Still Having Fun: “A horse that flies under the radar”
by Ted Black
On a day when a pair of Maryland-bred three-year-olds prevailed in a pair of open stakes at Laurel Park on Saturday afternoon, Still Having Fun perhaps traveled the more circuitous route in some aspect when he rallied along the inside to pull away from even-money choice Wentz to capture the $100,000 Frank Whiteley, Jr. Stakes for sophomores.
A three-year-old colt by Old Fashioned out of the unraced Dehere mare Casual Kiss, who belonged to the late Arnold Heft, Still Having Fun had defeated maiden $40,000 claimers in his career debut for trainer Tim Keefe and then finished a sharp second behind 22-1 upsetter Whirlin Curlin in the $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Futurity on December 9.
Casual Kiss never made it to the races, and Heft eventually gave the mare to Charles and Cynthia McGinnes, operators of Thornmar Farm near Chestertown, so Still Having Fun is listed as being co-bred by the McGinneses and Keefe, who conditioned numerous Heft runners, including millionaire Eighttofasttocatch.
“I trained that mare, Casual Kiss,” Keefe said in the winner’s circle on Saturday. “She was lightning fast, but I could never get her to the races for Arnold Heft. She had one injury after another. He gave her a lot of chances, and finally Arnie said give her a good home. Cynthia McGinnes was her breeder and she wanted her back as a broodmare. The first time I saw this horse was at the yearling sale. I liked him and I bought him [for $12,000] for Terp Racing and the rest kind of is history. I don’t even think I knew I was co-breeder at the time.”
Soon after his career debut, California owners Gary Barber and Wachtel Stables purchased a two-thirds interest in the colt from Terp Racing [Jim Scott and his partners] but decided to leave the horse in Maryland with Keefe.
Jockey Feargal Lynch has been aboard Still Having Fun for all three of his career tries and has now guided him to a pair of victories. On Saturday afternoon in the Whiteley, Still Having Fun bided his time through the early stages, weaved his way through traffic on the far turn, angled to the inside at the head of the lane and drew clear from favored Wentz, who bolted nearing the sixteenth pole, and prevailed handily in 1:23.05 for the seven panels for his first stakes score.
“This horse has a lot of ability and I don’t think he’s ever changed leads,” Lynch said. “When I rode him the first time he settled back and then really finished up well. Going into the Maryland Juvenile, I didn’t think we would be on the lead. He broke well, and I was expecting to sit third or fourth, but no one else showed any real speed and he made the front. I didn’t want to be on the rail that day, either, but there we were. But I really had a good hold on him turning for home and Whirlin Curlin finally got me. But I told [Keefe] after that race that horse would never beat me again.”
Whirlin Curlin was among the starters in the Whiteley, but the Gary Capuano trainee has not fired his best shots since winning the Maryland Juvenile Futurity, finishing a nondescript fifth in the $100,000 Heft Stakes in his previous outing and sixth of seven here today. Wentz, a son of Kentucky Derby hero Super Saver and a sharp maiden winner of his previous outing for trainer John Servis of Smarty Jones fame, swept to command while racing widest of all on the far turn, but he bolted suddenly nearing the sixteenth pole and was outkicked by Still Having Fun along the rail.
“He’s one of those horses that goes out, does his job in the morning, doesn’t do anything wrong and does everything you ask him to do,” Keefe said. “Knock on wood, he’s never been sick. He’s a horse that flies under the radar until once a week you work him, you look at the clock and say, ‘Who was that horse?’ You could even see here he had a troubled trip in the race until Feargal was able to find a place. He just wants to run. I gotta give a lot of credit to Pete Brownwhale, who works him in the morning. He’s done an awesome job with him. He’s taught this horse a lot. He rode Eighttofasttocatch for me in the mornings, and he’s a huge part of it.”
Lynch was not only pleased with Still Having Fun’s latest performance in the Whitely, but he was also glad to see the new majority owners in the colt leave with him with Keefe.
“A lot of times the new owners ship to horse out right away to a different trainer,” Lynch said. “But I was happy for [Keefe] that they decided to leave this colt in Maryland for the time being. He’s got a lot of ability. He does whatever you ask to do in a race. I moved him several times to get through traffic and he really kicked in the last quarter mile. But I don’t think he ever changed leads today. I’ve ridden him three times and I don’t think he’s ever changed leads yet. So imagine what he could do when he learns how to do that.”