Satin Dancer will be part of a racing rarity when she competes in the $44,000 Open Handicap Trot Saturday night (July 7) at Yonkers Raceway.
The four-year-old mare’s local debut will come just four days after she raced at Hoosier Park in Indiana. The unusual feat of racing at Hoosier Park and Yonkers in the same week wasn’t what her connections initially planned, according to new trainer Travis Alexander.
After Satin Dancer posted two straight victories in the Open ranks at Hoosier Park in early June, trainer Byron Hooley became frustrated when the race failed to fill two weeks in a row. Needing his mare to stay on a consistent schedule and wanting to maximize her earning potential, Hooley contacted Alexander about a potential ship east and gave Alexander the go ahead to enter her at Yonkers July 7.
“Byron couldn’t get her in to go. They weren’t filling the Open Trot at Hoosier Park and he didn’t really want to race her at Scioto every week against the boys. If he was going to have to race against the boys, he wanted to race for the $44,000. Let’s be honest, it’s a little bigger pot,” Alexander explained.
“Byron called me and said, ‘They aren’t going with the Open Saturday (June 30). Go ahead and enter her for Yonkers and I’ll bring her out on Wednesday.’ Hoosier’s race office moved the Open to Tuesday. She was in to qualify Saturday because he was going to qualify her, tighten her up, and then ship her out. In all honesty, I didn’t think she’d get in (at Yonkers). The draw came up, and there she was with the rail. So here we are.”
Satin Dancer set the pace in the Open Trot Tuesday at Hoosier Park, cutting fractions of :27, :55.2 and 1:24.2. Although she came home in :28 and trotted 1:52.2, 11-1 longshot Cue Hall tracked her down in the stretch to post a half-length victory.
“She raced fantastic on Tuesday, she just got beat in 1:52. She’s tight,” Alexander said. “Trotters that can trot 1:52 on any size track, there’s not a lot of them.”
Satin Dancer arrived at Alexander’s barn around 4 p.m. Wednesday and spent Thursday turned out. The Indiana Sires Stakes Champion and earner of $624,010 made a good first impression on her new conditioner.
“She’s only been in the barn 24 hours, but she’s a pleasure and she’s all class. She’s kind of a sassy mare, but she’s earned it,” Alexander said. “With her kind of record, she’s allowed to do whatever she wants, and I think she’ll fit in nicely at Yonkers.
“She handled (the trip) well. She didn’t eat the best, but at the same time, she did just race and ship 12 hours, so I just chalk it up to that,” Alexander continued. “We turned her out, the vet ran her some fluids. Right now, all systems are go. Her and the filly in the stall next to her are actually bonding already and they’re buddies. It’s kind of exciting to get a horse like her. It’s going to be interesting to see how she does.”
Satin Dancer’s arrival marks another step in Alexander’s commitment to racing at Yonkers. While in years past, his horses proved better suited to racing on larger tracks, the 39-year-old trainer put a deliberate effort toward shifting his focus to Yonkers this year. Year to date, he’s already posted 12 wins in 89 local starts, better than last year’s total of eight victories in 40 tries.
The success comes in the face of a series of challenges and setbacks earlier this year. Alexander’s horse Lawgiver Hanover suffered a fatal injury in a race at Yonkers March 13. The accident sent driver Matt Kakaley to the sidelines for two months as he recovered from a broken orbital bone and a fractured collarbone. Another of Alexander’s horses, A Sweet Ride, fractured a cannon bone in the same month.
“We had a few setbacks, but it’s turning around. March wasn’t a very nice month for us. That was our horse that (Matt) went down with and the horse had to be euthanized. It’s hard. It was a rough month,” Alexander said. “It can slow you down a little bit, but things are looking good. We’ve got a few more horses to train that we really like. Things are moving forward.
“Yonkers is a tough place to break into,” he continued. “The horses that we had fit Pocono and the five-eighths better than the half. We made it a conscious effort this year to race more at Yonkers. If you’re racing on the east coast, you need to race at Yonkers. The purse money is just too big to pass up. The driving colony is one of the best in the sport, if not the best. That’s why we’re doing it.”
In addition to his focus on racing claimers and overnight horses at Yonkers, Satin Dancer will provide Alexander with his first chance to compete in the rich Open ranks.
“This is something the stable needed, an Open horse,” he said. “We haven’t had an Open mare or an Open pacer yet at Yonkers, so now we get to take a swing at that top-end money. It’s going to be fun.”
Satin Dancer will start from an assigned post 1 in the Open Handicap Trot Saturday night and will have Jordan Stratton at the lines. She’ll face seven rivals, including the top four finishers from last week’s renewal, Smalltownthrowdown, NF Happenstance, DWs NY Yank and Weslynn Dancer. Deep Impact, Such An Angel and Rubber Duck complete the lineup.
“I’m looking forward to Saturday as much as everybody else,” Alexander said. “I have no expectations because she just got here. I’ve had a lot of luck racing horses on short rest, but not this short and with a trip in between. That’s a large ship on a hot day. I don’t want to throw her under the gauntlet and expect a win, but if she trots like she did Tuesday night and handles the four turns and can sit close, she could get us to the winner’s circle.”
Satin Dancer has only raced on a half-mile track three times before: she won a division of the Standardbred at the Delaware County Fair at two, and at three she finished second in an Open at the Hillard Fair and was the runner-up in the Buckette at Delaware. Despite her limited racing record on the small track, Satin Dancer trained on a half on Hooley’s farm and her previous trainer is confident in her ability to handle the tight turns.
“She’s a well put together mare. She’s really long. I’m going to be curious,” Alexander said. “She trains on a half, so (Byron) says it’s no problem. Delaware, Ohio isn’t really a true half-mile track. It’s a half, but it has sweeping turns that are really forgiving. I was fortunate enough to get Jordan. Nobody knows Yonkers better than Jordan Stratton, so that’s a huge key for me with her. He can help her through that first turn and give me some pointers or advice afterwards and move forward. Byron Hooley is really confident in her ability to handle the half.”
First post time Saturday night at Yonkers is 6:50 p.m. The 12-race card also features a $44,000 Open Pace.
(SOA of New York)