A 5-year-old horse by Forest Wildcat, Chatain has reeled off three consecutive victories, including a 2 ½-length score in the one-mile Hal’s Hope Handicap (gr. III) Jan. 6 at Gulfstream, a race that he captured for the second straight year. Chatain will cut back to seven furlongs for the Richter Scale, a main track event open to older horses.
Chatain has been exceptionally consistent for trainer Angel Penna Jr., hitting the board in all but two of his nine lifetime starts, which have included six wins. Prior to the Hal’s Hope he won a pair of six-furlong sprints, one in allowance competition at Saratoga, the other a nose victory in the William Livingston Stakes Nov. 3 at Meadowlands.
Regular rider Cornelio Velasquez will get the return call on Chatain, who is out of the Red Ransom mare Roujoleur, and was bred in Kentucky by Stonerside Stable. If his last three races were any indication, the bay horse should be coming from off the pace.
Chatain may have to catch Tracy Farmer’s Commentator, a 7-year-old gelding who looks to be one of the few early speedsters in the race. Trained by Nick Zito, the son of Distorted Humor enters off a commanding 14-length score in a one-mile allowance event Jan. 17 at Gulfstream.
Commentator is no stranger to winning by big margins. All but one of his 10 career victories have come by six lengths or more. The 2005 Whitney Handicap (gr. I) winner has four stakes scores to his credit, his last one coming in the Richmond Runner Stakes last May at Belmont.
Penna knows that Commentator is the one to beat. “This will be the toughest race of (Chatain’s) career. Commentator is on top of his game, and when he’s good, he’s good.”
Echoing those sentiments was Jimmy Jerkens, who trains Richter Scale entrant Grand Champion. “Commentator will probably have an easy lead in there. If he gets anything higher than a 22 (first quarter) you can kiss it good-bye. If Commentator can get out there on the lead, that’s where he’s going to win the race.
“Commentator breaks their hearts when he gets out there. I think he runs his second quarter faster than his first quarter, and it just breaks their hearts trying to chase a horse like that. It’s going to be awfully hard unless someone can go in there and grab him early.”
Susan Moore’s Grand Champion had been going well until his last start, when he finished seventh in the Jan. 5 Mr. Prospector in the slop at Gulfstream. Prior to that setback the 5-year-old Two Punch gelding had been on the board in every one of his 10 career starts, five of them wins.
Before the Mr. Prospector, Grand Champion strung together consecutive triumphs, taking both the Oct. 13 Maryland Million Sprint at Laurel Park and Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct by a neck. The Maryland-bred has amassed nearly $280,000 in earnings. Javier Castellano will ride.
Also an intriguing entrant is Team Valor International’s King of the Roxy, who has been sidelined since finishing seventh in the Kings Bishop (gr. I) last August at Saratoga. A former Hutcheson (gr. II) winner who finished sixth in the 2007 Preakness, King of the Roxy has been working steadily at Palm Beach Downs for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Rose Family Stable homebred Rexson’s Rose could provide an early pace challenge for Commentator (race-high 123 pounds). The 5-year-old Suave Prospect horse has gone wire-to-wire more than once in his 28-start career, but has not won since April of last year.
$200,000 Richter Scale Sprint Handicap (gr. II, Race 8, 4:47 p.m.), Four-Year-Olds & Up, Seven Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Grand Champion (MD), 117, Javier Castellano
2. Steve's Double (MD), 118, Jamie Theriot
3. King of the Roxy (OH), 119, Rene R. Douglas
4. Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk (ON), 115, Jose Alberto Rivera II
5. Elite Squadron (KY), 117, Jorge F. Chavez
6. Commentator (NY), 123, John R. Velazquez
7. Chatain (KY), 120, Cornelio H. Velasquez
8. Rexson's Rose (FL), 116, Eduardo O. Nunez