Trainer Mark Hennig and long-time owners Courtlandt Farms are loaded with sophomore stakes-caliber stock with Sonneman, Or'effice, Americanus, Kingmeister and Maedean currently in training at Gulfstream Park.
Hennig, who has 16 horses stabled at Belmont Park as well as the above-noted talent among his Gulfstream-based contingent, saw Sonneman return with a sparkling score on Saturday at the Hallandale Beach, Florida oval.
The dark bay son of Curlin, purchased for $375,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, graduated at third asking in October in a one-turn mile at Belmont and made his 3-year-old debut a winning one Saturday when rallying from last-of-eight in a seven-furlong optional-claiming sprint.
Sonneman is out of the Crimson Tide mare Zardana, who won the 2009 Grade 2 Bayakoa at Hollywood Park and more famously bested Rachel Alexandra in the 2010 New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds.
Hennig said Sonneman fit the profile of the classic type of horse he looks to purchase for Donald and Donna Adam's Courtlandt Farms.
“He was an athletic colt and we thought a lot of him at the sale. He's by the right sire, Curlin, and out of a mare that beat Rachel Alexandra,” said Hennig. “He had the credentials pedigree-wise and looked the part.”
Hennig said the late-blooming colt is one several in his barn that may benefit with the national stakes schedule in flux due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the Kentucky Derby now moved to the first Saturday in September.
“One race at a time, but he ran well going a mile in the fall and he looked like a horse that would benefit from more ground,” said Hennig. “The other day he was just hitting his best stride at the wire.”
Or'effice, a bay son of Medaglia d'Oro, is the first foal out of four-time graded stakes-winning millionaire Grace Hall, who bested Judy the Beauty to capture the 2011 Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga Race Course.
Bred in Kentucky by Alpha Delta Stable, Or'effice was purchased for $725,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and debuted with an even fourth in December at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Or'effice then shipped to Gulfstream where he was again fourth in a one-mile turf maiden and second in an off-the-turf route of ground before another dramatic second on Friday in a 1 1/16-mile main-track tilt.
Saving ground along the rail under Joe Bravo, Or'effice was advancing with authority around the far turn and in tight quarters when bumping with rival and eventual winner Candy Machine. Or'effice took up and was tipped outside where he boldly re-rallied and came up just 3/4-lengths short, while earning a career-best 94 Beyer Speed Figure.
A stewards' inquiry and claim of foul by Bravo were both dismissed, but Hennig said he was still pleased with the effort from Or'effice.
“Unfortunately the stewards didn't agree with us, so he's still a maiden,” said Hennig. “It was a very promising effort and he got a big Beyer number.
“I think it was a tribute to the horse that he battled back after getting stopped,” added Hennig. “It's the sort of trip a horse sometimes gets in a race like the Derby. A lot of horses get stopped and they're done, but he was more than willing to re-rally which is always a good sign.”
Hennig said Or'effice was in good order following the troubled trip.
“He came out of the race good. He's been a work in progress,” said Hennig. “He's a big-sized colt and he's really starting to come together. He's been a fun one to watch develop.”
Americanus, who debuted victoriously in September at Belmont, was off-the-board in the Grade 3 Nashua at Aqueduct in November but was much improved in his sophomore debut in January at Gulfstream when second in a seven-furlong optional-claiming sprint. Last out, the War Front homebred rallied from last-of-seven to win a seven-furlong allowance sprint by a length on February 22.
Kingmeister, a homebred son of Bodemeister, made his first two starts at the Big A including a good second in a one-turn mile on December 7. A half-brother to Grade 3-winner Strike Power, Kingmeister made his sophomore debut a winning one when a half-length the best in a one-mile main track maiden tilt in January at Gulfstream.
Hennig said the quartet of promising Courtlandt Farms colts – two homebreds and two well-meant purchases – are coming around at the right time.
“Those are the type we're looking to buy and we're fortunate to have a good group of them,” said Hennig. “They're not the sort of colts that are going to be Saratoga 2-year-olds, but they're hopefully Belmont fall or springtime horses and that's what we're trying to achieve going to the sale.”
Maedean, who is 31st on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with four points, is also training with Hennig in Florida following an off-the-board effort last out in the Busher Invitational at the Big A.
The Tapit grey, a $450,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, graduated in October at Belmont ahead of a 5 ½-length romp in the Tempted in November at Aqueduct. She picked up her Oaks points when second to Lake Avenue in the Grade 2 Demoiselle in December.
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