Barn Notes 2/2/24

Compiled by Robert Yates

Coincidence, irony or an omen? Staton Flurry simply called it funny.

Flurry, in late January, closed on a deal to purchase a minority interest in unbeaten Carbone, who is scheduled to make his stakes debut in the 1 1/16-miles $800,000 G3-Southwest for 3-year-olds Saturday at Oaklawn.

But Flurry, a Hot Springs native and Oaklawn’s leading owner so far this season, was tethered to another Carbone long before the equine version, a son of Eclipse Award winner Mitole, made his racing debut last fall for Texan William Heiligbrodt and wife Corinne, the colt’s breeders and original sole owners, and Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

For approximately seven years, Flurry and Steve Carbone (pronounced Car-bo-knee) have been partners in Trifecta Motorsports, a dirt midget car racing team based in Tulsa, Okla. The Oaklawn-based horse Flurry now co-owns is Car-bone.

“I wouldn’t say it was more of a joke, but the reason I kept up with the horse was funny because of having some friends with the last name Carbone that is spelled the same way,” Flurry said Tuesday morning. “I kept up with the horse, originally, because of Steve’s last name and I’d keep them updated like, ‘Hey, y’all’s horse is running. Y’all’s horse is running.’ They thought it was so cool. Both times it ran, it won. I kind of kept my eye on it. I told them from the get-go, like, this horse is the real deal.”

Carbone – the horse – has won his two starts by a combined 12 front-running lengths. He captured his Nov. 19 debut at Churchill Downs by eight lengths and easily passed his first test around two turns in an entry-level allowance Dec. 31, Oaklawn’s second card in history exclusively for 2-year-olds.

Flurry said he went from observer to owner after one of his promising young prospects had a physical setback. Quickly shifting gears, Flurry found a replacement car, er horse, in Carbone.

“When he ran on New Year’s Eve, I went over to watch it,” Flurry said. “Took a picture and sent it to Steve and that whole race car group. Then, the horse goes off and wins impressively here going a mile. I’m walking back to the parking lot and Steve Asmussen’s walking to the winner’s circle. I said, ‘Man, that horse looked good.’ Steve said, ‘Yeah, that horse is pretty nice.’ I just made the comment: ‘Hey, do you think they would want to sell a piece of it?’”

Flurry said Asmussen immediately texted him William Heiligbrodt’s phone number. Flurry said he then sent Heiligbrodt a congratulatory text and asked if he would be interested in selling an interest in Carbone. Flurry said Heiligbrodt initially wasn’t sure and needed to discuss it with his wife and Asmussen, Oaklawn’s all-time leading trainer.

Flurry said William Heiligbrodt called back about two weeks later and was open to a potential deal.

“We talked for three or four minutes and we came up with a number we both thought was pretty fair,” Flurry said. “We run in my silks here at Oaklawn and his everywhere else. He said, ‘Let me talk to the wife.’ He called me back about three minutes later and said, ‘We’ve got a deal.’ We did all the vetting stuff and I think the bill of sale got signed last Tuesday.”

Flurry said he’s never met William Heiligbrodt, among the most successful owners in Oaklawn history, but thrilled to partner with him for the first time because of Carbone’s upside.

Carbone is from the first crop of millionaire multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Mitole, the country’s champion male sprinter of 2019. Mitole, who was campaigned by the Heiligbrodts and Asmussen, was North America’s leading first-crop sire of 2023 with $2,624,858 in progeny earnings.

“It kind of came together pretty quick,” Flurry said of the deal. “I’m excited to see what he can do because I think the horse has an immense amount of talent.”

Carbone is 9-2 on the morning line for the Southwest, Oaklawn’s second of four Kentucky Derby qualifying races.

Flurry, 33, has nine victories as a sole owner this season at Oaklawn. Flurry is best known for campaigning, in partnership, 2020 Kentucky Oaks champion and multiple Oaklawn stakes winner Shedaresthedevil with Brad Cox, who has trained the owner’s most prominent horses.

A Real Starr

Alva Starr began her 3-year-old campaign with a runner-up finish in an allowance sprint last May at Oaklawn.

Now a Grade 2 winner, Alva Starr begins her 4-year-old campaign in the $150,000 American Beauty Stakes for older female sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn, a 6-furlong event postponed one week because of winter weather.

Alva Starr is unraced since finishing second, beaten a half-length, in the seven-furong $350,000 G2-Raven Run Stakes Oct. 21 at Keeneland.

Trainer Brett Brinkman said he subsequently nixed a trip to Southern California for the $300,000 G1-La Brea Stakes Dec. 26 at Santa Anita (travel issues) and also passed the 5 ½-frulong $150,000 Poinsettia Stakes Dec. 30 at Oaklawn.

“It’s just a progression step,” Brinkman said. “I wanted to try and start her in this race here. We had nominated to the 5 ½. Just felt like if I had run her in the 5 ½ and she came out of it good, then I’d be kind of having to decide where to go. And maybe in hindsight, I probably should have run her in the 5 ½ because now I’ve got to decide whether I want to come back in three weeks.”

Oaklawn’s sprint stakes series for older females continues with the $150,000 Carousel Feb. 24.

Racing at five tracks, has finished first or second in six lifetime starts. She captured the $100,000 Dashing Beauty Stakes July 8 at Delaware Park and the $250,000 G2-Prioress Stakes Sept. 2 at Saratoga. She led at every point of call in both six-furlong races.

Alva Starr has been based this winter at Fair Grounds, where she posted seven workouts since Dec. 6 in advance of the American Beauty. She is the even-money program favorite for the American Beauty.

“We’re just going into it with an open mind,” Brinkman said. “Looking for a good effort off the shelf and just see what happens. We don’t feel like she’s gotten any slower.”

Brinkman said the major 2024 goal for Alva Starr is running in a Grade 1 race. Brinkman, along with owner P. Dale Ladner, bred Alva Starr, a daughter of Lord Nelson who has bankrolled $337,150.