With the possibility of a somewhat surprising appearance by Pinnacle Racing Stable and trainer Bill Kaplan's Eclipse Award winner Musical Romance in the $55,000 Mike Sherman Memorial Stakes, the complexion of Saturday's 6 1/2-furlong filly and mare sprint at Calder Race Course could change drastically once scratches are in.
"Maybe we'll run and maybe we'll scratch her when she gets to the paddock," Kaplan said with a smile when referring to the Mike Sherman Memorial status of his champion mare one day before the race. "But seriously, we have no real timeframe to make a decision on whether we're going to run or not. So far, I've been waiting for any little thing to come up that would make us scratch, and so far, there hasn't been anything."In her last start, Musical Romance shipped to Belmont Park for the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap, where she was positioned fourth early, backed up to fifth on the turn and then came on late to finish third. Off that performance, a defense of her Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint title remained the ultimate goal for the daughter of Concorde's Tune, with Kaplan employed to find the path most conducive to repeat success.
"For me it comes down to two choices," he explained. "We can run tomorrow and then work her once before going to the Breeders' Cup, or I can keep her in the barn and give her three workouts before going. It's just a matter of what I think she'll get the most from. But this race would put her on the same schedule as last year when she had a race (Grade 2 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes) four weeks out.
"In her last race, we didn't ask her for too much and I thought she ran great," Kaplan added. "She was really finishing well, which is what we wanted coming off a break. So for me, that race served its purpose, and I think (Saturday's) race, if we choose to run, would further serve that purpose.
"And honestly it's not a race where I worry about her winning, or about whether the distance is right, or about the other fillies and mares that are going to run. I'm just trying to get my horse back to the Breeders' Cup in the best shape possible."
Even though Kaplan steadfastly states that Musical Romance's possible participation in the Mike Sherman Memorial is completely Breeders' Cup-centric, there appears to be some sentiment shown that suggests the trainer wants to give his prized trainee a farewell race over her home track before heading to the Breeders' Cup in California in early November and then to the sales ring in the Fasig-Tipton November breeding stock sale.
"I've been saying that for a few months; that I would like to run her here one more time for the fans," the horseman admitted. "She loves training over this track, she loves running over this track, and I think it would be great if we gave people another opportunity to come out and see her run."
Throughout her 39-race career, Musical Romance has competed at Calder 24 times, winning seven races, including this year's Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap, earning $573,486 of her $1.6 million bankroll locally.
The now five-year-old mare also owns Calder main track stakes wins in the 2011 editions of the Barb's Dancer, U Can Do It Handicap, and Ema Bovary, in addition to a turf-stakes triumph in the 2010 Sweettrickydancer. She was also second, beaten a neck, in the 2011 running of the Princess Rooney.
Musical Romance began her career at Calder on September 19, 2009.
Among the mare will have to face if she does indeed start in the Mike Sherman Memorial are Princess Rooney third Nakano and Golden Mystery, who set the pace in the Princess Rooney before tiring late to finish seventh.
One race later at Calder, six runners will line up for the $75,000 Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap going 6 1/2 furlongs. Spectacular Sky, currently riding a three-race win streak, is cross-entered to both races but will have to take on Grade 2 hero Indiano if she goes in the Kenny Noe.