Bret Calhoun became the first trainer this season to saddle four winners on a single Fair Grounds program Nov. 30, but that achievement pales in comparison to what the Texas-born conditioner is hoping to accomplish before the local season ends March 29, 2009.
In September 2007, Calhoun went to the Keeneland yearling sale and picked out three horses for prominent owner and fellow Texan Clarence Scharbauer, whose family won the 1987 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) with Alysheba.
One of those – Scharbauer’s Silver City – won the third race at Churchill Downs by 4 1/2 lengths Nov. 29.
“(Silver City) won that race very impressively,” said Calhoun. “We wanted him to run a little bit to see exactly what we had. He’d been working well in the mornings and now he’s showing us that he’s as good as we thought might be. In his first race last June (Silver City’s lone defeat in three starts) he got away a little tardy and finished third down on the inside. He came up with a little stress fracture in that race so we gave him some time off and brought him back in the fall (where he broke his maiden at Keeneland Oct. 24).”
Scharbauer paid $700,000 for Silver City, but also gave $600,000 at the same sale for a colt by A. P. Indy now named Indygo Mountain. That one broke his maiden at Churchill Nov. 19 with a 6 1/4-length tally.
“We’re going to try and keep them separate, but for the time being we’re going to point them both toward the Lecomte (Jan. 10),” said Calhoun. “Sooner or later, they’ll have to meet up and bump along the way. Mr. Scharbauer is getting along in years now, and we want to get him back to the Derby anyway we can. It’s one of the things he can look forward to right now.”
Scharbauer’s third purchase at that same Keeneland sale was a yearling who is a half-sister to multiple classic winner Afleet Alex. That filly is also high on Calhoun’s radar screen, if not as yet on the public’s profile.
Asked about last week’s four-bagger, Calhoun downplayed his training feat.
“I figured someone must have already done it,” said Calhoun. “I didn’t know I was the first. Sunday turned out to be a great day, but I wasn’t really expecting it to be that great. Usually, it works the other way. You think you’re going to have a great day and things don’t go as planned.”
Interestingly, Calhoun’s four-win day was accomplished with four different riders.
“This is a very strong rider colony we have this year,” said Calhoun. “There are a lot of riders down here that I would use on my horses without any hesitation at all. The colony is that good.”