Of the 12 sophomores entered for the $300,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) April 17 at Keeneland, there will be no bigger sentimental favorite than Fantasy Lane Stable’s Uptowncharlybrown, whose trainer Alan Seewald passed away April 12 at the age of 62.
A mainstay on the New Jersey training circuit since 1984, Seewald won at a nearly 17% clip and had 22 stakes winners in his career. Although he never had a superstar horse, Seewald was hopeful that Uptowncharlybrown would win the race that mattered most to him: the Haskell Invitational (gr. I), which is run later this summer at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N. J., not far from Seewald’s hometown of Middletown.
“Alan was very excited about this horse," said Bob Hutt, the owner of Fantasy Lane, which has 59 partners with an interest in Uptowncharlybrown. "He was never thinking about going to the (Kentucky) Derby with him though. His dream was to win the Haskell.”
Hutt was also Seewald’s best friend of more than 25 years and will be giving his eulogy at the April 15 funeral services in Middletown. Seewald died of an apparent heart attack at his home.
“Some of the partners of Fantasy Lane will be (at Keeneland)," Hutt said. "Normally, I would have been excited to go, but it’s just too difficult a time right now.
"Alan was a terrific, warm person; the kind of guy where if you met him for the first time you would think he was your best friend. In our 25 years together, we never even had one argument. He was my best friend and my brother. It’s going to be a bittersweet day (on Saturday). But all I can think about now is how I’m going to make it through the eulogy.”
Uptowncharlybrown, who won the Pasco Stakes in his second start at Tampa Bay Downs in January, ran third in the Sam F. Davis (gr. III) the following month, and was a troubled fifth in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) March 13, will now be trained by Seewald’s longtime assistant Linda White. Garrett Gomez will have the mount and they will break from post 2.
Hutt said a win or solid effort by Uptowncharlybrown could send him on to the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) in June. The son of Limehouse was bred in Kentucky by Juan Bruno and Rose Hill Farm.
The probable favorite for the 1 1/16-mile Lexington, which offers the winner $180,000 in graded earnings, is Connemara, who is likely the only 3-year-old in the race that would have enough earnings to start in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) with a win. But Connemara, winner of the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Golden Gate Fields in February and third in the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway Park last month, is unlikely for the Derby according to trainer Todd Pletcher.
Russell Baze will ride Connemara, a son of Giant's Causeway. They will break from post 10.
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Pletcher’s other starter is Wertheimer and Frere homebred Exhi, a wire-to-wire winner of the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park in his first start on Polytrack last out. Exhi, by Maria's Mon, was sixth in both starts on Keeneland’s turf course last year. Robby Albarado will ride for the first time.
Other contenders are Darley’s Kettle River, a winner of two of four starts, but eighth last out in the Sham Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita for Eoin Harty; WinStar Farm’s Chief Counsel, who was fourth in the Lane’s End; and Harvey Clarke and Ron Winchell’s Krypton, a romping 6 1/4-length allowance winner over the Keeneland main track just two weeks ago going seven furlongs.
$300,000 Coolmore Lexington (gr. II Race 9, 5:15 p.m. EST), 3YO, 1 1/16 Miles (Polytrack) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Krypton (FL), A Garcia, 117, K P McLaughlin
2. Uptowncharlybrown (KY), G K Gomez, 117, L A White
3. Distorted Dave (KY), V Espinoza, 117, J W Sadler
4. Bushwhacked (KY), R Maragh, 117, J E Sheppard
5. Call Shot (KY), J Alvarado, 117, W M Catalano
6. Prince Will I Am (KY), C H Borel, 117, M Nihei
7. Lonesome Street (KY), J R Leparoux, 117, M J Maker
8. Exhi (KY), R Albarado, 121, T A Pletcher
9. Heavenville (LA), S Bridgmohan, 117, S M Asmussen
10. Connemara (KY), R A Baze, 121, T A Pletcher
11. Kettle River (KY), J Castellano, 117, E G Harty
12. Chief Counsel (KY), K J Desormeaux, 117, W I Mott