Calder Race Report: Shaken Up

Published in the July 19 issue of The Bloodhorse
Exactly four months. That was how long it took trainer Scott Lake to transform Shake You Down, a $65,000 claim at Aqueduct, from a "nice horse who could maybe win a race or two" into one of the country's top sprinters. His position was solidified with an attention-getting 8 1/4-length win in the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. III).

The $500,000 Smile, captured last year by Orientate on his way to a win in the NAPA Auto Parts Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) and an Eclipse Award, was part of the six stakes Summit of Speed, Calder Race Course's annual homage to sprinters on July 12. The day began with speed personified--Baby Shark's second consecutive win in the quarter-mile Rocket Man Stakes--and ended with Lake and owner Robert Cole Jr. accepting a trophy and needling Richard Englander. The latter's My Cousin Matt, also trained by Lake, finished third, three-quarters of a length behind longshot Private Horde in the Smile. "Rick will start looking to stay away from us now," Cole grinned mischievously.

It was while My Cousin Matt was out of the country that Shake You Down began to develop. Shortly after he claimed Shake You Down on March 12, Lake took "Matt" to Dubai for the Golden Shaheen (UAE-I), where he finished fifth. A few weeks later, upon his return, Lake visited his assistant trainer Hugo Padilla in New York.

"Who's that horse?" Lake quizzed Padilla upon seeing a muscular chestnut with a fluid stride gallop effortlessly over the Aqueduct strip. When told it was Shake You Down, Lake was flabbergasted. "I couldn't believe that was him," Lake said. "When we claimed him, he looked pretty good on paper and we thought he might be a nice claimer or an allowance-type horse. We figured if he couldn't do well in New York, we could always send him back to Maryland. But he must have gained 150 pounds and his coat went from dull to looking great. He fit well into our feed program and the problem he had been having with his blood resolved. He just turned around."

The turnaround began with a pair of allowance wins in April, each earning Beyer Speed Figures of 118. Afterward, Lake, who had claimed Shake You Down for himself, sold his entire interest to Cole, a Maryland-based mortgage banker.

The gelding next captured New York's Bold Ruler (gr. III) and True North Breeders' Cup (gr. II) Handicaps while on or near the lead, and set his sights on his home state of Florida, where he was bred at Ocala Stud Farm. And though he was unable to get to the front early while breaking from the widest post of 13 in the Smile, rider Mike Luzzi was able to keep pacesetter Here's Zealous in his sights.

"I told Luzzi, 'Just get out quick and get over as far as you can,' " Lake said. "I thought the 13 was an advantage because if someone else was dead set for the lead he wouldn't have to breathe for his life."

By the turn, though, it was Here's Zealous breathing for his life as Shake You Down ranged up boldly beside him. Cornelio Velasquez asked the former for all he had, but he could not keep stride with Shake You Down, who was hand-ridden to the wire. "Basically, he's a super horse right now," was all Luzzi needed to say, and the dozen that finished well behind him--not to mention the entire sprint division--had to agree.


"As if it isn't hot enough already, we had to sweat that one out," said trainer Mark Hennig, gulping a cup of water and sweating through his shirt, after Calder's placing judges determined Gold Mover had gotten her nose on the wire just ahead of Vision in Flight in the Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. II). Though it was 94 degrees--a typical July day in steamy South Florida--Hennig was no doubt willing to ruin his dress shirt in exchange for a second consecutive win in the half-million-dollar race by the Edward Evans homebred.

"She is one of my favorite horses of all-time," Hennig said. His joy was evident in speaking of Gold Mover. "She goes out and does it every day with a smile--not just the races, but in training, too. She's like the employee who does everything with happiness; the kid who always has his hand up in class."

In 2002, Gold Mover was the hunter, having to run down Xtra Heat for the half-length win. This year she was the hunted, but the parallels, including the presence of jockey Jerry Bailey, persisted. Harmony Lodge played the role of the spoiler loose on the lead. "It wasn't Xtra Heat, but it was a filly we had a lot of respect for that Jerry had to keep measured," said Hennig.

After dispatching her, Gold Fever was all out to hold off a local challenger.

She very nearly didn't do it. Jockey Gary Boulanger, aboard Vision in Flight, pumped his arms in the air after the pair crossed the wire in sync, and Bailey admitted he wasn't sure. Seconds swelled into tense minutes in the hot sun and Hennig's shirt became soaked before the numbers were finally posted.

With the victory came these gaudy numbers: Gold Mover has now won 13 of 30 lifetime and boasts career earnings of nearly $1.5 million.

There is just one number missing: I, as in the grade of stakes Gold Mover has yet to win. She came oh-so-close, crossing the wire first in the May 2002 Humana Distaff Handicap, but was disqualified for interference. And of her 11 stakes wins, three are grade IIs.

Hennig hopes to remedy that situation. "We're looking at the Ballerina for her," he said of Saratoga's Aug. 24 seven-furlong race. "She deserves to win a grade I."


The all-sources handle of $10.5 million for the Summit of Speed established an all-time Calder record, smashing the previous mark established in Dec. 2001 by more than $1 million. The 10,760 patrons who showed up were also a high for the 4-year-old event...Valid Video and Ebony Breeze, a pair of 3-year-olds who excelled in Florida last winter, returned to capture supporting stakes, the Carry Back (gr. III) and Azalea Breeders' Cup (gr. III), respectively. The former, who races for Mac Fehsenfeld and is trained by Dennis Manning, has now won four stakes from eight lifetime starts. Kinsman Stables' homebred Ebony Breeze--jockey Cornelio Velasquez in the irons for trainer Bill Mott--is now five-for-five in Florida and zero-for-six elsewhere...Jockey "Jersey" Joe Bravo, who piloted Valid Video, also captured the $100,000 Calder Turf Sprint Handicap aboard Joseph Lunetta's Joe's Son Joey. The 5-year-old son of Fast Play, who emerged as a top turf sprinter last year, was making his second start following a nearly 11-month layoff necessitated by an ankle injury. "He was very good last year and it's scary to think that he's come back better," said trainer Tim Hills. By Scott Davis

(Charts, Equibase)