When Tammy Fox comes back from a morning workout on a racehorse, the ultimate sign of approval is the former jockey flashing two thumbs up as they come off the track.
After Albaugh Family Stables' 2-year-old colt Dennis' Moment cruised five-eighths of a mile in 58 1/5 seconds Friday at Churchill Downs, Fox only flashed one thumb but explained, “I'd do two, but I'm using my 'stick' for the second one.”
Also, sometimes a person simply runs out of thumbs. So Fox offered this instant analysis of the work, “He moves like a Cadillac and is fast a Ferrari.”
Dennis' Moment is one of the favorites for the $2 million TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Nov. 1 at California's Santa Anita Park off a 19 1/4-length maiden win at Ellis Park and impressive win in Churchill Downs' Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes by a cruising 1 3/4 lengths over the promising Scabbard.
“It gave me goose bumps watching him work today,” said trainer Dale Romans. “He just went so easy…. When Tammy started off, I thought she was going too slow. I was starting to get a little aggravated, and Big John (Nichols, the clocker) started clicking off the times. It just looked like he was galloping.”
Dennis' Moment's 58 4/5 was the fastest of the morning among the 42 five-furlong works. He was timed galloping out three-quarters of a mile in 1:11 3/5 after going the first quarter mile in 22 2/5 seconds and the half in 46 3/5.
“His rhythm, how smooth he is,” Romans said of what he liked most. “It's different than watching most horses. You can tell how fast most horses are going. It just looks like he's skipping over the ground, he's so efficient. And you could tell, turning for home, he just picked it up again when he switched to the right lead. The last 100 yards, he just looked like he accelerated and didn't want to slow down.”
Dennis' Moment has had three officials starts. However, in his much-anticipated debut at Churchill Downs, he was squeezed between horses shortly after the start, unseating jockey Robby Albarado. With Albarado sidelined by a wrist fracture, Miguel Mena was aboard for the Ellis Park romp, with New York-based Irad Ortiz getting the mount for the Iroquois and Breeders' Cup.
“That's what's scary with this horse,” Romans said, when asked how much room for improvement there might be for such a lightly raced horse. “He doesn't get tired. Nothing phases him, nothing rattles him. I don't know where the bottom is. There is a lot of room for improvement. We haven't seen the best of him.”
Dennis' Moment is expected to compete for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile favorite's role with Keeneland's Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders' Futurity winner Maxfield (trained by Louisville-based Brendan Walsh) and Santa Anita's Grade 1 American Pharoah winner Eight Rings (Bob Baffert). Tiz the Law, winner of Belmont Park's Grade 1 Champagne Stakes, is bypassing the Breeders' Cup to wait for a 2-year-old stakes in New York or at Churchill Downs.
“Right now I think there are three top horses going in there,” Romans said. “That's Bob's horse on the West Coast, Brendan's horse that won at Keeneland and our horse. I'm sure they feel the same way I do: None of us would trade places with anybody. But I tell you, this is a very special horse. I've run second and I've run third in the Juvenile. This horse is doing things that even they didn't do at this time of the year.”
Said Jason Loutsch, Albaugh Family Stables' racing manager and partner in the venture with father-in-law Dennis Albaugh: “I think we've got a great shot. Our horse is training tremendously, and we're going with a tremendous amount of confidence. Obviously Mr. Baffert has a very talented one out in California, but we're not backing away. The way he's been training and his (handicapping) numbers from the races he's been in, they all fit really well.
“We've got a healthy and happy horse right now, so that's all you can ask for. Dale and I talk probably three times a day. We've come to grips that we're not going to worry about anyone else; let's just worry about ourself. That's the only one we can control. We know it's a Grade 1 race, the world championships. It's going to be a tough race. We're going to have to run the best race of his life and hopefully it's good enough.
Dennis' Moment will fly to California on Oct. 20, getting his final workout at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.
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