Krewe Chief is making a strong case this spring that you can teach an old horse new tricks.
The gelding has won three Hawthorne races in a row this meet for owner-trainer Dave Reid, who claimed Krewe Chief last summer for $14,000. Reid likely thought he was getting a route horse, possibly for turf. Krewe Chief, in his earlier days, had been borderline stakes-class, best suited to long-distance races over 1 ¼ miles, even 1 ½ miles. But after Reid had run Krewe Chief seven times and gotten nothing better than a fourth-place finish, he asked the gelding to do something Krewe Chief hadn’t tried in the first 59 starts of his career – run in a dirt sprint.
Krewe Chief won a six-furlong, $5,000 claiming race April 23 at Hawthorne, breaking a 15-month losing streak. Reid ran him back in a two-turn $5,000 claimer, got another win, cut back Krewe Chief to six furlongs again May 28, and Krewe Chief responded with his best race in years, a going-away two-length victory in an $8,500 claimer. Sixty-some starts into his racing life, 9-year-old Krewe Chief has been reborn.
“It’s remarkable. It’s just kid of a comeback for him. Going long, he was hanging a little, so we decided to let him roll, run him short, just some trial and error. He’s built up some enthusiasm for sure. He was a little laid back, but now he’s getting more aggressive. He was supposed to be retired by now,” Reid said. Reid is 80 himself. He’s been working with horses since he dropped out of University of Kentucky about 60 years ago. “Krewe Chief and I are about the same age.”
Reid has been racing in Chicago, at Hawthorne, Sportsman’s Park, and Arlington Park, for half a century. Two of those tracks are gone now. Reid’s seven horse stable at Hawthorne is overseen by longtime assistant Theresa Martinez. Reid’s Hawthorne help has been with him for decades. One reason he declined to stable this spring at Horseshoe Indianapolis: That track is situated hard on an interstate, across the street from a cornfield. Stable employees are somewhat stuck there, a far cry from Hawthorne, where the backstretch is knit into a surrounding community.
Reid himself has a small farm in the community of Logansport, Indiana, a two-hour 45-minute drive from Hawthorne “on a good day,” he said, the place he grew up. Horses figured into his childhood but not racehorses, and he went to University of Kentucky for an opportunity to get close to them.
“I got a job galloping horses, which I’d never done before. Come November, when the yearlings went to South Carolina, they said they didn’t need me anymore. I dropped out of school and said I’m going where the yearlings are.” Reid wound up in South Florida, galloping at farms, eventually riding at the grand – and extinct – Hialeah Park. He went to night school at University of Miami, rode horses for a living in the morning.
Hawthorne’s purses are pretty damn good this spring and Krewe Chief has earned nearly $30,000. A three-race winning streak might feel like hitting the lottery for a barn that won three races during all of 2021. Reid said he claimed two horses last week at Horseshoe Indianapolis. He’s tinkering around with them at his farm right now. As for Krewe Chief, he’s graduated to starter allowance competition and, all being well, runs again near the end of the month at Hawthorne.
The long and short of it is racing is a funny game.
The Boyce is back in town
Just turned June. Arlington is hitting full swing, and so is the stable of longtime Chicago horsewoman Michele Boyce. She and the owners and breeders that support her have committed not just to Illinois racing but to the Illinois breeding program. They have good mares that consistently drop runners – Illinois-bred runners. Boyce sends some horses to Florida for the winter, but the heart of her year comes now, at Arlington.
Racing and breeding – these are activities deeply embedded in seasonal cycles. The cyclical nature of Chicago racing has been turned upside down this year, thanks to Churchill Downs Inc.’s decision to close, for no good reason, Arlington Park after the 2021 race meet.
It just turned June and Boyce has 20 stalls at Horseshoe Indianapolis, which used to be called Indiana Grand, and before that was more reasonably called Indiana Downs. She’s in the casino-supported track’s vast new barn alongside several other Chicago outfits sent to wander the figurative wilderness with Arlington shuttered this summer. Rather than pick up and move her stable when Hawthorne has no Thoroughbred racing between late June and late September, Boyce elected just to go to Indiana.
“It’s a difficult transition,” she said. “I have a barn that’s primarily Illinois-breds that are in the wrong state. I chose continuity for this year instead of having to move. I’m waiting with bated breath to see what next year holds.”
Boyce has run only four horses so far at the Indiana track after wintering at Tampa Bay. She has three wins in 2022, far slower than her typical pace. Things are different, harder.
Some Illinois-breds still are coming to Hawthorne. Cat Attack on May 29 finished third as the 9-5 favorite in the Oak Brook Stakes for Illinois-bred turf route fillies. Boyce said her foreman in Indiana had been impressed with Cat Attack’s morning training in blinkers. They were tried in race for the first time last week and didn’t work well; Cat Attack spent the first six furlongs fighting with her rider, leaving her with no closing kick.
Blue Sky Cowboy, a 9-year-old relic from happier days, was to run in the $75,000 Black Tie Affair on the Friday card at Hawthorne. Summer Assault, who was third in a stakes-class allowance race May 28, will return for the Outbound Ike Stakes on June 19.
Boyce’s 2-year-olds soon will come in. Cat Attack’s sister, an Animal Kingdom filly named Cat Royale bred and owned by Steve and Diane Holland, has garnered positive reports farm-training in Florida. A filly by Kate the Great, who is Blue Sky Kowboy’s sister, is in the final stages of being broken. It’s the fourth generation of that family Boyce has trained – and the horse, when she comes north, will go to Indiana, not Illinois.
“I just got back from Indiana today,” Boyce said Thursday. “I go for maybe three days at a stretch. It’s just such a shock not to be at Arlington.”
Penny returns at Hawthorne
Charlie’s Penny, a promising early-season 3-year-old filly during 2021, makes a long-delayed return to racing in the $75,000 Crestwood Stakes on Saturday at Hawthorne.
The Crestwood, for older fillies and mares at six furlongs, drew a competitive field of 10, another solid stakes offering during the Hawthorne spring meet.
Charlie’s Penny, a Minnesota homebred owned by Bob Lothenbach, made an immediate splash during the 2020 Arlington meet, winning her debut, a five-furlong Polytrack sprint, by seven lengths. Four starts later, making her first start around two turns, Charlie’s Penny won the $100,000 Silverbulletday Stakes, an early stepping-stone toward the Kentucky Oaks, by more than three lengths. But not long after, the filly was diagnosed with a hairline fracture in her shin. Back training last fall, Charlie’s Penny developed a similar injury higher up on a leg, which required another sustained period of inactivity and healing. Finally, having resumed racetrack training in February, Charlie’s Penny is ready to roll.
“I’m hopeful she’s back to herself,” said trainer Chris Block. Charlie’s Penny hasn’t grown significantly during her long break, but a 4-year-old filly in June is supposed to be a stronger, faster horse than a 3-year-old filly in January. “I’m hopeful she’s going to go forward. She’s got the raw ability and the mind for it.”
Javier Tavares has picked up the mount on Charlie’s Penny, while possible favorite Cheetara, who ships from Keeneland for Argentina-born trainer Ignacio Correas, will be ridden by Vincent Cheminaud.
Cheminaud races for the first time in Chicago after having moved his tack to the U.S. from France early this year. Cheminaud’s star had fallen in France, accounting for his decision to relocate across the Atlantic, but for a time he found great success overseas, riding frequently for the legendary French trainer, Andre Fabre. Before this year, Cheminaud had ridden only twice in America, finishing unplaced in a Belmont Park stakes race but winning the Grade 1 Sword Dancer, one of the country’s top turf races, aboard the wonderful horse Flintshire in 2015. Now based in Kentucky, Cheminaud hasn’t gotten as many opportunities as he deserves. Correas, who in early years worked for a French trainer, has been using him regularly – and for good reason. Cheminaud can really ride.