With nine-furlong misses in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks behind her, Peras International’s Yara will cut back to a six-furlong sprint for Saturday’s $75,000 Leave Me Alone Stakes, her first start since a failed attempt at attaining Oaks glory in Kentucky.
“I thought she was going to run better, but things didn’t work out; they didn’t go our way,” trainer Jose Garoffalo said of the Oaks, where Yara finished 13th. “Most importantly she came out of the race in good shape, and she’s ready for the second part of the year.”
Following her start in the Oaks, Yara remained at the Churchill Downs Training Center where she recorded a five-furlong work, her only morning move since the race, in 1:01.60 on Saturday, June 2. The filly shipped to Garoffalo’s barn at Calder the next day.
“She stayed in Kentucky (with assistant Mario Diaz) because we wanted to keep our options open, in case there was another race up north that we wanted to run in,” Garoffalo said. “But after some discussion we decided it was probably best to settle her down and start over with her, so we brought her back down here.”
Once the decision was made to return to south Florida, the Leave Me Alone was circled as the next target, and the filly, who wasn’t originally nominated to the race, was supplemented when entries were taken last Monday.
“My feeling is the competition will be a little easier down here than what she has been facing,” Garoffalo said. “And she loves it down here. You could tell the minute she got back to the barn on Sunday, she was happy to be here.”
Garoffalo has mapped a short-term plan for Yara, which includes a start in next month’s Summit of Speed, assuming all goes well in Saturday’s race. Beyond that, the trainer wouldn’t rule out another trip north where Yara could again encounter some of the best fillies of her generation.
“Right now the plan is for her to run, and run well, on Saturday, and then we’ll look at the Summit race (Grade 3 Azalea) for her next start,” Garoffalo said. “After that, maybe it will be time to go north again.”
SWIFT SOPHOMORE STEEL MAN SET FOR UNBRIDLED STAKES
When lightly-raced Steel Man starts in Saturday’s Unbridled Stakes, trainer Freddie Hyatt is sure of one thing; his speedy gelding will be prominently-placed early, pushing the pace of the six-furlong race. That’s because in both of Steel Man’s starts - he has only made two - the son of Congrats glided out of the gate, opening up a clear lead on his rivals within the first 50 yards.
“You want me to tell you one of the reasons he gets out of the gate so good,” trainer Freddie Hyatt asked when questioned about the gate speed of Steel Man. “When he first came to me, I went ahead and put one of my old cowboys on him. A couple of trips to the gate with him, and he was breaking two or three in front of any horse I put in there with him.”
In his career debut, a two-turn turf race at Tampa, Steel Man made all the early running before weakening late to finish third in an effort that can surely be classified as good. In his next start, when shortening up to a main-track sprint, there was no catching Steel Man, as the gelding simply shrugged off all challengers en route to a 2 ½-length triumph.
“He’s not a very big horse, he’s no more than 15 hands, but he has a lot of stride for being a little horse,” Hyatt said. “And he can carry his stride. That’s important. He gets out there cruising and runs like a big horse.”
Hyatt recognizes that the Unbridled Stakes may be a bit of an ambitious spot for Steel Man, but he believes in the gelding’s ability and toughness, and expects to see a good race from him on Saturday.
“I know those other horses in there have a run a lot, and I’m drawn right between the other speed in the race,” Hyatt said. “Maybe they’ll drag me along with them. Then again, maybe we’ll beat them out of there, and they’ll have to come get me. Whatever happens, I know my horse won’t just fold. He’s already shown that in his mile race. He’s a tough little horse.”
EMERGENCY NURSE ALSO SLATED FOR SATURDAY
In addition to the four Summit Preview Day stakes on Saturday, Calder will also host the $55,000 Emergency Nurse, a one mile and 70-yard race for fillies and mares that has attracted a field of eight, including recent Sara’s Success winner Angelica Zapata, who starts for trainer Ron Pellegrini.
Others scheduled for the race include the Grade 3-placed Canadian Mistress, Grade 3-placed Beloveda, and the 2011 Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap and Stage Door Betty winner My Pal Chrisy.
MEMORIAL DAY HANDICAP WINNER NOMINATES TO STEPHEN FOSTER
When Churchill Downs released nominations for the Grade 1 Stephen Foster earlier this week, Memorial Day Handicap hero Where’s Sterling was among the 16 horses listed as possible starters for the nine-furlong race.
Owned by Frank Calabrese and trained by Luis Ramirez, Where’s Sterling is not unfamiliar with top-level racing having finished a troubled fourth, beaten just 3 ½ lengths, in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park in mid-February. The son of Northern Afleet was also second in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup last year.