03/14/2012 12:55PM

Fair Grounds: Safe Trip in first start for new barn

Bob Coglianese
Safe Trip (9) earns a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 100 in a narrow loss last winter at Gulfstream.

Safe Trip always has been cut out to be a good horse, having won a Churchill Downs maiden race by 7 1/2 lengths in his second career start early in his 3-year-old season for Gary and Mary West. Now 5, the chestnut gelding has been turned over to Bret Calhoun and will make his first start for the two-time Breeders’ Cup-winning trainer when he will be favored Friday evening in a $53,000 allowance at six furlongs at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

“I’ve been impressed with him from day one,” said Calhoun. “I know that these upper-level allowances can be tough spots, especially for a horse coming off a layoff. But I’ve been very impressed with his breezes – they’ve been very good. I’m expecting a big effort from him Friday night.”

Safe Trip, a Kentucky-bred by Tale of the Cat, will be ridden by Miguel Mena when he breaks from post 3 in a field of six older horses. The race is governed by a third-level condition and a $62,500 claiming option.

Safe Trip was trained at the outset of his career in 2010 by Eddie Kenneally before the Wests, who made their fortune in the marketing business in Nebraska, turned him over to Chad Brown late in the year. The gelding won 1 of 5 starts for Brown, peaking with a 100 Beyer Speed Figure in a narrow defeat in a Gulfstream allowance and a subsequent victory at the south Florida track.

Calhoun, who in 2010 won the BC Filly and Mare Sprint with Dubai Majesty and the BC Turf Sprint with Chamberlain Bridge, said the Wests “had to give the horse a little vacation after his last race,” a Churchill allowance during Kentucky Derby week last May, “and they wanted to move him around the country a little bit, so they sent him to me.”

Probably the top challengers to Safe Trip are Mambo Galliano (post 1, Rosie Napravnik) and Wash Park (post 6, Shane Sellers). The rest of the field is Strong and Tough, Santo Gato, and Cool Bullet.

The feature anchors a 10-race program that gets a twilight start of 5 p.m. Central. This is another in the “Starlight” series that Fair Grounds has used for some Fridays during this four-month 2011-12 meet. The feature is set for 7:03 p.m., with the 10th and last race scheduled for 9:45. The final Starlight card comes March 30 on closing weekend.