Richard Thompson’s Ballast has captured the Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) the past two years, but his bid for a three-peat will not be easy, as the 7-year-old gelding will face an accomplished field of horses Dec. 6 in the $100,000 event at Calder Race Course.
Among the eight rivals Ballast will do battle with in the 1 1/8-mile contest are Silver Tree, Icy Atlantic, and Soldier’s Dancer–all multiple graded stakes winners–as well as English-bred Spice Route, an up-and-coming 4-year-old who makes his second U.S. start for Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield.
Ballast has made his only two career starts at Calder count, as he took the 2006 Tropical Turf by 1 1/4 lengths under Rafael Bejarano and last year’s edition by a neck after coming off the pace with Kent Desormeaux aboard. Those are his only two graded stakes wins.
Ballast began his racing career in Europe, but shipped to the barn of Graham Motion in the middle of 2006. He has recorded a 5-3-2 mark from 17 North American starts, including one win in four starts in 2008. The victory came last out at Keeneland when the son of Desert Prince won an allowance event by a neck Oct. 22.
Bred in Ireland and out of the Kris mare Suedoise, Ballast will be ridden by Jeremy Rose.
At age 8, Peter Vegso’s Silver Tree is the oldest starter in the field. The son of Hennessy is still remarkably consistent at his age too, as he has scored a pair of grade III wins this year and finished runner-up in two more black-type events. The Florida homebred won the Oceanport Stakes (gr. IIIT) three starts back and most recently was fourth to Icy Atlantic in the Bonnie Heath Turf Cup Handicap Nov. 8 at Calder.
Silver Tree won the Tropical Turf back in 2005 and missed by only a neck in the event a year before. Trained by Bill Mott, the chestnut is a six-time graded stakes winner with more than $1.7 million in earnings. Desormeaux picks up the mount.
James Scatuorchio’s Icy Atlantic, a 7-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic, scored his first victory in eight starts when he took the Bonnie Heath by 1 1/4 lengths last out. He was fifth in the 2005 Tropical Turf. The Todd Pletcher trainee is less than $13,000 away from becoming a millionaire and has produced an 8-11-3 mark from 44 lifetime starts.
Herman Heinlein’s Soldier’s Dancer has enjoyed a nice year for trainer David Vivian, winning three of seven starts and finishing runner-up in two more, including the Sunshine Millions Turf to kick off his 2008 campaign. The 4-year-old Lost Soldier gelding won consecutive stakes, including the Miami Mile Handicap (gr. III), before stumbling at the start of the Bonnie Heath, which caused Manoel Cruz to fall off the even-money favorite. Cruz will get the call once again.
Harlequin Ranches' Spice Route finished last in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) in his North American debut, but has been in good form since. The English-bred son of King's Best has started four straight at Woodbine for Attfield, including a nice runner-up effort in the Canadian International (Can-I) Oct. 4. Last out, he was third, but beaten less than two lengths in the Sky Classic (Can-II).
My Charmer draws a full field
Also on the Dec. 6 card at Calder is the My Charmer Handicap (gr. IIIT), the sister race to the Tropical Turf. Also at nine furlongs on the turf, the My Charmer drew a full field of 12, as well as two also eligibles.
Leading the field is Virginia Kraft Payson’s Rutherienne, who has a big class edge on the rest of the field. Rutherienne, by Pulpit, is the lone multiple graded stakes winner entered, having captured six in her exceptional career. Last year’s winner of the Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT), Rutherienne has earned more than $900,000 and has produced a 9-0-5 record from 16 starts.
Trained by Christophe Clement, Rutherienne won both the Francis A. Genter (gr. IIIT) at Calder and Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. IIT) at Keeneland earlier this season. She has finished third in her last five, including her most recent start, the Oct. 3 First Lady (gr. IT) at Keeneland. Rene Douglas will ride.
Three Chimneys Racing and Harlequin Ranches’ Callwood Dancer will try to rebound from a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Cardinal Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs Nov. 15. The 4-year-old daughter of Danehill Dancer tired down the stretch in the nine-furlong event after leading through three-quarters. Callwood Dancer won the Nassau Stakes (Can-II) at Woodbine earlier this season.
Never Retreat, a stakes winner in her turf debut last out at Aqueduct, and Alpha Charmer are the lone 3-year-olds in the race. Lomaki and Stormin Mon are also eligibles.
$100,000 My Charmer Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 8, 3:30 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Miss Lombardi (MD), 116, Jeremy Rose
2. Jeux de Danse (KY), 116, Jermaine V. Bridgmohan
3. Never Retreat (KY), 114, Javier Santiago
4. Callwood Dancer (IRE), 120, Javier Castellano
5. Cozzi Capital (KY), 116, Daniel Coa
6. Wild Promises (FL), 118, Aaron T. Gryder
7. Snow Cone (FL), 115, Carlos H. Marquez, Jr.
8. Alpha Charmer (KY), 113, Eduardo O. Nunez
9. Rutherienne (KY), 121, Rene R. Douglas
10. Jade Queen (KY), 114, Christopher P. DeCarlo
11. Waquoit's Love (MD), 115, Elvis Trujillo
12. Sea Chanter (KY), 113, Manoel R. Cruz
AE Lomaki (KY), 113, Kent J. Desormeaux
AE Stormin Mon (KY), 112, Javier Santiago
$100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT, Race 10, 4:27 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Simmard (KY), 111, Robert C. Landry
2. Soldier's Dancer (FL), 121, Manoel R. Cruz
3. It's a Bird (FL), 113, Jermaine V. Bridgmohan
4. Spice Route (GB), 117, Javier Castellano
5. Icy Atlantic (FL), 118, Christopher P. DeCarlo
6. Ballast (IRE), 118, Jeremy Rose
7. A. P. Magic (KY), 113, Eduardo O. Nunez
8. Silver Tree (FL), 120, Kent J. Desormeaux
9. Minister's Joy (KY), 117, Elvis Trujillo