Trainer Lori Testerman and her 3-year-old filly Defy Gravity cleared the Calder Casino & Race Course stable gate Wednesday afternoon, having shipped down from Maryland in advance of a Saturday start in the Grade 3 Azalea Stakes.
“The ride down went perfect and she has settled in nicely,” Testerman said from the Calder receiving barn Thursday morning. “It’s funny because it was so hot up there that it’s actually nicer down here where at least there is a breeze. We had to come to Florida, in July, to cool off.”
A daughter of Bandini, out of the mare Quickest, Defy Gravity sold through the Fasig-Tipton Eastern Fall Yearling Sale at Timonium in October 2010 where she was purchased for $19,000 by Roland Reeley of R N R Stable, whose colors the filly runs in.
“We bought her as a yearling and have been with her every step of the way,” Testerman said “Her mother never raced but is from the same family as Super Saver and Brethren, and that caught our attention. And this was her very first foal.
“She was a bit of a troublemaker when she was younger,” Testerman said of Defy Gravity. “I used to rub her myself because I didn’t want any of my help getting hurt. But she’s grown up a lot, and the guy I’ve got her with now is great. She has matured into a very well-acting girl.”
And that good-mannered behavior has allowed Testerman to ship Defy Gravity to Delaware Park and Monmouth Park for her last two starts where she has twice finished third in overnight sprint-stakes, first the $50,000 Beautiful Day Stakes at Delaware and then the $66,000 Just Smashing Stakes in New Jersey.
“If we didn’t run here, we were probably going to try her long in a race up north,” Testerman said. “But there are just so many good 3-year-old fillies up there right now, like Agave Kiss, and we don’t need to run into her again any time soon. So we thought, since everyone is going north, we might as well go south.”
Since arriving at Calder, all has gone well for Defy Gravity, who was sent to the main track on Thursday morning to jog. And with a content filly in her stall, the only part of the process so far that Testerman might like to change is Monday’s post position draw, where her filly was assigned post one.
“I would have liked a different post for sure,” Testerman said. “But she’ll come running from the back, so hopefully having the inside won’t be too much of a problem. And it looks to me like there is a good deal of speed in the race, so I’ll be happy to watch them go at it, and wait for my filly to come running late.”
That ability to finish races is a quality that is relatively new for Defy Gravity, who was always quick out of the gate as a juvenile, but as developed an off-the-pace style as her career has progressed.
“She’s changed her running style as she’s matured, and now she breaks and just sort of takes herself out of it before making her run,” Testerman said. “It’s been an interesting process to watch, and it’s not something we taught her, she just does it on her own. But it’s been working, so why try and change it.”
The Azalea will mark the second graded stakes appearance for Defy Gravity, who was favored in last year’s Grade 2 Matron at Belmont Park in just her third career start. The filly never lived up to expectations that day when finishing a well-beaten fifth, and the experience of that day remains fresh in the trainer’s mind.
“She was favored that day, and when she got to the paddock she just looked great,” Testerman said. “And then in the time it took to get her saddled and sent to the track, I watched her fall to pieces.
“There was a big crowd around the paddock that day and she didn’t handle that well, and I’ll always remember there was a crying baby nearby; the kid wouldn’t stop crying. And that really bothered her. By the time she hit the track, I knew she was done.”
Defy Gravity will have a new rider for her graded-stakes return as Juan Leyva will pick up the mount.
“We were going to bring a rider with us, but I wanted a jockey that was familiar with the track,” Testerman said. “He came by this morning to say hello and see the horse, and I was very pleased. I hope it all comes together for us on Saturday.”
FIELD COMMISSION SETTLES IN FOR SMILE
While Defy Gravity occupies one side of the Calder receiving barn, around the corner from the filly is Solera Farm shipper Field Commission, occupying the same stall and going through the same motions leading up to the Grade 2 Smile Sprint as he did a few weeks ago before his 18-1 upset win in the Ponche Handicap.
“We’ve stuck to a similar plan as last time,” trainer Curtis Garrison said. “I just hope he can run like he did last time.”
Field Commission was a 3 ¼-length winner in the Ponche, his first career start over a dirt track and his first start after spending over 18 months on the sidelines. In the Smile, Field Commission will meet two of his fellow Ponche combatants, along with a mix of horses already stabled on the Calder grounds.
“I keep looking around the receiving barn waiting for more of the competition to show up, but I guess we’re it,” Garrison said. “And that’s fine by me.”
TRINNIBERG TO RUN SATURDAY; RACE STILL UNDECIDED
Shivananda Parbhoo, owner of the multiple graded stakes winner Trinniberg, confirmed on Thursday that the 3-year-old is on schedule to make a Summit of Speed appearance at Calder on Saturday, although which race the colt will run in remains a mystery.
“If the question is will he run, then the answer is yes,” Parbhoo stated from an undisclosed location. “Which race will he run in? That’s still up in the air.”
Trinniberg, a three-time winner in four starts this year, including triumphs in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens, Grade 3 Bay Shore, and Grade 3 Swale Stakes, was entered in both the Smile Sprint and the Grade 3 Carry Back, with the latter restricted to the sophomore set.
“Right now, I would say we’re leaning towards the Smile, but anything can change,” Parbhoo said. “We have until Saturday morning to decide, and we probably won’t make a decision until then. The main goal is getting him to the Saratoga race in the best shape we can.”
The Saratoga race that Parbhoo refers to is the Grade 1 King’s Bishop, run at seven furlongs on August 25.
RETURNING ARTEFACTO LIKELY FOR SMILE
Trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. reports that Artefacto, who was cross-entered in the Smile Sprint and the $100,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint, is likely for the Smile, which would mark his first career start in a graded stake.
“Right now I’d say we’re 90 percent running in the Smile,” Joseph said by phone early Thursday afternoon. “If something was to happen and the other race was rained to the dirt, we might look to run there. But for the money that’s available, and not having to ship for a Grade 2, it’s hard to pass up an opportunity like that.”
Artefacto began his career with three straight impressive wins at Calder last summer, and in the fall the son of Officer was shipped to Churchill Downs where he contested the $88,000 Jimmy V Stakes as part of the Breeders’ Cup undercard. Artefacto crossed the wire eighth that early November day, and has not started since.
“After the race at Churchill we wanted to give him some time off so he could grow up a little and mature,” Joseph said. “And so far it has paid off. He’s training phenomenal; he’s never breezed like this before. And the thing is, every time he’s been well in hand. I think he’s a much better horse than he was last year.”
Artefacto will get a chance to prove his trainer correct on Saturday regardless of which race he runs in, although either task is surely tall when coming back from an eight-month layoff.
“Ideally, a prep race would have been nice, but we’ll have to make do without.”