Friday, September 30, 2011

Tricky Break new winner in head-knocker at Calder

When a bay son of Sunday Break crossed the wire first by a neck in Race 3 at Calder Thursday, there was nothing "tricky" about it. The effort was sheer willpower.

That horse, Tricky Break, has apparently overcome a lot to reach the winner's circle for the first time in his life. The latest test was the final sixteenth of that $16,000 maiden-claiming event on Thursday afternoon, when favored Country Home came charging down the lane and erased a length-and-a-half deficit, but Tricky Break refused to lose.

I tipped Tricky Break out of last year's OBS April sale, when he was bought by Robert Smith -- who trains him today -- for a mere $6,500. Through a seemingly well-informed grapevine I learned that the horse had a physical issue that needed addressing and would keep him from being resold in this case and returned to New York, the state of his foaling.

Tricky Break went to the track in Florida instead and his 2-year-old and early 3-year-old results were poor -- seven starts at Calder and Tampa, no finish better than fifth.

Laid-off from February to July this year, I began to doubt that Tricky Break would return to the races at all, let alone crack the ranks of the winners. But he made a comeback on grass at Colonial Downs, where under the care of conditioner Patrick Schmid and running in cheap claiming company, he hit the board in his third start off the layoff (and first in 10 lifetime starts), finishing third.

Sent back to Calder and the barn of Smith, Tricky Break finished a clear-cut second on Sept. 1, then second again by only a half (with a nose advantage over third in a three-horse photo) in a determined performance at the $12,500 level on Sept. 15.

Maybe there was hope after all.

Smith certainly thought so, and stepped the gelding up in class again Thursday, all the way to the $16,000 level, (relative) heights Tricky Break hadn't seen since his debut at "Maiden 20" on Oct. 17, 2010.

The horse didn't let him (or me) down.

Tricky Break and rider David Boraco pressed leader Sir Philip in the early going, took over the lead after a half-mile, then slogged home in the rain over a sealed track, refusing to relinquish the advantage although Country Home (himself now second three times in a row) had reduced the margin to all but nothing. Tricky Break stopped the timer in 1:42.65 for a mile, won by a neck, and made me almost as proud as some of the stakes winners on my sales-tip list.

Just as some horses might have done on Thursday when the favorite came charging at them in the stretch, this horse could have quit a long time ago, but he didn't.

For the record, Tricky Break was (as aforementioned) bred in the state of New York, by Thomas-Narlinger LLC and Dennis Repp. His ownership at present is listed as "Smith, Drake and George, Richard Kingston." He has earned $13,714 from a win, two places and a show in 13 lifetime starts.

I selected Tricky Break from that Ocala sale because I was pretty sure he would be inexpensive (I was right about that beyond doubt) and equally certain he'd make a racehorse someday, for somebody. After all, his dam, TRICKY MOVE (Tricky Creek-Sensitive Annie, by Sensitive Prince), won a pair of stakes races and earned $112,956. And, she's produced several winners, including the curious stakes pair MULTIPLICATION (who died of a heart attack while breezing shortly after winning the Mike Lee Stakes at Belmont in his fourth lifetime start) and SNEAKIN UP (who broke maiden in a stakes race at 2 and hasn't won since, with 24 lifetime tries).

I'd still like to see Tricky Break move back home to New York, because his earnings potential should be higher among state-breds in that lucrative jurisdiction. But he's already added a win (and a big grin) to my sales-pick list by breaking through, even if it was among fairly modest company at Calder.

With the victory, Tricky Break becomes the 112th winner among my 187 juvenile sales selections of 2010; that's precariously close to six-in-ten at 59.9 percent.

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