08/31/2011 11:41AM

Louisiana Downs: Cates rewarded for his patience with 2-year-olds


BOSSIER CITY, La. – One of the better kept secrets during this summer at Louisiana Downs has been the emergence of trainer Al Cates. Aptly dubbed “Gentleman Al” by friends and colleagues for his gracious, positive, and articulate manner, Cates has been particularly proficient with his 2-year-olds.

Kaki’s Storm began the Cates onslaught in late July when she won her career debut despite bobbling at the start. A Louisiana-bred daughter of Storm Day, Kaki’s Storm raced behind the early leaders in the maiden special weight race before joining the fray in the turn under the meeting’s leading rider, Richard Eramia. The two took care of business down the lane and Kaki’s Storm prevailed in game fashion by a head.

Overlooked and dismissed at 22-1 in her next start, Kaki’s Storm looked 1-5 favorite and multiple stakes winner Coteau Kitten in the eye in the early going of the Louisiana Cup Juvenile Filly Stakes on Aug. 20 before pulling away by two lengths in the late going under new rider Carlos Gonzalez.

My Gi Gi was even more impressive in her debut on Aug. 18. Facing open maiden special weight company going two turns on the turf, she was taken to the outside rail into the first turn by a rival bearing out to concede at least a dozen lengths to the leaders. Maintaining her poise under Gonzalez, My Gi Gi uncorked an eye-opening run down the lane to be up in time.

Cates’s latest endeavor came last week when he sent yet another first-time starter out to an impressive victory. Tricky Suspect, an Arkansas-bred son of Hennessy out of the Clever Trick mare Great Trick, made short work of a set of open maiden special weight foes, controlling the pace throughout before cruising home under Gonzalez to win by 7 1/2 lengths with something left. The resulting 77 Beyer Speed Figure is one of the best that any 2-year-old has earned in the region all summer long.

When asked to reveal the secret of his recent success, Cates replied in typical fashion.

“I’ve got some really great owners,” he says. “A lot of trainers get pressure to run their 2-year-olds right away. My owners give me all the time in the world. I’m under absolutely no pressure at all. As a result, we are able to take our time, do a lot of repetitive things. Lots of trips to the starting gate. Lots of work in the mornings. I’ve also got a great crew. Grooms, hot walkers, they all do a good job.”

Ron Ball, one of the partners who own the now stakes winning Kaki’s Storm, says the owner-trainer relationship is an easy one.

“The gentleman label could not be more accurate,” Ball says. “He is just a solid, quiet horseman. He does right by the horse. His results speak for themselves.”

Both My Gi Gi and Tricky Suspect will soon be joining Kaki’s Storm as stakes performers if all goes according to plan in the next few weeks.

“We are going to work Gi Gi on the turf this Sunday,” says Cates. “If she continues to train like we think she will, we plan on going in the Happy Ticket Stakes on the Super Derby undercard September 10.”

Tricky Suspect is being pointed toward the Razorback Futurity for Arkansas-breds here on Sept. 24. Cates said the Rainbow Stakes for Arkansas-bred 3-year-olds at Oaklawn next spring is the ultimate long range goal.