After a sparkling victory on Tuesday at Churchill Downs in his return from a six-month break, John C. Oxley's Booklet was reported to be doing well in trainer John Ward Jr.'s barn in Lexington.
The Florida-bred son of Notebook scored a sharp victory over accomplished older rivals in a one-mile allowance race that was his first competitive effort since a disappointing 12th-place finish in the Preakness (gr. I) on May 18. Tuesday's field included Turfway Fall Championship runner-up Rock Slide; Dash for Daylight, runner-up in the recent Forest Hills (gr. II) at Belmont and a two-time winner of Ellis Park's Don Bernhardt Memorial; and Ack Ack (gr. III) winner Twilight Road.
Booklet briefly surrendered the lead to Dash for Daylight on the far turn, but surged back to the front at the head of the stretch and held off the late-running Rock Slide under what was basically a hand-ride from jockey Pat Day. The winning time posted by Booklet on a "fast" track was a swift 1:34.68.
"Pat said 'He kind of likes that game of cat-and-mouse'," Ward said. "I said, "That makes two of you'."
Ward said Booklet had been training well, but admits that he was surprised to see the colt turn in such a powerful performance following his extended vacation.
"The mile is the toughest distance in racing and he performed well at it," Ward said. "He was kind of full of himself going back to the barn and Pat really got along with him, too. I was glad to see that."
Booklet underwent a thorough examination after his dull Preakness effort from noted equine veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage, who told Ward that the colt had nothing wrong with him that could not be cured with time and a little rest.
"The old term would be 'track sore'," said Ward. "There was nothing wrong. It was just a young horse on hard racetracks and the ends of every bone get brittle. That's what it was and you've just got to wait for them to grow out of it, to remodel the bone. That's what we did and Mr. Oxley gets a point in his favor – he'll wait on you if he's got something to look for in the end."
The next race for Booklet will probably come in Florida. The major objective on the colt's horizon is a race on Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park in the "Sunshine Millions" series that pits horses bred in Florida against California-breds. Ward said the colt may need another race before that outing, but he would wait and see on that.
Meanwhile, Ward said that Oxley's Hero's Tribute, winner of the Black Tie Affair at Arlington Park in his most recent start, is scheduled to run next in the $400,000-added Clark Handicap (gr. II) on Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs. The son of 1993 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Sea Hero breezed Wednesday at Keeneland, covering five furlongs in 1:02.20 over a "fast" track.