The path back to the Breeders' Cup for Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen's Stormy Liberal could run through Southern California in 2018.
After unsuccessful trips to Belmont Park for the Jaipur Invitational Stakes (G3T) and to Sha Tin for the Longines Hong Kong Sprint (G1) last year, the 2017 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1T) winner will likely stay at home until a planned defense of his title in the World Championships at Churchill Downs in November.
"We're going to hold Stormy Liberal back a little bit, because he just hasn't travelled well," said Rockingham racing manager Brian Trump, in reference to his eighth-place run in the Jaipur and 11th-place finish in the Hong Kong Sprint. "After the Breeders' Cup we considered a lot for Stormy—a trip to Royal Ascot, and even running him in a big race in Australia—but in Hong Kong and New York he just never ran like himself."
The lack of top-level events domestically in the turf sprint division can lead to thinking big internationally or stretching out to a mile for local events, but the 6-year-old Stormy Atlantic gelding will start his 2018 campaign on his best course in the $150,000 Daytona Stakes (G3T) Feb. 24 sprinting over Santa Anita Park's hillside turf. In 2017 Stormy Liberal won four straight stakes down the hill, capped by the Daytona, which was run in May last year.
But if shipping is an issue, how will the bay handle a trip to Churchill in the fall?
"It's something we have to think about and maybe experiment with," said Trump, who ultimately said the decision will fall upon trainer Peter Miller. "Are we going to ship him into Kentucky early and let him settle in there, or drop in right before the race? Either way, in order to regain his glory he's going to have at least a short flight."
A $40,000 claim by Miller and Rockingham in October of 2016, Stormy Liberal is closing in on millionaire status with $983,570 in earnings. Since the claim, Stormy Liberal has five wins (all stakes) and $814,700 in earnings from nine starts.