Thursday, April 26, 2012

Oaks Contender: Summer Applause

Bret Calhoun has emerged from solely being a successful trainer in the South and has formed a presence on the national scene. For instance, in 2010, he saddled two Breeders’ Cup winners: Chamberlain Bridge and Dubai Majesty. Now, in 2012, he has a chance to saddle the victor of the renowned Kentucky Oaks (GI) thanks to a talented filly named Summer Applause.

The bay filly debuted in Canada as a juvenile, finishing a flat sixth in a five and one-half-furlong maiden special weight over Woodbine’s all-weather track. She redeemed herself next out, however, stretching out to seven furlongs. After settling off the leaders, Summer Applause struck to the lead in the stretch prior to drawing clear to win by 2 ¼ lengths.

Her final start as a two-year-old came at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, Louisiana, in which she contested in a mile and seventy yards allowance optional claiming over the track’s dirt surface. She showed a new dimension, setting the lead from start to finish as she effortlessly triumphed by 7 lengths.

Summer Applause’s stakes debut came in the Silverbulletday Stakes, in which the Calhoun trainee pressed the pace set by Believe You Can before the aforementioned filly went on to defeat her by 2 ½ lengths. Summer Applause clearly learned much from the race, however, as next out in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (GIII), she continued her blossoming rivalry with Believe You Can. Returning to her style of rating off the pace, Summer Applause made a late move to take the mile and one-sixteenth race by a length, leaving Believe You Can in fourth.

The rivalry was revived yet again in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII), in which Summer Applause rated off the pace before making an outside move on the far turn. It appeared as if Believe You Can was drawing away from the field, leaving Summer Applause behind, but the Calhoun trainee dug in under Robby Albarado. As she reached the sixteenth pole, she suddenly hit another gear and accelerated to close in on Believe You Can, only to miss by a head. The blaze-faced bay galloped out ahead of the victor.

Calhoun, who typically keeps a stable at Churchill Downs during the Louisville track’s meet, already has Summer Applause stabled beneath the Twin Spires, giving her plenty of time to get adapted to the track. She will get more training over the track compared to several other Kentucky Oaks hopefuls, which will certainly be to her benefit.

Summer Applause’s bloodlines are full of the names of elite horses, giving implications that Summer Applause has only just begun her journey to success. Her sire is Harlan’s Holiday, who has quickly become one of the most productive sires in the industry. A multiple grade one-winning grandson of Storm Cat, Harlan’s Holiday has produced the grade one-winning horses Into Mischief and Majesticperfection, the multiple group stakes-winning horses Mendip and Willcox Inn, and the grade three-winning runners Dynamic Holiday, Riley Tucker, Saratoga Sinner, Silver Reunion, and Tasha’s Miracle.

The dam of Summer Applause is Summer Exhibition, a result of the mating between the champion Royal Academy and the stakes-winning dam of the multiple graded stakes-winning Recoup the Cash. In addition to producing Summer Applause, Summer Exhibition is the dam of the multiple stakes-placed runner Big Easy.

Summer Applause features two crosses of the Reine De Course mare Crimson Saint, who was a graded stakes winner who produced the grade one-winning champion and sire Royal Academy, the grade one-winning and track record-equaling Pancho Villa, the multiple graded stakes-winning dam of Storm Cat in Terlingua, the stakes-winning Alydariel, and the stakes-placed horses Border Run and Encino (the latter of which is graded stakes-placed). 

She is also inbred 5 X 4 to Northern Dancer, who has appeared in both the bloodlines of the sire and dam in the pedigrees of such Kentucky Oaks winners as Rachel Alexandra and Keeper Hill, as well as recent Derby victors Mine That Bird and Big Brown.

Summer Applause descends from a line of royally-bred mares from E.P. Taylor’s powerhouse breeding program. Her fifth dam, the Reine De Course mare Victoriana, who herself is a daughter of a Reine De Course mare in Iribelle, is the dam of the 1952 Canadian Horse of the Year Canadiana. Victoriana was an even more successful broodmare than her dam, producing the champions Northern Queen (Summer Applause’s fourth dam) and Victoria Park, the multiple stakes-winning Bull Vic, and the dam of a champion. Other direct descendants of Victoriana include the Canadian Hall of Famer Vice Regent, the Canadian champion Northern Blossom, and the multiple group stakes-winning High Accolade. This productive dam line hails from female family ten, which has yielded the champions Beldame, Deputy Minister, and La Roche, as well as the 2005 Kentucky Oaks victor Summerly.

Summer Applause poses one of the biggest threats in the Kentucky Oaks as a result of her clear racing talent and determination, in addition to her royal pedigree. Though she has finished behind Believe You Can more than she has defeated her, I believe she is the better filly, especially the longer the distance. Summer Applause is absolutely one of the leading contenders for this year’s edition of the Run for the Lilies.

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