05/14/2009 12:00AM

Orphan Brigade shows no signs of slowing


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Orphan Brigade has been strutting around trainer Bret Calhoun's barn lately, and with good reason. An 8-year-old, he has been proving his dominance over horses half his age recently, and that kind of form will make him a top choice Saturday in the $50,000 Express at Lone Star Park.

The six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up also has drawn defending champ Wind Water and multiple stakes winner Gold Coyote.

But perhaps the sharpest horse coming into the Express is Orphan Brigade. He has been on a roll since February, when he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 101 for a more than five-length win over $50,000 claimers at six furlongs at Fair Grounds. One start later, Orphan Brigade moved to turf and won a five-furlong allowance at Lone Star on April 11, with a 91 Beyer.

"He usually doesn't show a lot of emotion, he doesn't tout you around the barn," Calhoun said. "But right now, he's pretty proud of himself. He's been sharp around the racetrack and the barn, cutting up and playing a lot. He used to not do that. He was a pretty quiet animal."

Calhoun has had Orphan Brigade in his barn for the better part of five years. Owned by Carl Moore, the gelding has won 20 of 64 starts and $676,658. Orphan Brigade has put up three triple-digit Beyers in his career, the best a 108 for a $100,000 optional claiming sprint win at Hawthorne in October 2005. His latest triple-digit Beyer was Feb. 6.

"The race at Fair Grounds, he just exploded away from the gates and ran them off their feet," Calhoun said of the front-running win. "And the other day, he handled them pretty easily. He's pretty good right now."

Carlos Gonzalez, who was aboard for both races, has the mount in the Express.

Independence War also comes off back-to-back wins, closing from off the pace to win a pair of six-furlong starts at Oaklawn Park in March and April. In his most recent out, he was up for a neck win in a $40,000 optional claiming allowance. He will make a rare stakes start Saturday.

"The horse is just getting better and better," said Tim Ice, who trains the 4-year-old Independence War for K.K. and Vilasini Jayaraman. "He's going too good to not give him a chance."

Ice said Independence War seems to be at his best when making one run. He has given the mount to Chris Rosier.