10/21/2015 1:26PM

Hovdey: BC newbies could end up on long end of Turf Sprint


The suspense was killing them. They’d never felt anything like this before. Then again, they’d never been in a spot like this before, with a racehorse all dressed up and ready to run in a Breeders’ Cup race but no guarantee that he would make it into an oversubscribed field.

Then the word came down from the selection committee Wednesday morning, and just like that, the Double JH Stable of Jan and Jerry Hawthorne was looking at its first Breeders’ Cup runner in No Silent, a gelded son of Silent Name who only recently broke through with his first graded stakes win at the ripe old age of 6.

“Yesterday was a long, torturous ordeal,” Jan Hawthorne said from her home in Newport Beach, Calif. “But now we’re ready to pack our bags and go to the party.”

No Silent will be a fair price in a large field going 5 1/2 furlongs for a purse of $1 million in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. He must deal with Bobby’s Kitten and Undrafted, first and third in the race last year at Santa Anita, as well as the classy fillies Ageless and Lady Shipman.

No Silent tipped his mitt as a grass sprinter two years ago, when he finished a close second in the Hollywood Turf Express. But he did not come full flower until he was gelded and returned from a layoff this year for trainer Gary Mandella. After a warm-up in the Albany Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in June, No Silent has reeled off three straight wins – going from a confidence-boosting $50,000 claimer to a solid score for $62,500 to a galloping win in the Grade 3 Eddie D Stakes at Santa Anita.

Timing is everything, for better or worse. If you doubt it, ask Flavien Prat, No Silent’s favorite jockey, who broke his back in September. He was replaced for the Eddie D by Gary Stevens, and Stevens liked what he saw. It had been two years since the Hall of Famer had ridden the ungelded version of No Silent.

“Gary noticed a difference right away,” Mandella said. “He used to grab the bit and go as fast as he could for as far as he could. Now he’s a very comfortable second-flight kind of horse who can settle and punch, which is an option the rider never seemed to have before.

“I had Gary breeze him last Thursday,” the trainer added. “He was happier with that work than he was with the work before the Eddie D.”

No Silent has been to Keeneland before, but it’s all right if Lexington locals aren’t able to place the bay with the white blaze dribbling over his nose. In April 2014, he was one of a dozen in the Shakertown Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs, although to hear Mandella tell it, he might as well have stayed in the barn.

“It was a disaster,” Mandella said. “He got bumped really hard leaving the gate. His whole trip ended up being closer to a rugby game than a horse race.”

No Silent ended up eighth, beaten about four lengths by Marchman, another Turf Sprint hopeful.

“My only concern is if we get wet ground at Keeneland,” Mandella said. “He didn’t fire nearly as well at Golden Gate, where the turf was a little deep compared to Del Mar and Santa Anita, where it was quite firm. And obviously in a 5 1/2-furlong race with 14 horses, there’s going to be a lot of luck involved.”

As far as Jan Hawthorne is concerned, their small racing stable has been walking around lucky for most of 2015, thanks in large part to No Silent.

“For a small stable, we’ve had a few very good horses,” she said. “But last year was the first year that if something could go wrong, it did go wrong. This year has made up for that. Now we’re on a roll.”

The Hawthornes have been in the game about 15 years. They are an actively retired couple who were able to focus on Thoroughbred racing after selling their Hawthorne Benefit Technologies software company in 2007 to Paychex, the payroll-services giant.

In May 2012, they bought No Silent after his third start from his breeders, Alain and Gerard Wertheimer. Since then, he has won seven of 20 starts for Double JH. Mandella has been his only trainer.

As noted, this will be the first Breeders’ Cup starter for the Hawthornes but hardly their first rodeo. Just since 2003, they’ve been to all six of the championship festivals presented at Santa Anita Park.

“As a spectator, I would let myself imagine what it would be like to have a horse in a Breeders’ Cup race,” Jan Hawthorne said. “But really, it wasn’t even on my bucket list. I guess you could say it was on my dream list. So, sometimes dreams come true.

“I know we’ve got some tough opponents waiting for us at Keeneland,” she added. “But our boy is tough, too. He’s so full of himself lately, I think he’s getting used to winning, so we’re going into the Breeders’ Cup thinking we’re going to win this thing.”