Updated on 05/22/2013 4:13PM

Calder: Memorial Day Handicap stiff test for much-improved Rule Number Six

Coady Photography
The 4-year-old Rule Number Six will seek his fourth straight win in Saturday's Memorial Day Handicap.

MIAMI – Trainer Ron Gaffney has already transformed Rule Number Six from a useful allowance and starter allowance horse as a 3-year-old in 2012 into a stakes winner this season. Gaffney, a transplanted New Englander, is hoping that metamorphosis will continue Saturday when Rule Number Six puts his three-race winning streak on the line in the $75,000 Memorial Day Handicap at Calder.

Rule Number Six, a 4-year-old son of Repent, is owned in partnership by Gaffney’s wife, Emmy, the daughter of trainer Jimmy Rowe, and Jessica Savin, the daughter of former Gulfstream Park president Scott Savin. Rule Number Six won just once in eight tries in 2012 but has steadily risen up the class ladder after returning from a 6 1/2-month vacation earlier this year. In his most recent start, Rule Number Six rallied from a dozen lengths off the lead, circling the field around the turn, to register a 1 1/4-length decision here in the Sumter Stakes.

“We gave him the second half of his 3-year-old season off because of a bruised bone that was bugging him,” said Gaffney, a former jockey who moved to south Florida from Boston 12 years ago. “He was ice cold and appeared sound but I told Emmy that something just wasn’t right, so we ended turning him out for a while and he’s come back all the better for it.”

Gaffney acknowledges Rule Number Six will face a tall task in the Memorial Day with the multiple graded stakes winner Csaba among his nine rivals.

“Csaba is a nice horse and I might be shooting for the world going up against him, although he hasn’t run in a few months and might need a race,” said Gaffney. “We beat most of the others and went a mile wide to do it in the stakes earlier this month. My colt is a little bitty horse and I think he is eligible to get better. We don’t do much with him between starts. I rarely work him because he is so small, it’s so hot down here, and the track is deep.”

Gaffney’s main concern in the Memorial Day is all the traffic his horse may have to navigate around as he did in the Sumter.

“I was surprised the field was so big, and a lot of them look like horses that are just going to get in your way,” said Gaffney, who won the 1975 title at Suffolk Downs training for owner Peter Petro. “But it looks like there’s enough pace in the race and this is the kind of horse you just lead over there and he runs hard every time.”

O’Connell on the mend

Trainer Kathleen O’Connell has been trying to recuperate from injuries sustained when kicked by one of her 2-year-olds earlier this month. She received some of her best medicine last Saturday, when another of her juveniles, Scandalous Act, rallied to a convincing debut win for owner-breeder Gil Campbell.

“I got kicked while trying to school this young horse back at the barn after he’d already kicked in the starting gate a little while earlier,” said O’Connell. “He’s like a machine gun when he starts kicking. He got me on both sides, on my knee and my calf. The next morning I was so sore I couldn’t even make it to the barn and that’s the first day of my life that’s ever happened. Even now, I still can barely make it from my car to the office.”

Scandalous Act is one of 22 2-year-olds O’Connell has bedded down at Calder. She also has another 20 older horses at Monmouth Park and eight more at Presque Isle.

“It’s not like I wanted to take all those others out of town, but with the ways things are going around here, there’s nothing I could do,” said O’Connell. “If I didn’t take Reporting Star or Kanturk Kid up north, they’d have gone up there with someone else.”

Scandalous Act is a half-sister to Two T’s at Two B, a speedy colt who captured his first four starts at 2, including a pair of stakes. Two T’s at Two B, owned by his breeder, Gilbert Campbell, has been sidelined since finishing second behind Speak Logistics in the 1 1/16-mile In Reality division of the Florida Stallion Stakes seven months ago, but is ready to return to action, according to O’Connell.

“He’s ready to go but I’ve got no place to run him, so he’ll probably have to come back in the stakes next month,” said O’Connell. “After that, he could wind up going north too.”

O’Connell was referring to the $75,000 Unbridled Stakes on June 8, a six-furlong prep for the Grade 3 Carry Back four weeks later.

“I’ll do whatever the boss (Campbell) tells me to do,” said O’Connell. “If he wants him up north, he’ll go up north. If he wants to keep him here for the Carry Back, then he’ll stay here.

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Ron Gaffney's wife, Emmy, as the daughter of Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Rowe Sr. She is the daughter of a trainer named Jimmy Rowe, but not the Hall of Fame trainer James Rowe Sr.