Trainer Mike Maker has shipped Ghost Is Clear from New Orleans to Hot Springs for the Grade III Southwest Stakes.
Ghost Is Clear ran three times late last year with only a second-place finish to show for it. But he ran off to an impressive 7 1/4 length victory Jan. 27 in his seasonal debut. Maker credits minor throat surgery prior to that last race for helping the colt find the winner’s circle.
“We know that we’re taking a step up, and that he has a lot of prove, but he’s doing really well,” said Maker, who currently has strings in New Orleans, South Florida and Kentucky. “It looks like a very competitive spot, but I think he’s a horse who is going to appreciate the mile distance.”
Corey Lanerie, who was aboard for the maiden score, will be in town for the mount Monday.
Last year, Maker found himself on the Kentucky Derby trail late in the game after Dean’s Kitten won the Grade II Lane’s End Stakes, and Stately Victor pulled a huge upset in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at 40-1 odds.
Ghost Is Clear wasn't early nominated to the Triple Crown.
Relaxed Picko’s Pride to Get Southwest Shot
Picko’s Pride has shown enough maturity in his three months at Oaklawn Park to earn a chance in the Southwest, according to trainer Mac Robertson.
Most of the leading names in the race have established their styles, but Robertson is giving Picko’s Pride, a runner-up in an allowance race at the track on Jan. 27, an opportunity to show how quickly he's developed in just the last few weeks.
“He was always so speed crazy as a 2-year-old, but in his last race he showed he could really relax,” said Robertson Saturday morning. “I really think he can stretch out. We will just drop way back, see if he relaxes again, make a run, and see how many we can pass.”
“He may not be as talented as some of the others in there, but if a 3-year-old can prove he will rate and make one run, you’ve got to take a chance,” he said. "...(T)his horse is just now learning how to sit back, and he’s shown he doesn’t have to have things his own way. He did it in his last race, and he trained for me like that the other day. When they act like that, that really helps.”
Picko’s Pride is a Kentucky-bred son of Cactus Ridge and enters the one-mile Southwest, his first race around two turns, with a one-for-four record. He broke his maiden in his debut at Canterbury Park in Minnesota last August. His second-place finish in his most recent race to fellow Southwest rival Yankee Passion was his 3-year-old debut.
“If he doesn’t stretch out like we hope, I know I’ve got a good sprinter,” said Robertson. “We’re here. It’s not that much to take a chance, and he’s got a good mind, so he should be able to handle a big crowd like we might see.”
--Edited from track notes