Former claimer Rough Sea sails to Native Dancer upset

If you’re a devotee of the “former claiming horse in a stakes race” angle, then chances are your wallet’s quite a bit fatter following the stakes action at Laurel Park April 23.

Two runners claimed within the last six months scored wins in $100,000 dirt stakes, and while one, Kaylasaurus, was no great surprise, the other, Rough Sea even caught his trainer off guard.

Given an ideal setup, Rough Sea erased a double-digit deficit under jockey Denis Araujo to pull clear to a 2 ¼-length win in the nine-furlong Native Dancer Stakes. 

“A mile-and-an-eighth, mile-and-a-quarter is great for him,” said winning trainer Bruno Tessore. “I didn’t expect for him to run that big. I was happy with a third if he could.”

But the horse had much bigger plans in mind. And he paid $83 to his relatively few backers.

Early on it was Big Venezuela setting the tempo while pressed by Ain’t Da Beer Cold. Those two zipped the opening half-mile in 46.90 seconds. Meanwhile, Araujo had his mount loping along in fifth while nine lengths back.

The leaders began to come back to the rest of the field soon thereafter, and Araujo had his mount in hand while awaiting room on the turn. Entering the lane, he swung Rough Sea to the far outside, and the nine-year-old Include gelding closed sharply to win going away.

It marked quite a turnaround for a horse who was claimed twice in three starts last year, first by trainer Robbie Bailes, who picked him up for $8,000, and then by Tessore, who grabbed him for $12,500. He’s owned by Proud Stables Inc.

“He was running big numbers,” Tessore said. “And then he was kind of going down. He was starting to come back up, so I called my owner and said as soon as they put him in for a tag, I’m gonna take him and pay a bit more than what they claimed him for, and I’m going to try him long.”

He’d made five starts for Tessore prior to the Native Dancer without a win, though he had run second in each of his last two. But those had come in starter and claiming company, and though the Native Dancer field was relatively modest, it figured tougher than those.

But the early pace exertions of the lead duo compromised their chances, and 3-2 favorite Forewarned didn’t fire at all, rallying very mildly to finish fifth in the field of seven. That left the late runners to sort it out, and Rough Sea came home fastest of all, completing the nine furlongs in 1:51.76.

“Pretty, pretty happy with the horse, and the way Denis rode him was amazing,” Tessore said.

In the six-furlong Primonetta for fillies and mares, no one was too surprised to see Kaylasaurus in the winner’s circle. She entered in good form, had won the Willa On the Move four back, and went off the 8-5 second choice in the field of six.

But, like Rough Sea, she, too had changed hands via the claimbox last fall. Owner David Bushey of Bush Racing Stable had paid $25,000 for the Munnings mare at Penn National Nov. 30. That’s a pretty pricey claim at the Grantsville, PA oval.

“Thankfully, I have some partners that really trusted me on this particular horse,” Bushey said. “I said to them, ‘Look, she’s a Pennsylvania-bred. At worst, we just run back in that same race, and I thought she was going to be competitive [in that spot] all day long.”

She won the day Bushey and trainer Tim Kreiser claimed her, but soon thereafter, Kreiser called Bushy and suggested Plan B.

“Tim just kind of said to me, ‘Hold on a second. Not so quick here.. You know, I don’t know if we’re going right to that race. She’s pretty nice. We like her,’” Bushey recalled.

Instead, they ran her in the Willa On the Move, and she rallied from fifth to win going away, defeating, among others, Princess Kokachin who went off the even-money favorite in today’s Primonetta. Since then, Kaylasaurus had run fourth but beaten less than two lengths in the Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie and second in two other contests.

Most recently she was a fast-closing second, just behind Princess Kokachin, in an open allowance going 5 ½ furlongs at Laurel March 13. The added ground of the six-furlonng Primonetta figured to play more to her advantage than to her rival’s.

Under jockey Horacio Karamanos, Kaylasaurus was last early, though it was a relatively compact field. She swung wide entering the lane, and closed fastest of all to win by three parts of a length over Prodigy Doll. Two Jerry Robb trainees, Street Lute and Princess Kokachin, finished third and fourth, respectively. Running time for the six furlongs on a fast main track was 1:10.74.

The Primonetta is a part of the MATCH Series. The next leg of the Series takes place June 17 at Penn National, Kaylasaurus’s home track, That figures to be her next start, Bushey said.

“If she holds together, knock on wood, we would love to just take her right through the MATCH Series,” he said.