Liam The Charmer Bests Defending Ashleyluvssugar In John Henry Turf

Madaket Stables’ Liam the Charmer was making his second start after a year-long break from the races in Sunday’s Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship, an appropriate start for the 5-year-old son of Smart Strike who was bred by John Henry’s trainer, Ron McAnally. Off as the 5-2 favorite, Liam the Charmer got the best of last year’s winner Ashleyluvssugar in the lane to win by three-quarters of a length, completing 1 1/4 miles over Santa Anita’s firm turf in 1:58.01. Liam the Charmer was ridden by Tyler Gaffalione for trainer Mike McCarthy.

Named for two-time Horse of the Year and seven-time Eclipse Award winner John Henry (who notched his second HOY title at age nine in 1984), the John Henry trophy was presented by Donna Cenicola, wife of the late Lewis Cenicola, who was “John’s” regular exercise rider under the direction of Hall of Fame conditioner Ron McAnally.

Liam the Charmer, who was last early in a field of six 3-year-olds and up, was fourth turning for home and on the move while four-wide under eastern-based Tyler Gaffalione.  Although front-running Ashleyluvssugar showed no signs of slowing down under Gary Stevens, “Liam” lengthened his considerable stride late and was in-hand at the wire.

“Mike said not to rush him out of there and let him find his footing,” said Gaffalione, who rode Liam the Charmer for the first time today and bagged his first-ever graded stakes at Santa Anita.  “Going into the far turn, I let him go in between horses and then kicked him out coming into the stretch and he really finished up nicely.”

A third level allowance winner on turf Aug. 16, Liam the Charmer was off as the 5-2 favorite and paid $7.80, $3.80 and $2.60 in taking his first graded stakes.

“He’s a pretty easy horse to fall in love with,” said McCarthy.  “He’s always been a nice horse.  This graded stake is probably a year and a half overdo.  He’s just hitting his best stride now that he’s five.  He’s like molasses.  He just goes through the motions every day.

“I’ll talk to (part-owner) Sol Kumin and everybody else and who knows, maybe he bought himself a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup.  I can’t say enough about this horse…Everybody loves him, everybody loves riding him.”

One of two California-breds in the lineup, Ashleyluvssugar was sent to the lead under Stevens and just missed in a gallant effort.  Off as the second choice at 3-1, he finished one length in front of Ya Gotta Wanna and paid $4.20 and $2.80.

Ya Gotta Wanna, ridden by Geovanni Franco, rallied from next to last around the far turn to finish third by a head over Ann Arbor Eddie.  Off at 4-1, Ya Gotta Wanna paid $2.80 to show.

Fractions on the race were 23.43, 47.61, 1:11.42 and 1:34.48.

Bred in Kentucky by Ron and Deborah McAnally, Liam the Charmer is out of the Grade 3-winning Giant’s Causeway mare Charm the Giant. As a yearling, he commanded a final bid of $500,000 at the Keeneland September sale. In November of 2017, Liam the Charmer returned to Keeneland where he brought $100,000 from BSW Bloodstock. The John Henry was just his second start of 2018, and also his second victory; overall, the gelding’s record stands at five wins from 14 starts for earnings of over $300,000.

The post Liam The Charmer Bests Defending Ashleyluvssugar In John Henry Turf appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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