Two years and five days ago, West Point Thoroughbreds' 2-year-old Seven Trumpets made his racing debut at Ellis Park, finishing fifth of seven horses while losing by 20 1/4 lengths.
More than $400,000 in purse earnings later, Seven Trumpets returned Sunday to Ellis Park for the first time since that debacle of a debut. This time he earned his first stakes victory by holding off the late-running Guest Suite by three-quarters of a length in the $75,000 Good Lord Stakes, presented by the University of Louisville's Equine Industry Program. Guest Suite finished a half-length in front of the pacesetting Done Deal in the field of seven older horses, whose three scratches included program-favorite Wilbo.
“I definitely felt like I was the winner the whole way,” said winning jockey Channing Hill. “The only time I got a little bit (of doubt) was probably about 70 yards before the wire. He wasn't wanting to pull up, but he was just kind of wanting to look around a little bit, looking for something to come running at him. Obviously Guest Suite did, and that put him right back on track.”
Seven Trumpets hadn't raced since he struggled home last of 14 in Santa Anita's Grade 1 Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, a race that followed an eighth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. But the colt had uncorked a string of “bullet” workouts at Churchill Downs for trainer Dale Romans heading into the Good Lord.
“I thought it was a beautiful race for his first time back this year,” Romans, who has been one of the most prominent cheerleaders for Ellis Park's 2-year-old program, said from New York, where he has a small division for the summer at Saratoga. “I think it's a good lesson for people who own horses: It was almost two years ago to the day we took him down there to Ellis as a baby and thought he was a cinch, and he ran horrible. He wound up Grade 1-placed. It's no disgrace for that type of horse to run down there — and to get beat down. It shows the change in the business.”
In his second start, Seven Trumpets rolled to victory at Churchill Downs, giving Romans his 701st career victory at his hometown track, pulling him in a tie (ultimately broken) for the all-time lead with Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. He would go on to finish second or third in four stakes, including second to stablemate Promises Fulfilled in last summer's Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at Saratoga, with a couple of allowance victories interspersed.
Romans said “nothing was really wrong with him” to precipitate the six-month layoff. “He just had a tough 3-year-old campaign. He threw in some clunkers. He ran fast, just looking back at how good the races were that he was in. We just thought a freshening would do him good, and it obviously has. I think he was a little tired at the end of the year.”
In the Good Lord, Seven Trumpets pushed the solid pace set by Done Deal, coming off the rail to collar the leader in midstretch and edging away, with enough left to hold off the fast-charging Guest Suite, who was more than five lengths behind the next-to-last horse in the early stages of the race before coming with a rush.
“He just showed his class,” said Hill, riding Seven Trumpets for the first time since that lamentable first start. “I still thought I had plenty of horse left, even with a real good charge at him. Hopefully this is a nice stepping stone to the Breeders' Cup again.”
And what did Romans tell him going into the race?
“Dale just said, 'Don't screw it up.' So that's what I kind of tried to do,” Hill said with a laugh. “He got a little tired. But I thought it was almost more because he was hot and got tired at the same time. I really wasn't expecting to use him that much the first part. But he settled nicely, and I just kind of rode him like he was a 1-to-5 shot.”
Seven Trumpets covered 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.59 and paid $5.20 to win after going off as the 8-5 favorite.
“He always is a trier,” Hill said. “Some of those races, not that they fell apart, but you can pick up some pieces in them. And that's kind of what he's done. He really hasn't missed a start. He always puts an effort in. These are the ones you really have to appreciate, that put it on the line every time for you.
The 5-year-old Guest Suite was making his first start since Nov. 4, with trainer Neil Howard using the sprint stakes as simply a starting point back for a graded-stakes winner that is better racing around two turns.
“Our horse ran good. He was really the only one running late and we were able to get up for second,” said jockey Brian Hernandez. “You've got to be proud of him.”
And Howard was. “We needed to get going,” he said. “I was thrilled with the way he ran. Brian said he dropped back a little early and he had to let him get his feet under him, but he ran very well.”
Done Deal was making his second start since October. He was followed home by 2018 Ellis Park Derby winner Believe in Royalty (making his first start since losing the Sept. 30, Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby by a nose), Futile Silver Ride and Concord Fast.
“The horse ran great; he gave me everything,” jockey Tyler Baze said of the Ian Wilkes-trained Done Deal. “He broke running. He was comfortable and happy out there. He ran hard. There were some nice horses in that race.”
Seven Trumpets, a son of Morning Line for which West Point paid $205,000 at the 2017 OBS April 2-year-old sale, now is 4-3-1 in 14 career starts, earning $446,945. Romans wouldn't commit to the colt's next start but said, “He's a middle distance horse, from six furlongs to a mile.”
“He's always been well-intended,” said West Point president Terry Finley. “I know that Dale really liked the way he'd trained. It's the second half of year. We've got a fresh horse that has talent. Now we just have to do a good job at placing him, and I like to think we will.
“We know he's quality. Dale's done a very good job. He told me when we got him back from WinStar Farm — we'd recharged his batteries there — that 'we're headed in the right direction. I'll tell you when I'm ready to run, and don't ask me until then.' And that's what we did.”
The Good Lord is named for the three-time winner of the stakes (2012-2014) trained by Forrest Kaelin, the dean of Kentucky trainers who was an Ellis Park fixture for almost 70 years until his death last summer a few days after the stakes.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2019 Paulick Report.