One of the 25 or so employees of the Dogwood Stable in Aiken, S.C., gave Summer Squall his name.
“I don’t remember who it was, but they got $50 for it,” said Cot Campbell, the president of Dogwood. “We let the workers name all the horses now. We used to try letting the syndicate members name the horses, and that was a horrible situation, because they couldn’t agree on anything. Summer Squall’s a good name, isn’t it?”
And Summer Squall, a 3-year-old son of Storm Bird, out of Weekend Surprise, a Secretariat mare, is a good horse. In a year already marked by injuries to some of the leading Kentucky Derby candidates, Summer Squall is trying to buck the trend.
Slowed by a hairline shin fracture last September, Summer Squall bled from the lungs during a workout in late February at Gulfstream Park, and although he’s returned to the races with gusto, trainer Neil Howard is still playing catch-up in preparing him for the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
Undefeated in five sprints as a 2-year-old and second to the brilliant Housebuster in his 3-year-old debut March 17, Summer Squall runs farther than seven furlongs for the first time today when he heads the 10-horse field in the $500,000 Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway Park.
“Going from seven-eighths of a mile to a mile and an eighth, that’s asking a lot of a horse,” Howard said outside Summer Squall’s barn Friday morning.
The 41-year-old former New Yorker was wearing a white baseball cap that bore the name of the opposition--George R. Arnold II. Rusty Arnold, who trains Bright Again, another Jim Beam starter, had given Howard the cap, just as he had given Summer Squall space on the plane that brought Bright Again here from Florida.
Summer Squall will run today with Lasix, an anti-bleeding diuretic that he will also be able to use in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but not the Belmont Stakes, the finale of the Triple Crown series. Summer Squall used Lasix for the first time when he finished second, a length behind Housebuster, and a subsequent examination showed no bleeding.
Howard, however, had hoped to have Summer Squall run twice in Florida. Being a race behind with a 3-year-old that will be asked to run 1 1/4 miles--the Derby distance--for the first time is not an optimum position for a trainer. Ask Wayne Lukas. He pushed Capote into the 1987 Derby and the horse finished next to last.
“If we had gotten two races into him before we left Florida, I’d feel real good now,” Howard said. “The day he bled, our leeway went out the window. So now we’ve got to go with our hair on fire. We’re definitely walking a tightrope.
“Fortunately, this horse is very athletic and handy. If ever a horse can do what we’re asking of him, this is the horse. At least we have that luxury. This horse gets ready--gets himself fitter--than a big, 1,100-pound colt might. He’s helping us that way.”
Pat Day, who rode Summer Squall in three of his four stakes wins last year, including the Hopeful at Saratoga, rode Howard’s colt in the Swale and will be aboard again today.
“The way Pat rode this horse in the Swale, it was like two races in one for him,” Howard said. “He came back tired, but we wanted him to get a lot out of the race. He was tired, but he still came back with a spring in his step.”
Day, who also rode Unbridled to victory in the Florida Derby, must make a decision after the Jim Beam, because Summer Squall and Unbridled are both scheduled to run in the Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 14.
“If Pat doesn’t choose our horse beyond Saturday, it might not necessarily be because he’s down on him,” Howard said. “Pat’s as well versed as anybody in the business side of this sport, and that’s what he’ll make--a business decision. He wants to win a Derby as bad as everybody else.”
Howard has already heard from Angel Cordero’s agent about riding Summer Squall, and the trainer says that at least four other jockeys are interested. Should Summer Squall win the Jim Beam, the line will get even longer, providing Pat Day’s not at the front of it.
Horse Racing Notes
Trainer Ron McAnally, who is starting Tight Spot in the Jim Beam, made the 150-mile round trip to Keeneland Friday. McAnally is leaning toward starting Silver Ending in the Blue Grass there on April 14. There’s only an outside chance Silver Ending would run in the Santa Anita Derby a week from today. “Keeneland doesn’t have as much sand on it as Turfway,” McAnally said. “Keeneland kind of reminds me of how Santa Anita was before they put all the extra sand on it. It’ll probably be the Blue Grass, but I’ll decide for sure when I get back to California.”
If the recent rain continues and the track is muddy for the Jim Beam, Summer Squall and Bright Again should not be penalized, because both have run well on off tracks. McAnally isn’t sure how Tight Spot will run in the mud. . . . The other starters are Fighting Fantasy, Power Lunch, Private School, Seven Spades, Sluki, Top Snob and Yonder, a Woody Stephens-trained colt who was bought by Canadian Frank Stronach for $2 million. . . . Top Snob, a stablemate of Unbridled, ran fourth in the Florida Derby.
Hitchcock Woods, a 3-year-old owned by the same 28-person Dogwood syndicate that races Summer Squall, takes a winless record into a race Sunday at Santa Anita.