Celtic Innis makes his first start of his sixth season Saturday in Laurel Park's Fire Plug Stake. The 8-year-old bay gelding by Yarrow Brae will break from the outside of seven other foes. Sheldon Russell will once again ride the veteran for Allen and Audrey Murray. We will certainly have our work cut out for us, as all eight horses look to have a legitimate chance at the winner's share of the $70,000 ($20,000 Md bred) purse.
Digger comes in from New York after winning the Gravesend. Roaring Lion beat us fair and square in the Maryland Million Sprint. Love's Strong Hart won a stakes at Charles Town. Ravalo, who has beaten us twice, won't have to ship to run this time. Rodney Jenkins supplemented Malibu Kid for some reason, he wouldn't have done that just to help fill the race.
Like all trainers with nice horses, when you get to this level, there are no easy spots. Celtic has been the mainstay of my barn for a long time, you enter him knowing you're walking into the lion's den. You lead him over there knowing he'll try hard, that's about all you can ask of a horse. I look for Celtic to give his usual 110 percent. He'll probably break and sit off the early pace and come running.
This will be the last race of the season for Celtic as we always like to send him home to the farm for a break, that's part of the reason he's been able to keep coming back at this level. For a horse to never drop down the ladder is pretty special.
Stent Double and Barouchka will run earlier in the day. Both are trying to graduate from the maiden ranks. Barouchka has come close several times, so hopefully it will be one of these days.
The excitement of the Eclipse Awards will be a little more exciting for me this year. Instead of watching the awards ceremony from my couch I will don my tux (Wonder if it's clean? Wonder if it still fits? Wonder where it is?) and be in the audience as they announce Horse of the Year (are you for Zenyatta or Rachel Alexandra?), Turf horse of the year, Filly of the year . . . The highlight for me will be when my buddy Sean Clancy receives the 2009 Media Eclipse Award for the article he wrote on the late Hall of Fame Trainer Sidney Watters, Jr. And no, he didn't pay me to write this. Congratulations Sean!