In the fall of 2011, Louisiana native Ron Faucheux was in search of a horse to start in the traditional opening day feature at Fair Grounds, the Thanksgiving Day Handicap. That hunt turned up a gelding named Gantry that had been running in optional claiming allowance races in New York, and approximately one year later, the son of Pulpit will start in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
“That was it; we just wanted a horse that was going to be competitive that day, and maybe in the other sprint stakes they have down there, but that was it,” Faucheux said as he walked towards the Santa Anita racing office Wednesday morning. “I believe we were 8-1 in the morning line that day, but he ran bigger than that and he got up to win by a nose. Then we went on and swept the sprint stakes from there and really progress as a sprinter.
“But then after he won the Duncan Kenner, the last of the Fair Grounds sprint stakes, in 1:08 and change, that’s when we knew we had something. It takes a special horse to do that at the Fair Grounds. After that, we knew we had to try him against tougher competition.”
The first opportunity to take on stronger rivals came in the Churchill Downs Handicap in which Gantry finished third behind Shackleford and Amazombie. The gelding then shipped to Calder where he won the biggest race of his career, the Smile Sprint, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race.
Gantry was most recently second in the Temperance Hill Stakes at Louisiana Downs.
“We really didn’t have him tuned up for that last race,” Faucheux said of the Temperance Hill. “We gave him some time off after the Smile and trained him very light going into that race. We were mostly using it as a work; a true prep race for this. We’re hoping he’ll be peaked-out once again for this race as he was for the Smile.”
In order to accomplish that goal, Faucheux has employed similar tactics in advance of the Sprint as he did leading up to the Smile.
“He’s training kind of the same way here as he was going into the Calder race,” Faucheux said. “We did the same thing; shipped in a little early to get a work over the track and have a similar strategy. And I have the same feeling about him now that I did then. I really like the way he’s been training. He’s gotten really strong once we got him on the surface. That’s a good sign.”
The last time Trinniberg wore blinkers in a race was the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint where the colt ran an opening quarter-mile in 20 4/5 before fading to finish seventh. The colt will wear blinkers once again when starting in this year’s Sprint, although trainer Shivananda Parbhoo is counting on a different result.
“Right now I think we need the blinkers back on to keep him a little more focused, especially in the final eighth” Parbhoo said from just outside barn 14 at Santa Anita. “And the blinkers we’ll use are a short cup, so I don’t think it will be that big of a change.”
Trinniberg, who arrived at Santa Anita on Oct. 15, has worked twice over the track, blasting 4f moves in 47 and 47 2/5, both with blinkers on.
“Those works were just him,” Parbhoo said of the quick times recorded. “But he was on a hold the entire way.”
In his last start, the Gallant Bob at Parx Racing, Trinniberg held the lead late before getting caught in the final yards, beaten a half-length by a closer that came from last while racing down the center of the track.
“After the race, the first question I had for (jockey) Willie (Martinez) was whether he saw the horse on the outside,” Parbhoo said. “And he said ‘no.’ I said ‘that’s ok; that’s fine.’ After Willie took the lead at the eighth pole, he didn’t see anyone behind him. That considered, I thought it was a great race.”
As for the Sprint, Parbhoo believes Trinniberg can come from off the pace if necessary, and at this point is not committing to a strategy.
“I think we’re going to try and avoid going to the lead in this race if we can,” Parbhoo said. “We drew the perfect post (9) and from there we can settle in a good spot up close, but not on the lead. Then again, maybe he just goes. We’ll find out on race day what happens.”
Speak Logistics galloped the main track at Santa Anita Wednesday morning, although the son of High Cotton went to the track a bit earlier than in the past days.
“We had been going right after the track reopens, but with the fog this morning, we didn’t want him out there with all that traffic so we got him out early,” said Frankie Perez, assistant to trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. “It wasn’t much; just another light gallop. He’ll go back out again tomorrow, although it will be up to Eddie to decide what time. He gets in later today.”