Fair Grounds Barn Notes: Winter Sunset Impressive in Debut Win

(Winter Sunset winning at the Fair Grounds / Hodges Photo & Courtesy of the Fair Grounds)

From Ryan Martin, Fair Grounds Media Team:

Trainer Wayne Catalano could not have been any happier with the career debut of Winter Sunset, who won first time out over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots on Thursday afternoon.

Breaking from the rail under jockey Channing Hill, Winter Sunset was sent straight to the front and glided home to victory by 4¼ lengths in wire-to-wire fashion in a 7½-furlong maiden special weight event over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course.

“She’s got the pedigree to be a nice filly and she had trained that way,” Catalano said. “Obviously we were very happy with her performance. She ran like she thought she might run, which was to her pedigree so we were excited about her.”

Owned by Coffeepot Stables and Phillips Racing Partnership, the 2-year-old daughter of Tapit boasts a highly prestigious pedigree. She is out of the two-time Grade I winning broodmare Winter Memories, who won the Garden City Stakes during her sophomore campaign and took the Diana Handicap at age four. Winter Sunset’s maternal grand dam was Memories of Silver who also was a two-time Grade I winner on grass.

“We were ecstatic to get her,” Catalano said. “She was a ($900,000) RNA (at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2017). (Owner) Bob Cummings and the seller made some kind of deal and my name was mentioned so that I could train her when they bought her.”

Although Winter Sunset qualifies for a first level allowance event, Catalano did not rule out running her against stakes company for her next start.

“We may go right to a stake race but we don’t know yet,” Catalano said. “We might take a shot at some heavy hitters. We’ll see what’s available.”

Meanwhile, stable mate Liora will point to the Grade II $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes on February 16 following a 29-1 upset victory in the Grade II Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs on November 24.

The 2-year-old daughter of Candy Ride (ARG) broke her maiden at third asking over the Churchill Downs main track on October 28 by nine lengths before her triumph in the Golden Rod.

Catalano believes that Liora could follow in the footsteps of five-time graded stakes winner Farrell, who won the Golden Rod Stakes in 2016 and took all three local preps on the Road To The Kentucky Oaks the following year.

“She was training pretty doggone well so we wanted to give her a shot,” Catalano said. “I thought to myself that she could be the next Farrell. She ran a couple nice races. Her maiden win was very impressive and obviously the Golden Rod was a great race and a great ride by Channing Hill. The whole connections did a great job with her.”

Like Winter Sunset and Farrell, Liora also is owned by Coffeepot Stables.

“We have a great relationship,” Catalano said. “Bob Cummings and Ms. Annette (Bacola) are wonderful people. They’re like family and we’ve been together for a long, long time so we’re very happy and fortunate to be working with them and being involved with people like that.”

Liora was bred by Dell Ridge Farm and was purchased for $175,000 from the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2017 where she was consigned by Lanes’ End Farm. She is out of the Giants Causeway stakes winning broodmare Giant Mover, who produced two-time graded stakes winner and Catalano trainee Family Tree.


Following a troubled third in the Grade II Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar on November 24, trainer Michael Stidham plans on pointingSynchrony toward repeat victories in the major stakes for older horses on grass at Fair Grounds this winter.

Last meet, the 6-year-old son of Tapit won both the Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap and the Grade II Muniz Memorial Handicap.

“We plan on running in the same races we ran in last year,” Stidham said. “We may just freshen him up a little and hopefully have him ready for at least the last two turf stakes here.”

Synchrony had a hard way to go in his most recent effort and was placed at the back of the pack and lacked enough racing room at the top of the stretch, thus forcing jockey Joe Bravo to go wide. He eventually made up enough ground to finish a late-closing third.

“Synchrony was the best horse in that race by far,” Stidham said. “He was stuck in the back of the back of the pack and was still at the quarter pole turning for home. Joe was last at that point and didn’t get out until the three-sixteenth pole. When he did, he flew home and then ran out ofground. In my opinion, he was the best horse and he should’ve won. With a clean trip, he wins. Not taking anything away from the winner (Caribou Club) because he ran big, but that’s horseracing. There’s nothing you can do about that.”

Not all was lost for Stidham however. Earlier on the card, he scored a victory in the Grade III Jimmy Durante with Godolphin-owned Elsawho won at 11-1 odds.

The 2-year-old daughter of Animal Kingdom broke her maiden at first asking over the Laurel Park turf on July 20 and ran third in the Bolton Landing Stakes at Saratoga on August 15 next out behind Wesley Ward trainees Stillwater Cove and Chelsea Cloisters. She then returned to Laurel Park in the Selima Stakes on September 22 where she was seventh over a yielding turf.

“We had only sprinted her up to that point,” Stidham said. “At Laurel first time out she was impressive and then was third in a very tough stake behind Chelsea Cloisters, who was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. We ran her back in a six furlong turf race at Laurel and turf was like a swamp. They went three-quarters in 1:16 so that says how slow it was that day and she hated it. We decided that the only guarantee place that we would get some firm turf is California, so we went out there and made the plan right after she ran badly on the soft turf. It gave us the chance to stretch out to a mile which we knew she was going to like. It all worked out great.”

Elsa is out of the Distorted Humor broodmare Abtasaamah, who is a half-sister to two-time Grade I winner Midshipman as well as graded stakes winner Fast Cookie – the dam of three-time Grade I winner Frosted.


The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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