The morning after his commanding five-length victory in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint, Brittlyn Stable's Gantry gave the appearance of a horse that had done very little the day before, holding a commanding presence over barn 77 in the Calder stable area Sunday.
"He's been on his toes all morning walking around the barn and looking absolutely great," trainer Ron Faucheux said. "I'm going back to Louisiana today, and he'll van back to the Evangeline Training Center tomorrow where we'll give him a little time off."
With his victory in the Smile Sprint, Gantry not only captured the first graded stakes of his career, he also earned a berth in this year's Breeders' Cup Sprint, held at Santa Anita in early November, as the Smile was a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" Series race for the Sprint division.
"That's the plan," Faucheux said when asked if an early November trip to California is now in the works for Gantry. "We plan on being there."
And Faucheux has shown the ability to not only possess a plan, but to execute one flawlessly, with his decision to ship Gantry to Calder June 28, a full nine days in advance of the Smile, coming by design.
"We knew we wanted to get him here a little early to get him acclimated to the new surroundings and to make sure he liked the track. And then on race day, he performed the way we hoped he had. It's great when a plan works to perfection."
Faucheux will now enter the planning stage for Gantry's next main target, the aforementioned Breeders' Cup Sprint, and the trainer is looking to take a relatively light path to Arcadia, California, with just one prep race likely for the five-year-old son of Pulpit.
"We're going to take things easy with him," Faucheux explained. "We want to run him once before the Breeders' Cup and we'll just have to look around Louisiana and elsewhere to see what race that will be. But I think he runs his best races when he's a little fresh, and with the Breeders' Cup as the goal now, we aren't going to take too much out of him before then."
Such a goal was surely not expected last fall when Gantry was purchased privately after an allowance win at Belmont with a small stakes on the Fair Grounds racing calendar the intended goal.
"I said this yesterday, but it's true; my owner was just looking to get a horse for the Thanksgiving Day Handicap last year; that's what we bought him for," Faucheux stated. "We knew he would be a good dirt sprinter, but that's the race we wanted to win, and we did. Then we won two other stakes down there, and now the race yesterday. And from that Thanksgiving Day Handicap horse, it looks like we got a Breeders' Cup Sprint horse instead. That's pretty amazing."
Earlier on Calder's Summit of Speed program, a possible Breeders' Cup Sprint contender suffered defeat at the hooves of locally-based Fort Loudon in the Grade 3 Carry Back. All was well in trainer Stanley Gold's barn the morning after the Awesome of Course sophomore surged past Grade 2 winner and Sprint hopeful Trinniberg to upset the six-furlong Carry Back.
"He came back great and everything was good this morning," Gold said.
And with the memories of Saturday's race still fresh in his mind, Gold was happy to discuss successful race strategy, as drawn up by the conditioner and executed to perfection by jockey Fernando Jara.
"I knew if we let Trinniberg go, he would be gone," Gold said. "Trinniberg had earned his reputation, and there was no sense letting him do what he wanted.
"So I told Fernando to keep close at all times. We had never tried that with him before, but if we didn't, we couldn't win the race. So it was kind of like an 'all-or-nothing situation.' We could sit back and let him get away from us, and most likely we'd be running for second, or we could go after him and see what happened. You saw what we did, and it worked."
With his victory in the Carry Back, Fort Loudon has now won three straight six-furlong stakes at Calder and has all the looks of a top-flight sprinter. And while Gold has immediate plans to keep the bay colt in one-turn races, thoughts of stretching him out again are present.
Though Fort Loudon swept the Florida Stallion Stakes series at Calder, including the 1 1/16-mile In Reality division, his other four attempts past eight furlongs resulted in unplaced finishes in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Grade 3 Holy Bull, Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 1 Florida Derby.
"Right now we'll keep him in shorter races, but distance races aren't out of the question somewhere down the line," Gold said. "People forget that in races like the Breeders' Cup and the ones he ran in at Gulfstream Park, he was running with the absolute best horses of his generation, and he wasn't getting beat all that bad.
"That's one of the reasons I don't buy into this 'horse for a course' idea with him," Gold continued. "Take a look at those races he ran elsewhere and look at some of the horses that were in those races. And then look at how he ran; he was competitive. That shows me that he's a good horse regardless of where he runs."