Phlash Phelps to return in Henry S. Clark
Phlash Phelps. Photo by Laurie Asseo.
From a Maryland Jockey Club release
After concluding an undefeated 4-year-old campaign last October, 2015 Maryland-Bred Turf Champion Phlash Phelps is set to kick off his 5-year-old season in Saturday’s $75,000 Henry S. Clark Stakes at Laurel Park.
Trained by Rodney Jenkins for Ellen Charles’ Hillwood Stable, Phlash Phelps will be going after his third straight stakes victory and first in open company. His two previous stakes victories came at Laurel in the 1 1/8-mile Find Aug. 22 and the mile Maryland Million Turf Oct. 17.
A competitive field of 11 was entered in the 16th running of the mile Clark for 3-year-olds and up, carded as Race 10 on an 11-race card and slated to be run over Laurel’s Kelso Turf Course.
“He looks really well. He’s come back good. I hope he’s fit enough. He’s certainly been working well, so we’ll see,” said Jenkins, whose late-developing turf star won all four 2015 starts. “Everything’s good. This race will test him a little, won’t it?”
Phlash Phelps, a gelded bay son of Great Notion, got the fall and winter off at Dark Hollow Farm in Upperco, Md. before returning to Jenkins at Laurel. He shows six timed works since early March, most recently going five furlongs in 1:02 April 15.
“There wasn’t anything physically wrong with him; just mentally we try to freshen him up,” Jenkins said. “I got him back the first of January. We brought him back slow, jogged him and galloped him a bit. He’s had enough works. If he’s himself he should run fine. We understand we’re against a little better horse than Maryland-breds so we’ll see how he does.”
After failing in his first six tries to break his maiden, Phlash Phelps reeled off four straight wins after being gelded heading into his 4-year-old campaign. His size and his pedigree both indicated that he would be better as he got older.
“When I bought him, a guy that had his half-brother told me, ‘Well, Rodney, I know he looks beautiful and everything but he’ll be 4 years old before you break his maiden.’ I said, ‘What? You must be joking,’” Jenkins said. “The guy knew what he was talking about. He popped a splint when he was a 2-year-old and he was a horse that didn’t want to run up past horses. He would run up to them and then he would hang. He was growing a lot. He’s a good-sized horse, he’s 16-2 or three now, and he just got more mature. It was just little things. Last year he started off good and he definitely got better later in the year.”
Phlash Phelps broke through with a five-furlong turf sprint victory last April 23 and romped by eight in an off-the-turf entry-level allowance, his first try against winners, both at Pimlico Race Course. He returned to the turf to win a pair of Maryland-bred stakes, showing a new dimension when he rallied after being passed in deep stretch to capture the Maryland Million by three-quarters of a length over Roadhog.
“We were very astonished,” Jenkins said. “I said, ‘Well, we got beat today.’ They got by him but, heck, he dug in and came again. He impressed us a lot that day.”
Half-brother to 2012 Maryland-bred sprint champion Action Andy, Phlash Phelps also impressed the voters, who named him Maryland-bred turf champion after ending the year with a perfect record and $165,512 in purse earnings.
“It was wonderful. Mrs. Charles, she was very happy. She hung in there with that horse. She had a lot of patience, which she does with all her horses,” Jenkins said. “It was a nice thing for her, and it was a nice thing for the stable, of course. We enjoyed him and we hope he has as good a year as last year.”
Regular rider Victor Carrasco will be aboard from Post 5. All horses will carry 118 pounds.
Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone’s Special Envoy is set to make his fourth start of the year and second in a stakes in the Clark. The 5-year-old Stroll gelding is the top returning finisher from last year’s Clark, having finished third behind Talk Show Man and Paris Vegas, beaten a total of two lengths, when it was run at Pimlico.
“He ran a good race. I think he might be a better horse this year because he’s run and he’s got more experience,” Fair Hill-based trainer Arnaud Delacour said. “When you run against older horses sometimes you lack a little bit of experience.”
Special Envoy has finished second in two lifetime starts at Laurel, his November 2013 career debut and the Bert Allen Stakes last September behind Rose Brier, also entered in the Clark. He finished worse than third only once in seven 2015 starts with three wins and nearly $92,000 in purse earnings.
This year, Special Envoy raced three times at Delacour’s winter base of Tampa Bay Downs. He was third in an optional claiming allowance Jan. 13 and sixth in the Tampa Bay Stakes (G3) Feb. 13, and enters the Clark off a neck victory in a mile optional claiming allowance March 11.
“We had a good year with him last year. He ran at Laurel Park at the end of the year last year and he ran well. He’s a very consistent horse and he’s doing very well at the moment,” Delacour said. “I’ve had good luck running straight from Tampa just because they’re fit and they’re coming back to the cooler places and he really likes it. I hope that he can run a good race. I’m excited about running him.”
Daniel Centeno is named to ride from Post 7.
Also entered are 2015 Durham Cup (G3) winner Golden Sabre and 2013 Smarty Jones (G3) winner Edge of Reality, both trained by Graham Motion; stakes winners Cage Fighter, second in the 2015 Dixie (G2) at Pimlico, and Rose Brier, coming off a two-race win streak; Golden Glint, second to Page McKenney in Laurel’s Native Dancer Stakes Jan. 2; Grade 2-placed Mister Brightside; Call First, Dynamic Strike and Blacktype, making his first start since last July for trainer Christophe Clement.