12/22/2008 12:00AM

Storm Treasure's breakthrough performance


It may be time to raise a toast to Storm Treasure - surely one of the most talented horses currently training who has a 15-race losing streak on his resume.

To get the entire picture, step briefly back in time. In his third career start, on Nov. 6, 2005, Storm Treasure won a Churchill Downs one-turn-mile dirt maiden by more than seven lengths. His next trip to the winner's circle? That came 23 months and 16 races later, in an entry-level allowance at about seven furlongs on Keeneland's Polytrack. During the losing streak, he finished second in the Blue Grass Stakes, ran unplaced in the Kentucky Derby, and finished third or better in five other stakes.

Turf, dirt, Polytrack; long, short, middle-distance - Storm Treasure has been about as vexing as a talented horses can be. Good enough to finish third in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint earlier this fall; unreliable enough to lose an entry-level allowance race as an odds-on favorite. But all his natural ability was on display last Saturday at Fair Grounds, when Storm Treasure whizzed past the good turf sprinter Chamberlain Bridge to win the Bonapaw Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths. The Bonapaw was just a $60,000 race, but go ahead, get out your stopwatches and find a race where a horse runs a final half-furlong faster than Storm Treasure did. He went in 5.77 seconds.

"He's always been a unique horse," trainer Steve Asmussen said. "He's got a crazy amount of talent."

Storm Treasure tends to cozy up to rivals in the stretch, rather than running past them.

"That's his big thing, laying on horses," Asmussen said. "He's a lover, I think. This last time, he was going too fast to do it."

Storm Treasure was one of two Saturday turf stakes winners for Asmussen, and Jimmy Simms was almost as impressive capturing the Woodchopper for 3-year-olds by more than three lengths. Jimmy Simms raced on the lead and won his first two turf races, and faded third after a front-end battle in the Commonwealth Stakes last month at Churchill Downs. But Saturday, he was rated off the pace for the first time, and improved with the new tactics.

"He's got a lot of talent, and he's just putting it together," Asmussen said. "Him settling so well and coming home like that, that could make all the difference."

Asmussen said Jimmy Simms could be considered for the E.R. Bradley Handicap on Jan. 10 at Fair Grounds, but that his next start hadn't been firmly decided.

While Asmussen accounted for two of the five Saturday stakes, trainer Ronny Werner took two others, and both his winners looked good, too. Leigh McLovin won her second start of the meet, leading all the way from post 1 to take the Letellier Memorial by four lengths, the same margin by which Secret Gypsy won the Esplanade Stakes in a particularly sharp performance.

Both fillies exited their respective races in good physical condition, Werner said Monday, and both could make their next start away from Fair Grounds. Leigh McLovin is a Florida-bred, and thus eligible for the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Oaks next month at Santa Anita.

"I'd love to see her stretch out, but that Sunshine Millions race is a good spot," Werner said. "We might need to put off the stretching."

Secret Gypsy went 5 1/2 furlongs in an excellent 1:03.22, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 103 for her second straight open-lengths victory. There are suitable sprint stakes for Secret Gypsy in both January and February at Gulfstream, Werner said, and whether Secret Gypsy ships for the first or the second of those has yet to be determined.

"She came out of it in good order, and I'm tickled to death," Werner said. "She's a filly, you've got to watch her weight a little bit, see how she stays in the feed tub."

Mad Flatter ready to begin comeback

Saturday's feature, the Furl Sail Handicap, drew 14 entries, and hardly could look more competitive.

The Furl Sail, carded for about 1o1/16 miles on turf, goes as race 9. One race earlier, Mad Flatter makes his first start since he finished third in the Lecomte Stakes last January at Fair Grounds. With consecutive wins in a Churchill sprint maiden and a Fair Grounds route allowance, Mad Flatter looked like at least a minor contender for the Louisiana Derby coming out of the Lecomte, but one breeze later, Mad Flatter was on the sidelines.

"He had a beautiful work after the Lecomte, came back great, but next day he was sore," said trainer Jeff Thornbury.

Mad Flatter had fractured his knee, a "pretty serious injury," said Thonrbury, which required surgery, and he is just now getting back to the races. Mad Flatter has trained up to his comeback on Polytrack at Keeneland, and only arrived at Fair Grounds on Monday morning.

"We've not really pushed on him, but he's done things as easily as we could hope," Thornbury said. "I'm not sure what to expect. Six furlongs might be a little short, but it's a good starting point for him."