There’s nothing wrong with beginner’s luck

Chip Bradley’s soggy shoes ended up in the dumpster. He can afford new ones.

Chip Bradley’s soggy shoes ended up in the dumpster.

He can afford new ones.

The Delmar resident was at

Colonial Downs on June 21 to watch Sailor’s Cap win the $600,000 Grade III Colonial Turf Cup, the first leg of the Grand Slam of Grass, while torrents of rain sheeted down on the track, enough to create an ankle-deep pool of water in the paddock.

He and a partner own a 21⁄2 percent share in Sailor’s Cap through Team Valor Stables, Bradley’s first venture into thoroughbred ownership. Easy game, right?

Well, Bradley’s brother, Paul, who lives on Lake George, has owned horses through Team Valor for about 10 years, and has seen the full spectrum of racing’s great and terrible fortune, so Chip Bradley can appreciate how lucky he is to win a Grade III with the first horse he’s ever owned.

“To me, it’s the epitome of beginner’s luck,” he said. “You could compare it to these first-timers who go to the track and win these huge payoffs by playing their great grandmother’s birthday, and they’re walking out of there with all this money in their pockets.

“In this case, it’s totally beginner’s luck for me, because there’s thousands and thousands of thoroughbreds out there, and hundreds of partnerships.”

The Jimmy Toner-trained Sailor’s Cap, a 3-year-old with a 3-1-0 record in six lifetime starts, banked $360,000 of his $463,495 career earnings off the Colonial Cup, and is expected to run in the second leg of the Grand Slam of Grass, the Virginia Derby at Colonial, next Saturday.

The other legs are the Secretariat at Arlington Park in August and the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Hollywood Park. There’s a $5 million bonus available to anyone who can win all four races, but the Sailor’s Cap camp just wants to get through this next start.

“The elusive $5 million,” Bradley said with a chuckle. “My personal opinion is that it’s pretty safe.”

Meanwhile, Bradley’s brother’s star horse, Unbridled Belle, will attempt to win the Grade II Delaware Handicap for the second year in a row on Sunday as the 2-1 morning-line favorite against Hystericalady (3-1) and nine others.

She’s a Grade I winner, having taken the Beldame at Belmont Park last September after finishing second to Miss Shop in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga Race Course. Unbridled Belle was fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Sailor’s Cap is a homebred, and Team Valor made the partnership available at the beginning of the year, after he had run twice as a 2-year-old.

Chip Bradley was at Gulfstream Park to watch Sailor’s Cap lose an allowance in January, then missed his next two starts, a turf allowance win on a yielding course at Keene­land in April and a second to Tiz­dejavu in the Grade III Crown Royal American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 2.

The rain was so bad for the

Colonial Cup that the turf course was listed “soft” two races after it had been “firm,” and was “yielding” for the big race. Track officials were considering delaying the start for 20 minutes, then announced that they would open the gate in three minutes, while everyone was in the paddock and the jockeys hadn’t even mounted up yet.

“I was standing next to Edgar Prado, who was going to ride

Adriano, and he didn’t look too thrilled,” Bradley said. “The women took off their shoes and were walking around in stocking feet.”

It was difficult to see what was happening on the track, but the Team Valor people were fortunate to have the only silks with a red cap in the race.

“We watched it from the fourth-floor balcony, and there were sheets of rain coming down,” Bradley said. “I just saw that red cap come sweeping around on the outside.

“It reminded me of the storm they had at Saratoga when Birdstone won the Travers.”

Bradley, a hotline supervisor for the New York State Department of Children and Family Services, was born in Buffalo, lived in Westchester County for a few years and moved to Delmar in the 1960s.

He and his brother have reserved clubhouse seats in Section G at Saratoga, and frequented the track when they were in their teens.

“I call myself an adopted Delmartian,” Bradley said. “I watched the American Turf and the Keeneland race on the big screen at the Delmar OTB. I was screaming and yelling. The other people kind of figured out that I had some interest in the horse. The feeling of winning that race [Colonial Cup] was incredible. The only thing I can compare it to is when you handle a newborn child for the first time. Your pulse is racing. The difference with a horse race is that you get to jump up and down and yell.

“At this point, Team Valor is just going to be shopping for yearlings the rest of the year. Sailor’s Cap has done so well that we’ve almost recouped our investment, and are in a position to maybe make another purchase.”

here comes curlin

Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year, is all set for his turf debut in the Grade I Man ‘o War at Belmont Park today. Post time is 5:15 p.m., and the race will air live on ESPNews.

This will serve as a prep for the Prix de L’arc de Triomphe at Longchamps Race Course in Paris on Oct. 5.

“The perfect plan for us — for me, Curlin and for everybody

associated with him — is to first establish his level of quality on the turf in the Man ‘o War, and not get ahead of ourselves,” trainer Steve Asmussen said during a national teleconference on Tuesday. “We have to see if he can compete at the same level. If he can compete at his level on the turf and we get the race we expect, we will map out how to win the Arc with him.

“I think that getting him over there immediately, and getting him used to going right [on right-handed turns] would be the biggest obstacle that we face.”

The obstacles Curlin faces today include Red Rocks and Better Talk Now, who were 1-2, respectively, in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Turf. Better Talk Now won the BC Turf in 2004. He’s coming off a fifth to Dancing Forever in the Manhattan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day.

stakes schedule

Among the stars hitting the track today are Proud Spell, Dream Rush, Benny the Bull and Colonel John.

Proud Spell, the 2007 BC Juvenile Fillies champ, is the 3-2 morning-line favorite in the Grade II Del­aware Oaks at Delaware Park.

On a crowded stakes card at Calder, Benny the Bull, the 2007 Grade I DeFrancis Dash winner who is coming off a win in the Grade II True North at Belmont, is 7-5 in the Grade II Smile Sprint, and Dream Rush, the two-time Grade I winner, is 8-5 in the Grade I Princess Rooney.

Colonel John is 8-5 in the Grade II Swaps at Hollywood Park, and will probably point toward the Travers, if he wins.

On Sunday, 2007 BC Turf Mile winner Kip Deville will take on Steppenwolfer and three others in the Grade II Poker at Belmont. Steppenwolfer was third to Barbaro in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, and will be making his 2008 debut.

denis out

Denis of Cork, third to Big Brown in the Kentucky and second to

Da’ Tara in the Belmont, has been given the rest of the year off with the makings of a hairline fracture.

The rest of his 2008 schedule was supposed to include the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Ellis Park Opens

They’re racing again at Ellis Park.

The 86-year-old track in western Kentucky hosted live racing on Friday, one week later than usual after a dispute between the track’s owner and horsemen left questions about whether it would open again.

Track owner Ron Geary said last week he would shutter Ellis Park amid a dispute over account

wagering, only to say days later that he had reached an agreement with the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. The agreement gives horsemen at least 6 percent of money generated by Advance Deposit Wagering accounts.

here and there

Zenyatta remained undefeated in six career starts with a narrow win over Tough Tiz’s Sis in the Grade I Vanity at Hollywood Park last weekend. Trainer John Shirreffs wants to bring her back in the Clement Hirsch on Aug. 2 at Del Mar, but he has some concerns about how she’ll handle the synthetic surface there. …

Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux is still chasing his 5,000th career victory. He won the Dr. James Penney Memorial at Philadelphia Park on Monday aboard Sharp Susan for trainer Bill Mott and owners IEAH Stable to give Desormeaux 4,998 wins.

He was blanked in 11 starts at Belmont on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. …

The award-winning documentary “The First Saturday in May,” the Brad and Mark Hennegan account of the road to the 2006 Kentucky Derby won by Barbaro, will be shown at 7:45 p.m. Monday at the OTB Tele-theater on Central Avenue in Albany. Admission and pop corn are free. The Hennegan brothers will be available at 6 for a question-and-answer session.

The film will be shown at the

National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame just about every day throughout the Saratoga meet, for a $5 admission fee in addition to reg­ular museum admission prices. …

Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito and jockey Alan Garcia, who teamed up to win the Belmont with Da’ Tara, will join NYRA president Charlie Hayward and Glens Falls Post-Star handicapper Kyle Brownell as panelists for the museum’s free Sar­atoga Preview program at 7 p.m. on Monday, July 21. …

Gazette handicapper and author Bill Heller has been commissioned by the Howard Parker family to write a book about the late driver and trainer, who was the first inductee into the Saratoga Harness Hall of Fame.

Parker, who led the nation in driver winning percentage two years in a row, had 1,301 career wins for almost $1.5 million. He was succeeded by his sons, Gay and Jack Parker Sr., and two grandsons, Jack Jr. and Howard, as highly successful drivers.

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