bit. I think we’re a real good fit in there.”


In the featured Grade III Lecomte, Race 10, Margolis sends out Winmore LLC and Robert & Lawana Low’s Cool Bullet, winner of the Dec. 19 Sugar Bowl, the meet’s second open stakes race for foals of 2007. Now owned mostly by the Lows, the Red Bullet gelding will try to go two turns for the first time on Saturday. Last week, Margolis breezed him six furlongs in 1:16.


“I’ve been working him longer and slower because I know the horse has the speed, but I want to try to put some air into him and get him to relax,” the trainer said. “I can’t look into the future but right now he looks like a horse that can get the distance. We don’t know if he can go a mile-and-a-quarter or anything like that, we’ve got to take it one step at a time, but he could.”


Cool Bullet was purchased for $4,000 out of Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale by Dave Williams, the initial principal owner, and Ray Murray and Bob Estes. Margolis remembers getting a call from Williams.


“It was the last or second-to-last day of the sale,” Margolis recalled, “and he said, ‘I think we can get this horse cheap.’ The market had fallen, there was bad weather. For whatever reason he didn’t go for more money and I know Dave was shocked when he was able to buy him for $4,000.”


From there Cool Bullet went to Bill and Lynn Recio at Classic Mile Park in Ocala, Fla.


“Bill called me and said, ‘We have a nice horse here but I think we’re going to geld him, he’s just a little full of himself,’” Margolis said. “Being that we only paid $4,000 for the horse he went ahead and gelded him. They took their time with him and we got the horse around April. He was a good-looking horse. He ran a big second at Delaware and then regressed a little bit; his shins were bugging him. We tried to get another race into him before we pulled the plug on him and he really didn’t run a bad race. He was fourth but the winner ended up coming back to win the restricted (First State Dash Stakes) at Delaware.


“We gave him some time and the shins settled down. Then for whatever reason, when the horse started training here (at Fair Grounds) it was like the light went on.”


In Race 11, Gaudin, Richard, Bertram & Elaine Klein’s Cash Refund could represent the best chance to defeat the blazing fast Euroears, who dominated the Nov. 28 Thanksgiving Handicap and posted a typical-for-him five-furlong breeze in 1:00 3/5 on Jan. 12.


Cash Refund won here Dec. 27 off a seven-month layoff, taking a second-level allowance by a half-length as the odds-on favorite. Prior to that, the Petionville gelding finished second by less than a length to eventual Grade I winner Capt. Candyman Can, despite injuring himself, in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs. 


“He had the start of just a little fracture,” Margolis said about the layoff. “He didn’t need a surgical procedure; it was just a little something that popped up on him and we had to give him time off. So far so good and he hasn’t missed a beat.”


While Albarado will be aboard Lady Chace, the other three Margolis entrants will be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. That trainer-jockey combination is winning at 38-percent this meet.


“He’s a young rider who listens and he’s got a good set of hands on him,” Margolis said. “He did really well when we were at Delaware and he got to ride more of my horses. He was riding well and things were clicking and it seemed like all the horses he was riding were always right there.”


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