Trainer Anthony Pecoraro’s I’m Steppin’ It Up has been successful in stakes races up north with three stakes victories and one graded stakes-place finish on his resume. In Florida, however, he has yet to reach the winner’s circle. Pecoraro hopes that a recent move to Calder and a start in Saturday’s $100,000 Grade III Fred W. Hooper Handicap at Calder Casino & Race Course are the keys to bringing his horse to the winner’s circle in Florida.
I’m Steppin’ It Up has made nine career appearances in Florida, five at Tampa Bay Downs and four at Gulfstream Park, and was unable to hit the board. Out of 32 overall appearances in his career, he has five wins, three second-place finishes, and six third-place finishes. His best placings in the Sunshine State came at Tampa in February 2012, where he first finished fifth in a 1 1/16-mile handicap before coming in fifth in the 1 1/16-mile Challenger Stakes that March.
“He doesn’t normally like the Florida circuit for some reason,” said Pecoraro. “I don’t know why. He’s a Florida-bred. I’ve had some quarter cracks with him and stuff, that’s the only thing that I have a lot of gaps with him there. But he seems to be doing good here at Calder.”
The 5-year-old horse moved to Calder in November with a string of Pecoraro’s horses after being stabled at Delaware Park during the summer. I’m Steppin’ It Up has posted one workout since he arrived at Calder, a 5-furlong bullet in 1:00.40 on November 24.
“He seems to be training really good here, a lot better than he did at Gulfstream and Tampa, so maybe he likes this surface,” said Pecoraro. “I’m hoping.”
I’m Steppin’ It Up’s first career stakes victory came in wire-to-wire fashion in September 2011 at Delaware Park in the 1 1/8-mile off-the-turf Kent Stakes. He came back to take the 1-mile Chief Tamanaco Stakes at Belmont Park that October from stalking the pace in the first half of the race. The following year, he earned his third stakes victory by leading throughout after breaking third in the 1-mile off-the-turf Eight Thirty Stakes at Delaware Park in August 2012.
In his only career graded stakes appearance, which came in October 2010 in the 1-mile Grade I Champagne Stakes, I’m Steppin’ It Up raced at the pace in second until nearing the quarter pole and finished the race in third.
Reigning co-winner of the 1 1/8-mile Fred W. Hooper, the Philip Gleaves-trained Csaba, won the stakes race in 2012 as the pacesetter, but Pecoraro hopes that neither Csaba nor any other challenger will do so in the 2013 edition.
“(I’m Steppin’ It Up) is a one-dimensional horse, and I am hoping nobody goes with him,” said Pecoraro. “He has to be on the lead. I tried to take him off a couple times and it didn’t work. He likes to get out there and fight early, so that is where he is going to be.”
The Fred W. Hooper has an approximate post time of 3:30 p.m. as the seventh race. I’m Steppin’ It Up will break from post nine.