U. S. Cavalry looks for his second consecutive stakes victory in the WEBN.

U. S. Cavalry looks for his second consecutive stakes victory in the WEBN.

Pat Lang

WEBN: U.S. Cavalry Aiming Higher

The 3-year-old gelding, a former claimer, looks for his second stakes win Feb. 2.

Running in claiming ranks just a few months ago, Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s U. S. Cavalry will try to make another leap – perhaps onto the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) trail – when he takes on 11 rivals in the $50,000 WEBN Stakes Feb. 2 on the Turfway Park Polytrack.

A 3-year-old gelding, U. S. Cavalry certainly has the bloodlines to be a Kentucky Derby contender, as he is a son of multiple graded stakes winner Officer, out of the Distorted Humor  mare Humorous Wish. The WEBN will be new territory for U. S. Cavalry, however, as he stretches out to a mile for the first time.

Trained by Michael Maker, U. S. Cavalry was claimed by the Ramseys for $50,000 Sept. 27, just prior to breaking his maiden by nine lengths at Turfway. He went on to win a six-furlong starter allowance at Keeneland in his next race, and two tries later won a second-level allowance event at Churchill Downs at the same distance.

In his most recent outing, U. S. Calvalry, who was bred in Kentucky by Blackrock Bloodstock, came from well off the pace to take the Jan. 5 Turfway Prevue Stakes by 1 ¼ lengths. In fact, the top five finishers in the 6 ½-furlong Prevue are entered in the WEBN. Those starters, in order of finish, include Mr. Harry, Cape Hatteras, Hot Chili and Gregory’s Trick.

U. S. Cavalry is one of four horses that the Ramseys have nominated to the Kentucky Derby, the others being current WEBN entrant Targe, Cannonball (third in Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf), and Nolan's Territory. If U. S. Cavalry can win the WEBN, his next start, according to Ken Ramsey, would likely be in the 1 1/8-mile Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) March 22, which was a Triple Crown trail springboard for last year’s Lane's End winner, Hard Spun.

"He's got a winning race over Churchill Downs and he's already got four wins. Most Derby horses don't have either of those," said Ramsey, half-jokingly, whose only Derby starter to date is Ten Cents a Shine, eighth in the 2003 Classic. "This will be his first real test, though. He's right where he should be, so we're optimistic. And he's still improving. He's got to step his game up a little bit, but he's got a shot. Wouldn't it be a great story to have a claiming horse win the Derby?"

Orlando Mojica will ride U.S. Cavalry for the first time, carrying a co-top weight of 121 pounds while breaking from post seven.

Targe, another gelding recently claimed, is the other starter that the Ramsey-Maker combination may also send out. A 3-year-old son of Monarchos, he was claimed for $25,000 Oct. 19 at Keeneland, just prior to winning for the second time in as many starts. Targe followed that up with a sound defeat in allowance competition Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs – his only start on dirt – but returned to the Turfway Polytrack for consecutive victories, including his most recent outing, an impressive 6 ½ length score Jan. 18 in a one mile allowance event.

Hoping to make his first stakes start, Targe is an also-eligible. If he finds a way into the full field of 12, John McKee will ride.

"He's got real good pedigree," Ramsey said. "I got a horse by a Derby winner for $25,000, so how can you go wrong? If he gets in this one then fine. If not, will shoot for the Rushaway Stakes (March 22 at Turfway)."

Stonerside Stable homebred Texas Fever is another synthetic surface specialist to consider. By Victory Gallop, the Michael Stidham trainee has done his best work on Polytrack, as he broke his maiden on that surface at Arlington Park Aug. 25, then took the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III) at Turfway Sept. 29.

Texas Fever has not been nearly as impressive in his last two starts – a sixth-place finish in the 1 1/6-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Oct. 26 at Monmouth Park and a seventh-place finish Jan. 12 in the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) on the Fair Grounds dirt – but is a legitimate threat against this level, especially on his preferred surface. Rodney Prescott will ride, with the bay colt also carrying 121 pounds.

$50,000 WEBN Stakes (Race 11, 5:45 p.m. EST), One Mile for 3-Year-Olds, Polytrack
PP., Horse, Weight, Jockey

1. Mr. Harry (KY), 117, William Troilo
2. Gregory's Trick (FL), 117, Fernando De La Cruz
3. Hot Chili (MI), 121, Otto Thorwarth
4. Best Buddy (IL), 117, Dean 
5. Socks (KY), 115, Thomas Pompell
6. Texas Fever (KY), 121, Rodney Prescott
7. U. S. Cavalry (KY), 121, Orlando Mojica
8. Cape Hatteras (KY), 115, Julio E. Felix
9. Your Round (KY), 117, Victor Lebron
10. Dixie Decision (KY), 117, Aldo Canchano
11. Big Glen (KY), 117, James Lopez
12. Laramie Woods (KY), 117, Hector Rosario, Jr.
AE. Targe (KY), 117, John McKee