07/11/2010 11:00PM

Performance of the week: Trappe Shot

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The four-horse Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth proved an unappetizing betting affair, but horseplayers and racing fans studied the race with intense interest.

The promising Trappe Shot, odds-on favorite in this local prep for the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, had some question marks. Would he stay two turns? Could he rate off the lead going long? Was he good enough to successfully tackle stakes company? Could he handle a wet track?

After the 1:43.38 it took Trappe Shot to race 1 1/16 miles over the good surface, the answers were clear. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Trappe Shot bobbled slightly coming out of the gate but recovered to prompt the pace along the inside through moderate splits of 23.82 seconds and 48.80. Jockey Alan Garcia, mindful of the possibility of being shuffled back on the rail, sent Trappe Shot through a narrow gap on the fence to battle for command with three furlongs remaining. Turning for home, all four 3-year-olds had a chance, but Garcia remained cool on Trappe Shot, who turned back the challenge of runner-up Nacho Friend in upper stretch under a vigorous hand ride.

Although a sparse field, the horses vanquished in the Long Branch held potential. Southern Ridge graduated at Monmouth on June 5 by 7 1/2 lengths with a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. Earlier in the season, Nacho Friend ran a good third in the Grade 3 Gotham. Latigo Shore earned a 99 Beyer in winning his two-turn debut, an entry-level allowance race against older horses at Delaware on June 12.

Trappe Shot received a 105 Beyer, and his trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, seemed pleased with the effort.

"He's obviously a very nice horse," McLaughlin said after the Long Branch. "We didn't think the inside was the place to be today, but as it turned out that's where he wound up. We'll talk it over with the owners, but going into this race we thought if he ran well we'd bring him back in three weeks for the Haskell. I don't think this race took too much out of him."

Garcia was confident throughout.

"We wanted to play the race by how everyone broke, but we did think we would be behind horses and make one run," the winning rider said. "I had a lot of horse the whole way, and I had to move inside the leader [Southern Ridge], but I knew the only way someone was going to beat me was to run a big race. Two turns was no problem for him today."

From a pedigree standpoint, Trappe Shot is a good candidate to stay the nine furlongs of the Haskell. His sire, Tapit, never started in a sprint race. He won 3 of 6 starts, including the Grade 1 Wood Memorial going 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct.

Trappe Shot's dam, Shopping (by Private Account), won three times at distances between 6 1/2 furlongs and 1 1/16 miles and has been a prolific producer of black-type performers. Trappe Shot's half-sister Miss Shop won the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap going 1 1/4 miles at Saratoga, while half-brothers Bought in Dixie and Shop Again were victorious in sprint stakes races. Another half-brother, Bulling, finished third in the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes going short as a 2-year-old. Shopping also is a half-sister to Lay Down, a multiple Grade 2 winner.

Trappe Shot topped the 2009 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale after working an eighth-mile in 10.20 seconds, the co-fastest furlong of the auction's under-tack show. He was purchased for $850,000 and made his debut on opening day of the boutique Saratoga meeting.

Trappe Shot was hot on the tote as the 5-2 second choice in the field of 11 (10 betting interests). The main track seemed speed-favoring, and Trappe Shot did not break well. "Trappe Shot stumbled at the start, steadied in traffic on the far turn, and failed to threaten thereafter," read the official race chart. The debut wasn't a complete wash, however, as Trappe Shot passed some horses in the stretch to finish ahead of four next-out winners.

After being sidelined for the rest of the season with reported hind-end issues, Trappe Shot geared up for his 3-year-old campaign at McLaughlin's Palm Meadows winter headquarters. Sent off the prohibitive 3-5 favorite in a field of 10 Florida-bred maidens at Gulfstream on Feb. 21, Trappe Shot took a minor bump at the start but soon pushed the pace while three wide. He made the lead under a statue-still Garcia on the turn and drew off to win the six-furlong heat by a facile 10 1/4 lengths. The runner-up, well-beaten by Trappe Shot, graduated against open maiden special weights at Calder in his next start.

McLaughlin was conservative in choosing the next race for his promising colt. Instead of trying stakes company following the blowout maiden score, he opted to run Trappe Shot in an entry-level allowance restricted to Florida-breds on March 21. Trappe Shot was 1-5 on the board for the 6 1/2-furlong event and ran a race eerily similar to his maiden win. He prompted the pace while three wide, took over at will under a confident Garcia, and drew away in hand. This time, the margin of victory was 12 3/4 lengths, and two of his beaten rivals returned to immediately win.

Trappe Shot was tentatively scheduled to compete in the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct, but an ankle injury forced McLaughlin to scrap those plans. Instead, Trappe Shot stretched out to seven furlongs against older horses in a first-level allowance at Belmont Park on June 5 (he was eligible for the race due to his two wins at Gulfstream coming against statebreds).

This race served as an excellent learning experience for Trappe Shot, who again was the public favorite. He tracked the pace along the inside while racing behind the pacesetter before angling three wide at the quarter pole. He took dead aim on Godolphin Stable's Tahitian Warrior and blew by en route to a four-length win in 1:22.18. McLaughlin had to be content with the way the horse took dirt in his face, rated successfully, and finished with a flourish. Trappe Shot completed his final eighth-mile in a solid 12.20 seconds, despite being geared down nearing the wire. Tahitian Warrior returned to win a second-level allowance at Belmont with a whopping 103 Beyer.

Trappe Shot has handled everything thrown at him this season. The Haskell will doubtlessly offer his sternest challenge to date, but, with Drosselmeyer likely sidelined for the remainder of the year, there's an opening for a talented 3-year-old to make his mark. Trappe Shot may fit that bill.