Spencer brings Irish flavor
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Jamie Spencer is a household name in British racing circles, but not so much here in the states. So after trainer Brendan Walsh named Spencer to ride a 4-year-old named Bantu on Sunday at Gulfstream Park, Walsh was in for a good laugh.
“When the overnight came out, the owner asked me if we were riding a bugboy,” Walsh said Friday by phone from Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
Walsh has been close friends with Spencer, 38, since their days of youth in their native Ireland. He is only too happy to team with Spencer, who is in the United States on a working vacation in the Fort Lauderdale area and exercising horses for Wesley Ward at the Palm Meadows training center. Coincidentally or not, Spencer’s first ride will suit his stretch-running style, as Bantu, owned by Audrey Otto’s Jamm Ltd., is a deep closer looking to get through his first allowance condition in the Sunday feature, a $51,000 turf mile.
Spencer can be expected to ride occasionally over the next couple of months at Gulfstream and Fair Grounds. Ward said he will be putting him on horses for Coolmore and Fitri Hay in the near future, and Walsh said he will name him on Dubara in the Marie Krantz Memorial on Jan. 19 at Fair Grounds.
Spencer, a multiple champion jockey in England, is no stranger to American racetracks. Remarkably, his nine stakes victories on this continent all have come in Grade 1 turf events, including the 2011 Arlington Million on Cape Blanco and the Natalma on La Pelosa last September at Woodbine.
“He loves it here,” Walsh said. “He’s mostly doing it to stay fit for when racing resumes overseas, but also because he enjoys the weather and the lifestyle.”
Bantu figures to be a middling wagering choice in the ninth of 11 Sunday races. The Green Mo’ster, with Irad Ortiz Jr. to ride, could come a slight favorite over Lemonist, Pagliacci, and Variant Perception in a well-matched lineup of 10 that includes one main track only designee, Chatiment.
One other allowance (race 3), also worth $51,000, is carded on a program that starts at noon Eastern. Six 3-year-olds will go six furlongs in search of their first allowance triumph, with Blue Steel looming a top contender for trainer Dale Romans.
After Sunday, Gulfstream goes dark for two days before another five-day week begins Wednesday.