By Alan Carasso
Rockingham Ranch’s GI Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint upsetter Stormy Liberal (Stormy Atlantic) has emerged from his victory at Del Mar Nov. 4 in good order and connections have accepted an invitation to take part in the G1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin Racecourse Sunday, Dec. 10.
“At this point that’s the plan. He’s been accepted to the race,” Brian Trump, racing manager for Rockingham and the son-in-law of principle Gary Hartunian, told the TDN Wednesday. “He couldn’t look any better or any fresher. He hasn’t missed a beat in his training and he looks like he’s ready to roll.”
Claimed for $40,000 in October 2016, Stormy Liberal quickly became the best turf sprinter on the West Coast, with a pair of listed victories ahead of a narrow success as the 1-2 chalk in the GIII Daytona S. down the hill at Santa Anita May 27. The wheels came off when the gelding was a distant eighth in the GIII Jaipur S. at Belmont Park in June, but he atoned at 30-1 in the Turf Sprint, holding off Rockingham’s Richard’s Boy (Idiot Proof) by a head.
But Trump and the Rockingham team are aware that a race like the Hong Kong Sprint offers new challenges, including a talented group of local horses, not to mention the sometimes-daunting task of clockwise racing.
“[Trainer] Pete [Miller] has been all over that,” Trump said, referring to racing ‘backwards. “He jogs all his horses the ‘wrong’ way here, so that helps a little bit. He’s gotten permission from officials here [at San Luis Rey Downs] to work the horse [right-handed], so we’re planning on doing that.
“He has that experience racing down the hill at Santa Anita, which does have that slight right-handed turn,” he continued. “Not a full turn, but does show he can make the proper lead switch on that kind of track. The horse is really smart. His exercise rider always tells us he takes instructions really well, so it really should be a non-issue.
It was announced Wednesday that California-based Flavien Prat will represent the U.S. in the Longines International Jockeys’ Championship Dec. 6, but Trump said a decision on a rider has yet to be determined.
“We are very, very aware that Flavien will be there. That conversation has already been had,” Trump said. “But it’s really up to Pete. We love Joel [Rosario] on him, he rode him really well in the Turf Sprint, but we haven’t finalized anything yet.”
Trump is looking forward to traveling overseas with another Rockingham runner.
“Our first experience with Rockingham Ranch was for the [G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen] with X Y Jet (Kantharos) and it was an absolute blast.”
Richard’s Boy also traveled to Dubai for last year’s G1 Al Quoz Sprint, finishing fifth after missing the kick.
“The whole traveling experience is great, that’s what it’s about for us,” Trump added. “You get to bond with your trainer, you get to see other parts of the world and you get to go with a purpose and it’s not often you get to do that.