By Heather Anderson
Rising Star Stable III and Howard Belvoir’s Barkley (Munnings) took his record to a perfect four-for-four with a narrow score in Sunday’s Auburn H. at Emerald Downs. The blaze-faced chestnut, who is also trained by Belvoir, has been campaigned exclusively at the Auburn oval and exited Sunday’s contest in good form.
“He came out great,” a pleased Belvoir told the TDN Wednesday morning. “Everything’s good. He will stay here probably the rest of the meet. There’s only about three more races for him here. Then I’ll have to decide [where he goes next].”
One possibility is the one-mile Coca-Cola S. June 5 that has the potential to renew the fledgling rivalry between Barkley and the previously undefeated 2015 Washington champion 2-year-old male Mach One Rules (Harbor the Gold), who was making his sophomore bow in the Auburn.
Despite the temptation to look farther afield after the Emerald Downs meet wraps up Sept. 11, Belvoir is determined to take a patient approach, adding he will look at “Just one race at a time,” for his stable star.
Belvoir caught the racing bug early, as by the time he was a teenager, he was already a backstretch regular as a groom.
“I have been here since I was 13 years old,” the Kansas native and Washington Racing Hall of Fame member continued. “[I was a] groom at 13, that was back when you could groom early, you know. My dad [R. H. Belvoir] was in [the game]. So I’ve been in it a long time, 54-58 years.”
Belvoir first hung his shingle in 1963 at Exhibition Park in Vancouver and, 53 years later, has reached the 2,000-win milestone, with 2,020 victories from 15,547 starters through Tuesday. The R. H. Belvoir-bred Fairlyonest (Recur) was Belvoir’s first winner and raced in the silks of R. H. Belvoir and sons. Two of Belvoir’s three sons (Heath, Vann and Clay) with first wife Mary Taylor, followed their father into horse racing. Heath works as a chart caller at Saratoga Race Course, Fair Grounds and Lone Star Park; while Vann, a former jockey, followed in his father’s footsteps and trains on the Southern California circuit. Vann recently celebrated his first graded stakes win when Rocket Heat (Latent Heat) captured the GIII Twin Spires Turf Sprint S. (video) on the GI Longines Kentucky Oaks undercard May 6. The speedster wheels back in Friday’s Jim McKay Turf Sprint S. at Pimlico.
The first foal from Numero d’Oro (Medaglia d’Oro), who is a half-sister to the SP Ice Lady (Cat Thief), Barkley’s second dam is the MSW Numero Uno (Afleet), who was runner-up in the GII Chula Vista H. and the GII Bayakoa H. during her racing days. French champion juvenile filly Silver Cloud (Dan Cupid) is his fourth dam. Barkley’s year-younger half-brother Class Won (Caleb’s Posse) (hip 84) sold for $110,000 at the Fasig-Tipton July Sale in 2015. Numero d’Oro was covered by Bodemeister later that year.
The elder Belvoir credits Vann with acquiring Barkley (hip 3240) for $21,000 out of Book Five of the 2014 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Auburn-based Rising Star Stable III syndicate principle Vicki Potter signed the ticket for the January foal from the Denali Stud consignment.
“Vann bought him for us back there [in Lexington],” continued Belvoir. “I read the [Keeneland Sales guide] and it was meant to be. I was here [at Emerald] training and he was back there and somebody was looking on the computer at the sale and I was talking to him and Vann happened to call back. This one on the computer was a cute little thing. He vetted out good and so, I said ‘Well, just go 21 [thousand] for him and see if you get him.’ I give more credit to Vann [for picking him out].”
Barkley came to hand rapidly for Belvoir, airing by 3 1/4 lengths going 4 1/2 furlongs last June and doubled up with a half-length tally in the Emerald Express S. going three-quarters of a mile a month later. When asked why he stopped on Barkley after his July start, Belvoir was realistic.
“[I gave him] time to mature, he was a smaller colt and he had little 2-year-old shin problems,” explained Belvoir. “I just gave him the whole winter. We have a short meet up here. We go from April to September. They have to have a rest sometime. He’d run twice and I said that’s enough for him. I have good owners that listened to me.”
Shelved until a two-length allowance tally Apr. 17, Barkley was primed for a big effort Sunday. Only $379 separated 6-5 favorite Mach One Rules and Barkley at post time for the Auburn. In the end, Barkley prevailed by a head over his foe in a sharp 1:14.21 for the 6 1/2 furlongs, good for a career-high 84 Beyer-Speed Figure.
“He’s great,” said Belvoir. “He’s a great smart horse. Good to be around. Little bitey still, but he’s a stud. He’s a great little guy.”
Belvoir, who has tasted graded-stakes glory in the 2008 and 2009 editions of the GIII Longacres Mile–first with homebred and Washington champion Wasserman (Cahill Road) followed by Assessment (Jump Start)–was justifiably proud of his charge. The veteran is keeping it all in perspective, however, and refused to compare Barkley with any of his past stars.
“I can’t answer that, it’s too tough,” Belvoir concluded. “He’s an awful good colt. I mean for around this area anyway. He’s a nice horse.”