Trombetta: Big days “a chance to show what we can do”
In the Navy Now. Photo by Laurie Asseo.
by Ted Black
Amid all of the nationally known trainers who will be arriving in Baltimore this weekend in quest of taking home the Grade I, $1.5 million Preakness Stakes on Saturday afternoon at Pimlico Race Course, local conditioner Mike Trombetta will send a pair of runners down from the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton on Friday looking for his share of the spotlight in supporting stakes on the Black-Eyed Susan card.
While much of the media circus will focus on trainer Bob Baffert and his undefeated Kentucky Derby winner, Justify, and trainer Chad Brown and his Derby runner-up Good Magic, last year’s champion two-year-old male, Trombetta will gladly accept his role well below the limelight this weekend when he saddles In the Navy Now for the Grade III Allaire DuPont Stakes and Souper Striking for the Hilltop Stakes on Friday. Like Trombetta, both horses have flown below the radar.
“This is the opportunity that a lot of trainers in Maryland like myself look forward to,” Trombetta said. “Anytime you run the Preakness and all the Black-Eyed Susan and the other big races this weekend, you know the nationally known trainers like Baffert and Pletcher are going to come in with plenty of talented horses. But for me and the other Maryland trainers, this is our chance to show what type of horses that we have and what they can accomplish in these races.”
In the Navy Now will head into the Grade III Allaire DuPont Stakes as a genuine outsider, listed at 15-1 on the morning line, but to this stage of her career she has been remarkably consistent. In the Navy Now arrives with two wins and a pair of third-place finishes from four starts this year and brings a solid 4-8-5 slate and nearly $250,000 banked from 20 career outings. She has finished in the money in her last 17 starts, a commendable streak for any runner and one that Trombetta can easily explain.
“She’s one of those horses that loves racing and she really tries hard every time,” Trombetta said. “Of course, heading into the Allaire DuPont there are a few unknowns. We won’t know if she will handle the jump in class or like the one-mile and one-eighth distance, and we don’t know how she’ll fare on a sloppy track. But she’s been training well and she’s always giving her best effort. She’s been third in each of her last two starts at two different tracks and she tried hard in both of those races. She gets tested for class this weekend in that Grade III, but I think she’ll give a good effort.”
Souper Striking will head into the Hilltop Stakes on the turf having won twice in three starts this year and sporting a 2-1-3 slate and earnings of just over $80,000 from eight career tries. She won her first two starts this year against allowance foes at Gulfstream Park on January 19 and February 15 before finishing ninth in the Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs. Trombetta noted she rebounded from that effort quickly and expects Souper Striking to give a good account of herself on Friday in a race where she is the 8-1 second choice and the Graham Motion-trained Thewayiam is listed as the 3-5 morning line favorite.
“Her first two starts this year at Gulfstream Park were really good and I don’t think she liked the track at Tampa,” Trombetta said. “She came out of that race great and she’s been doing well leading up to the Hilltop. Graham’s filly is definitely going to be tough to beat. I think the turf course is going to be a factor. If we continue to get a lot of rain and it comes off the turf, my filly is going to stay in and run on the main track. But if the race stays on the turf then Graham’s filly is going to be the one to beat and we just have to hope my filly handles the course.”
While Trombetta will be looking for a stakes double on Friday with In the Navy Now and Souper Striking, they are by no means his only entrants this weekend. Trombetta is scheduled to saddle a pair of horses at Pimlico on Thursday, six more at Pimlico on Friday and another at Penn National that evening and two more on Saturday at Pimlico. Through Wednesday he had recorded 17 wins from 129 starters in 2018 and he boasts 1,658 winners with earnings rapidly approaching $53 million from 9,175 starters in his career. His top trainee, Sweetnorthernsaint, won the Grade II Illinois Derby and finished second in a Preakness Stakes perhaps best remembered for the breakdown of the ill-fated Barbaro.
“We’re hoping to have a good weekend,” Trombetta said. “Friday will definitely be busy, but we’re hoping everything we send out runs well. It’s weekends like this that you live for. All of the spotlight will be on Maryland racing this weekend and this is a chance for me and the other Maryland trainers to show what we can do.”