Agrivating General Could Give Pish a 'Hat Trick' at LSP

(April 12, 2006) - Agrivating General, the morning line favorite for Thursday's $50,000 Premiere Stakes, is seeking an unprecedented hat trick in the traditional first race of the season at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas. The 7-year-old gelding won the 2003-04 renewals and finished third last year behind Rare Cure, who is back to defend his title.

Agrivating General is the pride of a deep Danny Pish stable that finished fourth here last year with 38 wins and started more horses (223) than anyone not named Steve Asmussen. Since 2000, Pish has never finished out of the Top Five in the last seven Thoroughbred seasons at Lone Star (six spring seasons plus a second-place posting at the 2004 Fall Breeders' Cup Meeting, his best-ever local showing).

With his usual 50-stall allotment occupying all of Barn A4, the 40-year-old trainer certainly has the numbers to make another Top Five finish seem likely. He even has the firepower to infiltrate the Top Three that at recent spring meets has been the exclusive domain of Asmussen, Cole Norman and Bret Calhoun.

Fortunately for Pish, he possesses the perfect weapon for getting a jump on the Big Three right out of the gate. Not only has Agrivating General won the Premiere twice before, he's a certified all-around Lone Star lover, with four wins, four seconds and a third in 11 starts here. It's no mystery, then, why a 7-year-old gelding who hasn't won in nearly two years is the 2-1 morning line favorite in a race against the best Texas-breds in training.

'A Smart Horse'

A longstanding debate around racetracks is whether horses understand what they're doing when they run their heart out around a dirt oval every few weeks. Agrivating General certainly lends credence to the position that at least some Thoroughbreds know exactly what their job is. In fact, he probably doesn't need a jockey at all. If the stewards would allow it, a few sandbags strapped to his back would probably suffice.

"He calls the shots," Pish said. "He's going to run a good race just about every time, but you don't really have many options. It really doesn't matter what you want because he puts himself where he wants to be in the race. On the day that he wants to lay close, he'll lay close. He's strong enough in the bridle and he's going to do it. When he wants to take himself back you can't encourage him at all."

It's often said that a top jockey "has a stopwatch in his head," but you never hear that about a horse. Pish, however, suggests that Agrivating General might actually understand the old adage of "pace makes the race" as well as any old handicapper.

"He's a smart horse and I think he knows pace and he knows how he feels that day," Pish said. "On the days that he feels man enough to go challenge them on the engine, he'll go challenge them. On the days when he's feeling his age and he just wants to lay back and make that one kick, he does it that way. However he does it, he rarely runs a bad race and that's what's nice about him."

Just in case he needs some help pulling up, Pish's first-call rider Roman Chapa will be aboard Thursday.

Agrivating General is winless in three starts in 2006. He has been the runner-up in three stakes in the past year, including the Gold Nugget and Assault at Lone Star. He ran his best race in recent memory in the Star of Texas at Sam Houston only to be upstaged by Dixie Meister, who went on to run second to Brass Hat in the Grade II New Orleans Handicap and was subsequently purchased by Gary Tanaka.

"He hasn't been in the winner's circle lately but aside from that he's fine," Pish said of Agrivating General. "We're going for the hat trick."

For a Texas-bred with a trainer and jockey who came into racing after rodeo careers, that would have to be a "cowboy hat trick."

Other Stakes Horses

Pish has three other established stakes horses for the Lone Star meet and hopes to find a few more among his unraced juveniles. The trainer has several on the grounds that are ready to run when the first 2-year-old races of the season come up during Week Two on Thursday, April 20 and Friday, April 21. In addition, Pish said he has "a few more in San Antonio that'll be coming up later." Pish has won six juvenile stakes at Lone Star with such standouts as Leaving On My Mind and Action Tonight.

Overall Pish has amassed 12 stakes wins in Grand Prairie. Below are the major players in his barn that could add to that total.

Goosey Moose - Won the 2005 $125,000 Assault Stakes at Lone Star. Pish: "He's getting back fit and he'll be ready for the Assault. He and 'The General' will both be in there at the end of the meet."

Guacamole - Won the $50,000 Groovy at Sam Houston in December, entered in Friday's ninth. Pish: "Guacomole's a nice horse. He won a Texas-bred stake on Champions Day at Sam Houston early in the meet. I just ran him off a little layoff [fifth in the $40,000 Citgo Stakes on April 1 at Sam Houston]."

Rain On Monday - Second in the Citgo. Pish: "He's a full brother to [multiple stakes winner] Boots On Sunday. He ran second in a Texas-bred straight 3-year old stake at the end of Sam Houston and you've got to be excited about him. I think he could step up to be a 'big' horse."

All Top Ten Trainers, Jockeys from 2005 Back For More

Every Top 10 trainer and jockey from the 2005 Spring Thoroughbred Season will again be based at Lone Star Park in 2006. The list includes last year's meet leaders Steve Asmussen, who won 63 races, and Cliff Berry, who won 87.

Lone Star's 2005 Top 10 Trainers (with wins): Asmussen (63), Bret Calhoun (51), Cole Norman (43), Danny Pish (38), Cody Autrey (30), John Locke (22), Donnie K. Von Hemel (20), Joe Offolter (20), Tommie Morgan (20) and Jack Bruner (18).

Lone Star's 2005 Top 10 Jockeys (with wins): Berry (87), Roman Chapa (76), Jamie Theriot (72), Quincy Hamilton (70), Larry Taylor (51), Justin Shepherd (44), Casey Lambert (36), Glen Murphy (26), Kevin Cogburn (25) and Terry Stanton (25).

Berry will not be in action Thursday night as he finishes out the meet at Oaklawn Park, where he is fifth entering Wednesday's action. Berry is named on several horses at Lone Star for Friday night.

The local jockey colony will be bolstered this year by the presence of Bobby Walker Jr., winner of more than 2,500 races and $28.6 million. Walker has ridden here intermittently over the years, amassing 48 local victories while never staying for a full season. He has four Lone Star stakes wins, the most recent being the 2002 Allen Bogan Memorial aboard Coastalota. Thursday night, Walker is a serious threat to get his fifth local stakes win aboard The Frac in the Premiere.

The trainer roster is stronger with the presence of Andy Konkoly, who has a string of 35 horses and aims to win as many races, which most years would put him in the hunt for a Top Five finish. He has horses entered in two races Thursday and two on Friday.

DOWN THE STRETCH: Stakes coordinator Mike Shamburg confirmed that Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel's filly Elisa's Energy will arrive by plane Thursday morning to compete in Saturday's $75,000 Irving Distaff, a 7 ½-furlong turf stakes traditionally used as a steppingstone to the Grade III WinStar Distaff on Memorial Day. Co-owned by the Oak Cliff Stable of Houston businessman Tom Tatham, who co-bred Sunday Silence, the 4-year-old Elisa's Energy will be making her stakes debut. She has won two in a row, a New York-bred entry-level allowance at Aqueduct and a second-level allowance at Santa Anita. She is three-for-seven overall and has never crossed the wire worse than second...Friday's fourth race, a $25,000 maiden special weight, includes first-time starter Arctic Man, who head clocker Gary Reckner made note of in the new Press Box Blog on Monday after an impressive five furlong work from the gate in 1:00 1/5. "This is an unraced 4-year-old trained by Tony Richey and he showed that he can run a little bit," Reckner said. Arctic Man is 9-2 on the morning line...Friday's sixth race features Final Trick in her first start since winning last year's fillies division of the Texas Stallion Stakes. Trainer Bret Calhoun said Tuesday the daughter of Magic Cat had been "turned out and rested and she's come back to train well and work well." Final Trick is the 7-5 morning line favorite in the second-level Texas-bred allowance.

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