Juvenile Fillies Story: The Harty Girls

Juvenile Fillies Story: The Harty Girls
Photo: Mike Corrado
Tempera finishes ahead of stablemate Imperial Gesture in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Published in the Nov. 3 issue of The Blood-Horse
It was only a matter of time. Not just for the Maktoum family's Godolphin operation, which proved to be a dominating presence at the 2001 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, but for Eoin Harty, a fifth-generation Irish horseman who left the Bob Baffert racing stable two years ago to train Godolphin's string of 2-year-olds in the United States.

It should not have been that big a surprise when the Harty-trained duo of Tempera and Imperial Gesture carried the Godolphin colors to a one-two finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Belmont Park Oct. 27. But it was. The tote board flashed some big numbers: $25.80 for a $2 win bet on Tempera, $41.80 for Imperial Gesture's place price, and $768 for a $2 Godolphin exacta.

American racing fans aren't likely to get that big a payoff again for a Godolphin victory, but they had better get used to seeing those blue silks in the winner's circle after major events. Godolphin's armada of 2-year-olds has arrived on these shores.

It's a simple formula. Sheikh Mohammed supplies the talent, buying top prospects at weanling and yearling sales and also reaching into the vast equine reserves of his bloodstock operation and those of his two brothers, Sheikhs Maktoum and Hamdan. Harty brings an innate understanding of the Thoroughbred athlete, a depth of knowledge for American racing, and a team approach that is mandatory for a Godolphin lieutenant.

At the end of their 2-year-old campaigns, the Godolphin runners are returned to Dubai, where Harty had trained them the previous winter. The good ones are turned over to Saeed bin Suroor, who is credited as conditioner of Godolphin's European runners and the 3-year-olds and older horses who race in the U.S. At the end of the year, Harty has his supplies replenished for the next racing season.

The program began in 2000, when Harty trained 36 juveniles in California. He won just seven races from 62 starts and no stakes, earning $567,264. This year, Harty had 55 Godolphin horses, including a second string based at Arlington Park. Tempera, who provided Harty with his first stakes win as a trainer in the Sorrento Stakes (gr. II), gave him his 21st win of the year from 82 starts when she captured the Juvenile Fillies. He also won the Cowdin Stakes (gr. III) with Sunray Spirit and the Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) with Essence of Dubai.

Harty-trained runners have earned $1,763,004 through Oct. 27, although Sheikh Mohammed decided to contribute all of Godolphin's earnings from the World Thoroughbred Championships to the NTRA Charities-New York Heroes Fund. That amounted to $720,000 from Tempera and Imperial Gesture alone. The sheikh, a member of Dubai's ruling family and defense minister for the United Arab Emirates, was not at Belmont Park because of the international crisis in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Racing manager Simon Crisford and key bloodstock adviser John Ferguson represented him.

This year's Juvenile Fillies attracted only nine starters, several of whom took unconventional paths to a race whose winner has been voted the division's Eclipse Award champion in 14 of its 17 previous runnings.

The favorite was You, a You and I filly who began her season at Churchill Downs for trainer Hal Wiggins in a $50,000 claiming race carrying the red and blue silks of her breeder, Dolphus Morrison. After her second start, Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel purchased her privately for Californian Edmund Gann, then won back-to-back stakes with You in New York.

Frankel dominated New York racing during Saratoga and Belmont Park's fall meeting. You's 6 1/4-length victory in the Oct. 6 Frizette Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park raised Frankel's confidence level that this would be the year he ended his frustrating streak of 36 consecutive Breeders' Cup races without a win.

Trainer Neil Drysdale, who built his Hall of Fame career on patience and planning, stepped out of his conservative shell with Bella Bellucci, a daughter of French Deputy purchased by Michael Tabor for $925,000 at Fasig-Tipton's select sale of 2-year-olds in training at Calder last February. Drysdale, with six Breeders' Cup wins in 22 starts, had not started a 2-year-old runner in the championships since 1987. Bella Bellucci came into the Juvenile Fillies unbeaten in two starts, neither beyond 6 1/2 furlongs.

A third contender was The Thoroughbred Corp.'s Habibti, who also had run just twice, winning a Del Mar maiden race and then defeating Tempera in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) on Aug. 26. The Bob Baffert-trained daughter of Tabasco Cat was scratched from the Sept. 30 Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) after developing a high temperature. The fever cost her a full week of training.

Tempera, bred in Kentucky by Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stud Management, also was unraced from the date of the Debutante until the Juvenile Fillies, but her time off was planned. After a troubled trip in her racing debut in June at Hollywood Park, the A.P. Indy filly wired a field of maidens at Hollywood July 4, then one month later won the Sorrento by nine lengths. She was the 1-2 favorite to win the Debutante, but acted up badly in the post parade, costing her any chance at victory. Tempera finished third, beaten four lengths by Habibti.

"I needed the extra time to get her to settle down mentally," Harty said of Tempera.

Imperial Gesture also took a detour on her road to Belmont Park. After running poorly against maidens in her debut July 29, another maiden race in the Del Mar condition book failed to fill, so Harty shipped the daughter of Langfuhr across country for a similar race at Saratoga. She won by 10 3/4 lengths, then returned to her West Coast base, where she finished second in the Oak Leaf.

The field also included the unbeaten New York-bred speedster Shesastonecoldfox and Take Charge Lady, who won three straight, including the Walmac International Alcibiades (gr. II) at Keeneland.

Tabor had a second runner in Sophisticat, a daughter of Storm Cat out of champion Serena's Song who was purchased for $3.4 million as a Keeneland July yearling in 2000 and is owned in partnership with Sue Magnier. Sophisticat had been something of a disappointment in England and Ireland, winning just once in seven starts, but running well enough to be placed in four group races.

The final entrant was Jealous Forum, who won twice in five starts in Canada for trainer Mark Casse and owner/breeder Harry Mangurian.

Harty let out a sigh of relief when post positions were drawn on Oct. 24 and Tempera got the outside stall in the starting gate. "We didn't want to draw inside, where she would have to commit one way or the other," he said. "From the outside, she can see the race unfold."

The outside draw became even more important on race day when the inside portion of the track came up deep and slow, making it virtually impossible for horses racing along the rail to win. Third betting choice Habibti drew the No. 1 post, and Bella Bellucci was just outside of her. You, the 9-10 favorite, started from post five. Tempera's stablemate, Imperial Gesture, drew post seven.

Continued...

Juvenile Fillies Chart, From Equibase

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