Dallas Stewart's stable for the 2016 Saratoga meeting could not be a truer reflection of himself. Like the native of New Orleans who trains them, the horses are full of personality and a love of racing. Stewart's string totals 14 and ranges from unraced 2-year-olds to Grade 1 winners. (Editor's note: Originally published July 28 issue of The Saratoga Special.)
"Nice, a bit smaller, but strong stable," Stewart said. "Fortunate to train for some very good people. West Point, I've worked for them for 20 years. (Chuck) Fipke, I've worked for him for probably 10 or so. A couple new clients here and there that I've worked with over the years."
Stewart's morning responsibilities go much further than sitting trackside in a golf cart watching training - he hoses off nearly every horse after training, cools horses out and goes through every stall checking legs, teaching tricks and spoiling with treats.
"It's not for everybody but it is for me," said Stewart, who won the Grade 1 Ballerina last summer at Saratoga with Unbridled Forever. "I love what I do. I do what I do because it works for me."
Stewart finished hosing horses after morning workouts and walked stall to stall with The Special's Shayna Tiller.
Tale Of Verve: Fipke's homebred Tale Of Ekati colt, runner-up to American Pharoah in the 2015 Preakness, won an allowance race Saturday. "Very proud of him. It was a hard fought race. He looks good, his energy's good, he's healthy. That's a neat horse to be around, he performed wonderful in Maryland and after that we probably went a race or two further with him than we should have. Not that he was unhealthy, just that he wasn't performing, and we kept trying and probably pushed a little bit too much. We keep learning. The Woodward is a possibility. Maybe if he's doing well, but then again maybe we're pushing too hard. If not, hopefully we'll find a minor stakes somewhere else."
Tom's Ready: He won the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard for G M B Racing of Gayle and Tom Benson, owners of New Orleans Saints and Pelicans. The More Than Ready colt stopped to nudge Stewart's side while cooling out. "He's looking for apples, I've got them all apple broke. He's not big, but he's a real fun horse. He's supposed to go in the King's Bishop. Gave him a little bit of a break, bringing him back he's had some good workouts. He's a horse you work in company, because if you don't he won't focus. We made an adjustment with his blinkers; he was racing with blinkers all winter (and) in the Kentucky Derby. He's a horse that looks around a lot, like he'll look at horses and just take off running. It's the funniest thing in the world. I thought to take them off, so we tried it and, sure enough, he ran all over the track, but he ran faster."
Ready for Chianti: Third in a Churchill Downs allowance July 2, homebred More Than Ready filly for Fipke is entered in today's eighth, a 1 3/16-mile allowance on the grass. "She's won one race (at Fair Grounds), had two seconds and a third at Churchill, so we're trying a little bit longer distance with her. She finishes her races good. Hopefully I'm making the right decision. She's a nice filly so we're going to try this and see if it's the distance she likes. She's going to make Mr. Fipke a lovely broodmare."
General Downs: A $300,000 Mineshaft gelding purchased from the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale by West Point, breezed 5 furlongs Monday in a bullet 1:00.90 on the Oklahoma. "The General! This one's got so much personality, more than any horse in the barn. He's just unreal. He loves treats. I had him in New Orleans this winter and got a hind ankle-cannon bone injury and had to have some minor surgery. He was kind of a slow developing horse, and then he got this injury so he came back May, June. So now he's working toward his first start. He's a beautiful, beautiful horse. I actually trained his mother, Plaid, and bought her at the sale. He's a very alert horse, he's got an unreal personality. Maybe the next Mr. Ed."
Forever Unbridled: Winner of the Grade 1 Apple Blossom in April and second in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps in June. "She's being pointed toward the Personal Ensign. Her mother (Lemons Forever) won the Kentucky Oaks, her sister won a Grade 1, she's a Grade 1 winner. She's nice in the barn, but outside she's very feisty. She can get a little cranked up and she can rear up and you have to be very, very careful with her. She's a lot of racehorse."
Forever D'Oro: A 3-year-old half brother to Forever Unbridled finished 13th in the Belmont Stakes and returns in Friday's Curlin. "He ran in the Belmont, which didn't turn out really well. Looking back, it was probably more than he was ready for. He's being pointed toward the Curlin. Another big step up for him."
Take Charge Niki: Daughter of Congrats cost $725,000 as a 2-year-old last year. She breezed 5 furlongs in 1:00.90 Monday over the Oklahoma. "She had a little bit of an injury last year and it took a long time to heal up. She just kind of did something to her back leg. She's a beautiful filly, she was expensive. She's from the Take Charge Indy family, Will Take Charge, and Mr. Fipke bought her to get into that family."
She's a True Beauty: SumFun Stable's 4-year-old by Yes It's True finished seventh in Sunday's ninth race. "She ran really good. It was her first race back in eight months, she had a hind-ankle injury down in New Orleans this winter, which we operated on, and she made it back to the races. She won the two races previous to (Sunday), and it was her first race back since the layoff. So we're probably going to point her toward Kentucky Downs. She's related to a horse named Aikenite, who was a very nice horse that Todd Pletcher trained for Dogwood Stable."
Drago's Pearl: West Point's 2-year-old son of First Samurai joyously leaped around in his stall, until he nearly crashed into the stall guard and had to be tied. "That's the name of a restaurant down in New Orleans that the Cvitanovich family owns, and they were the first to bring out the chargrilled oysters that people love so much. So he worked a half yesterday and he's doing really well. He's a really good-feeling horse and hopefully he'll make the meet. He's got to learn to settle down, he gets a bit over the top."
Hollywood Handsome: Mark Stanley spent $200,000 last October for the Tapizar colt. "He worked a half in (:49.92 on the main track) Sunday with Drago's Pearl and they fought it out pretty good. Drago's Pearl might have had the upper hand on him by about a neck or so but he beat Drago last time. The 2-year-olds will do that, they'll kind of swap off. Hopefully we'll get a start by the end of the meet if everything goes right."
Moonlightnmidnight and Whole Lotta Luck: Both owned by West Point - the former a 2-year-old daughter of Wilburn and the latter a 2-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky - they breezed 5 furlongs in company Monday in 1:01.29 on the Oklahoma. "We're looking to run (Moonlightnmidnight) by the middle of August and she's been spectacular. She's lovely, just a treat, no problem. Hopefully get one good start here, with the babies we're looking to get one good start. If not, get some good education. They should learn a lot here. It's big, it's wide, it's open. I like seeing the young horses, how they grow up, hopefully they mature. She worked with Whole Lotta Luck. She's beaten him twice. He's fighting, he's trying to beat her. It's just a situation where he's not as fit as she is right now. He's got a really good body on him. He's going to run a little bit later in the meet, he'll have a few more works before he starts, and I think he's going to need it. Great horses."
Tb Salute: A Louisiana-bred 3-year-old gelding by Giant Oak, he finished seventh in a maiden claimer Saturday. "He didn't have a great race, didn't get out of the gates real good. It was his first start. He had an injury down in New Orleans this winter, stuck his foot through a wire screen and got cut. So this was his first race, he did finish good in the stretch. I hope that he picks his head up a bit from the race, trains a little harder and we'll see. Hopefully get one or two more races in him while he's here."
Saint's Fan: Stewart's homebred 2-year-old colt by Tale Of Ekati. "He has beautiful markings. He got a shoe boil, which got infected, so we had to stop training him for a while, but he's back training now. Came back May-June. He's about a week away from a breeze. I like him, he's a nice colt. He's growing up. He's still a big playboy, lot of personality. Hopefully, he gets better with the time here."