01/23/2012 4:23PM

Fair Grounds: Santo Gato goes for three straight


If he were so inclined, trainer Merrill Scherer might spin a wizard’s tale of how he turned Santo Gato around this winter at Fair Grounds. A 4-year-old Kitten’s Joy gelding, Santo Gato came into the meet a 16-start maiden, with losses in turf routes and turf sprints, on dirt and Polytrack, and in races from New Orleans to New York. But he comes into Wednesday’s featured eighth race with two straight wins, the most recent a dominant first-level allowance victory in a turf sprint.

Scherer, however, is not so inclined. “I haven’t a clue,” said he, asked what had happened to suddenly turn the tide in Santo Gato’s favor.

Nevertheless, after 16 losses, Santo Gato appears to have a chance for his third straight victory Wednesday as one of nine horses entered in a second-level, turf-sprint allowance also open to $40,000 claimers. One of the eight, Technique, is entered main-track-only, and with a chance of rain in the local forecast throughout the week, a move to dirt is a possibility.

Santo Gato, Scherer points out, did run against talented horses during his long run as a maiden, especially some of his East Coast grass starts, and he does seem to have fondness for a Fair Grounds turf course that some horses fail to handle.

“Maybe, too, he just grew up,” Scherer speculated. “He is a happier horse right now. He’s carrying a lot more flesh.”

Scherer thinks Santo Gato has maintained his favorable state of being, both physical and mental, since his win on Dec. 30. The horse has since posted two timed workouts, and could get a favorable trip in what appears to be a wide-open race.

Cactus Son has some appeal. He turns back from competitive route tries for trainer Mike Burgess, whose stock has recently won at a 37-percent clip in turf sprints. Cool Bullet, Grade 2-placed at Keeneland last April, is dropped in for a $40,000 claiming price, and might have his best chance on dirt.

The nine-race card also includes a filly-and-mare, first-level dirt-route allowance race also open to $17,500 claimers. Puddy Tap finished second as an odds-on favorite in a similar spot Dec. 18, and is almost certain to go to the post again as an overwhelming favorite.