Sterling Silver, Rotknee bounce back in 3YO stakes

Monday, May 30th, 2022

Sterling Silver improves to 3-for-3 against New York-breds with victory in the Bouwerie. NYRA Photo.

By Tom Law and Paul Halloran

Don’t fault the connections of Sterling Silver for catching a bit of “Oaks Fever” this spring.

Owner Mark Anderson and trainer Tom Albertrani watched the 3-year-old daughter of Cupid start her career with back-to-back victories over New York-breds sprinting in late November and late January and made the expected move to stretch the filly out and try open company. That didn’t work out – Sterling Silver finished fifth in a pair of open stakes in New York and Kentucky – before returning to a shorter distance and company she proved she could handle in Monday’s $125,000 Bouwerie Stakes on Big Apple Showcase Day at Belmont Park.

Sterling Silver appreciated the return and scored a mild upset in the 7-furlong stakes for 3-year-old sophomore state-breds. Trevor McCarthy rode Sterling Silver to a 4 1/4-length victory over Captainsdaughter for her second stakes triumph and third win in as many starts in New York-bred company.

“Not only class [relief] but distance as well,” Albertrani said. “Dropping her back to a distance she favored a little more than going a mile or further helped her a lot. Both of the last two races were more a matter of distance.”

November Rein, winner of last year’s Seeking the Ante at Saratoga and the 7-2 third choice in the field of seven, took the early initiative from the fast breaking Adversity and led 4-5 favorite Yo Cuz through a quick opening quarter-mile in :22.62. Sterling Silver tracked those three from fourth up the backstretch and around the far turn.

November Rein continued to lead into the stretch, shrugging off Adversity and Yo Cuz when the field made the straight. Sterling Silver ranged up to the outside of November Rein and took command outside the eighth pole.

Sterling Silver poured it on late, opening up over the two tiring leaders while Captainsdaughter ran past that pair late to be a clear second best. November Rein held third and Sterling Silver won in 1:24.41 over the track labeled fast.

“She broke really well, which was great and put me in a great spot,” McCarthy said. “Coming to the turn, I eased back to let Jose [Ortiz, aboard Yo Cuz] go and tuck in to save some ground. She’s always got a great turn of foot, so when I need her to go through a hole, she’ll do it. She did everything I asked her to do and she beat a good bunch today. We’re proud of her.”

Trainer Tom Albertrani (second from right) and Sterling Silver’s connections soak in the filly’s comeback victory. NYRA Photo.

Sterling Silver hadn’t run since finishing fifth, beaten 17 1/2 lengths by eventual Kentucky Oaks runner-up Nest, in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes going 1 1/16 miles April 8 at Keeneland Race Course. She finished fifth in her prior start, beaten 21 1/2 lengths by fellow New York-bred Venti Valentine, in the Busher Invitational Stakes March 5 at Aqueduct.

McCarthy rode Sterling Silver in the Busher and was aboard for the filly’s workouts leading up to the Bouwerie.

“She was sharp coming into this race and Tom did a great job with her,” McCarthy said. “He gave her plenty of time. I’ve stayed pretty busy on this filly. I worked her a bunch and we really get along good and got to know each other well.”

Bred by longtime Gallagher’s Stud farm manager Mallory Mort and his wife Karen and foaled at Gallagher’s Stud in Ghent, Sterling Silver is the fourth foal out of the unraced Distorted Humor mare Sheet Humor. Mort bought Sheet Humor in foal to Midnight Lute for $14,000 at the 2015 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

Sheet Humor is the dam of the winning New York-bred Central Banker mare Helene Jacqueline and the unraced Speightster colt Ortiz who sold for $210,000 at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale. Sheet Humor produced a New York-bred Not This Time colt last year and was bred to Central Banker in 2022. Going through the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga fall mixed in October, Sheet Humor brought $3,000 when selling to K.O.I.D. and has been exported.

Sterling Silver earned $68,750 for the Bouwerie victory to boost her earnings to $186,688.


Butler’s homebred Rotknee rolls in Mike Lee

Rotknee bounces back from off-the-board finish on synthetic at Turfway with a victory in the Mike Lee on Big Apple Showcase Day. Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo.

Reverting to the running style that saw him win three of his first four starts – all in the New York-bred division – William “Buck” Butler’s Rotknee ran his six opponents off their hooves with an easy victory in the Mike Lee Stakes for 3-year-olds.

Luis Saez was aboard for the gallop in the park, taking the lead shortly after the start of the 7-furlong stakes and widening the advantage to 7 lengths at the top of the stretch before winning by 1 1/2 lengths.

“(Trainer Mike Maker) wanted me to run from them and take the lead because he’s pretty fast and when he’s on the lead, he feels better,” Saez said. “He kind of runs away from everybody, and that was the key. I felt like I was going pretty fast, but very comfortable. He felt a little tired (at the finish), but that’s why when we came to the top of the stretch, I just let him go on his own and waited as long as I could because we knew we were going to need the horse at the end.”

The son of Runhappy out of the Speightstown mare In Spite of Mama carved out fractions of :22.39 and :45.21 on the way to a final clocking of 1:23.90. As the breeder and owner, it was a nice payday for Butler in the $125,000 stakes.

“It was special just watching him come back,” Butler said. “The fact that he was out there by himself almost scared me.”

As it turns out there was nothing to be afraid of, as Rotknee repeated his effort in the Damon Runyon Stakes at Aqueduct, which he won in a similar tour de force.

Butler bred In Spite of Mama, who is by Speightstown out of Mama Theresa, who “basically started most of my New York-breds that seem to have success,” he said. Butler bought Mama Theresa for $65,000 at the 2005 OBS April sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Owner and breeder Buck Butler (second from left) enjoys victory by his homebred Rotknee in the Mike Lee. NYRA Photo.

In Spite of Mama’s first foal, Lookin for Trouble, a 4-year-old New York-bred son of Into Mischief, has one win and nine in-the-money finishes in 17 starts. In Spite of Mama is also the dam of unraced 2-year-old New York-bred Bolt d’Oro colt Mama’s Gold and a yearling filly by Audible. She was bred to 2019 Preakness winner War of Will in 2021.

Rotknee, who was foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia, broke his maiden at Saratoga August 1 in his second start. After a winter freshening, he won a state-bred optional at Aqueduct before the Damon Runyon. Maker sent him to Turfway Park for the open-company Animal Kingdom stakes on synthetic April 2, but he didn’t make the lead and faded to seventh.

Monday, he was back on dirt and back on the lead and that again proved to be the winning formula.

“He was pulling a lot, but my thing was to try and let him be comfortable,” Saez said. “He felt relaxed when he got to the half-mile and when we came to the top of the stretch, I just kind of waited a little to make sure he got going on his own, and he did. He finished pretty strong. He fought for the win. He’s mature, he’s grown up and is very strong.”

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