When two-time turf-sprint stakes winner Musical Flair heads to the gate for Saturday’s $75,000 Naked Greed Stakes, run at 7 ½ furlongs on grass, it will be trainer Sal Santoro’s third attempt at getting the son of Songandaprayer in a two-turn turf race. In each of his previous two attempts, the races were rained to the main track.
“It’s been a battle with him,” Santoro said of Musical Flair. “We entered twice going long on turf (the Calder Derby and Mambo Meister) and both times it rained and the races were moved to the dirt.
“And he’s had trouble in so many of his races,” Santoro continued. “You can do all the planning you want; picking out a race, going over race strategy, getting one ready; and then when the gate opens, or the sky opens, anything can happen.”
Of the 10 sophomore colts and geldings entered for the Naked Greed, Musical Flair is the lone turf stakes winner in the field having won both last year’s Fasig-Tipton Turf Dash at Calder and the early February Needles Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Both races were at five furlongs.
“I really think he’s going to like it,” Santoro said of the two-turn turf trip in the Naked Greed. “His grass races were good, I think some of his long dirt races were good, and every day he seems to be maturing, which always helps.”
With intermittent rains pelting south Florida through the first half of the week, Santoro realizes he must be prepared to run Musical Flair on the main track yet again.
“He’s been training on dirt and has had some breezes over off-going, so we’ll be ready to go either way,” Santoro said. “And he did break his maiden last year over a sloppy track. So as much as I would like to run him long on turf, he’ll be ready for both.”
Two races after the Naked Greed, Santoro will saddle recent maiden winner For the Win in the Crystal Rail Stakes, where she will be stepping up to meet accomplished runners like Awesome Belle and Frolic’s Revenge, who combined have won seven Calder stakes. Despite that obvious challenge, Santoro sees potential in the daughter of Congrats.
“When she was a 2-year-old, she was second in her first race with maiden special weight horses and then we ran her in a Florida Stallion Stake where she was fourth,” Santoro said. “I though both those races were very good. But a few days after the stake she wound up with a tiny bit of heat in her left front, so I stopped on her.
“She had three months where she did very little, and then we gradually increased. We’d shedrow her, then jog her; the whole nine yards.”
Santoro readied For the Win for an early June return in a race where the filly showed some interest early before fading to finish the last of seven.
“That day she was short, but we expected that going in,” Santoro said. “It was her next race when she finished second that got us encouraged, and in her start after that she won.”
That victory came in a July 12 maiden special weight race where For the Win overcame a troubled trip to post a 2 ¼-length victory.
“She got a little tangled up that day and (jockey) John (Delgado) had to steady her and then she was forced to go wide,” Santoro said. “But when she started to run, she ran right by them. And off that race, the owner said ‘go ahead and put her in the stake.’ So we did.”
Santoro prepped both For the Win and Musical Flair for their Saturday assignments by working the two sophomores in tandem, once over the local grass and most recently on the main track.
“I worked them together on the turf (July 30) and they went five-eighths in 1:01.4, but it was really more of an open-gallop for a mile,” Santoro said. “Then they breezed together again (on August 5) and went :36 with a good gallop-out. And that was an easy work; the riders didn’t move and they let the horses go on their own. We were happy with it.
“So they’ve been training well, they’re feeling good, and we’re confident going into the race. And we’re coming to run.”
CHAMAFI NAMED AUGUST JOCKEY OF THE MONTH
Apprentice rider Jilver Chamafi has been named Calder Jockey of the Month for August. The Panamanian native won five races between the period of July 14 and August 10, riding just 24 horses, while also finishing third on seven occasions.
A December 2011 graduate of the acclaimed Laffit Pincay, Jr. Jockey School in his native Panama, Chamafi made an immediate impact in his home country when winning with his first mount on December 8. From there, the victories continued to pile up, and Chamafi came to the U.S. in mid-June to follow the storied path paved by past Panamanian riders.
Chamafi won his first race in the U.S. on June 30.