The air Got Stormy currently breathes has only been occupied by some of the most accomplished talents to ever grace the Thoroughbred industry.
Hall of Famer Flawlessly reached the stratosphere in 1994 with the legendary Zenyatta joining her in 2010 and Stephanie’s Kitten getting past the velvet rope in 2015. In 2016, the Queen that is Beholder added her name to the exclusive list and just last year, Juddmonte’s international starlet Enable (GB) checked said box off for good measure – as if her career needed any further burnishing.
Keeping any horse at the highest level for a sustained period of time is a rarified feat, and the list of distaffers who have won Grade 1 races at the age of six is an even more exclusive group. Last month, with many of those who observe the sport dismissing her best days as a thing of the past, Got Stormy defiantly put herself in the company of some of the game’s all-timers when she captured the Fourstardave Handicap (G1) for the second time in three years, earning her third career top-level victory at an age when many of her peers have retired to broodmare bands.
Having dispelled the notion that her veteran legs can no longer keep pace with the elite, the Mark Casse trainee is now taking aim at trying to secure the Breeders’ Cup victory that has eluded her. In order to get to Del Mar in the right form, however, the daughter of Get Stormy needs to keep her renewed momentum on point. Hence, she will spend this weekend at the track that is as unique as her talents when she headlines the $1 million FanDuel Turf Sprint Stakes (G3) at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 11.
The six-furlong Turf Sprint joins the $1 million Calumet Turf Cup (G2) as the headline events on the biggest day of the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs with five graded stakes slated for Saturday.
This time last month, the notion that Got Stormy could vie for favoritism in an accomplished field of male rivals would have seemed like pie-in-sky optimism. After starting her 6-year-old season off with a victory in the Honey Fox Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 27, the chestnut firecracker owned by Spendthrift Farm and MyRacehorse finished a dull fifth in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) on May 1, the same placing she would notch in the Jaipur Stakes (G1) the following month at Belmont Park.
Where some saw a mare who had lost a step, Casse remained steadfast that the “Stormy” of old was still capable of showing up if she got the right ground and pace set up. Her affinity for the Saratoga course had already carried to her to a historic win over males in the 2019 edition of the Fourstardave and a runner-up finish in that test last year. When her connections saw her bouncing around the Saratoga paddock in the moments before her 1 ½-length triumph on Aug. 14, they let a wave of cautious optimism sink in.
“Of all her victories, that was probably the most gratifying,” Casse said of Got Stormy’s second Fourstardave win. “A lot of people had written her off and I mean, what an accomplishment by her. To win it for the second time – I don’t think any filly had ever won it previously – and she’s won it now twice. I just know she loves Saratoga and when we got her up there, (jockey) Tyler (Gaffalione) breezed her….and the second time he breezed her, he said ‘She’s back’. So that made me feel good.
“I told (Spendthrift Farm general manager) Ned Toffey as we were standing in the paddock and she was walking around, I said ‘They better have their A game because she’s got her game face on today’. She was ready.”
Got Stormy’s ongoing competitive presence could be considered gravy in its own right.
When Spendthrift Farm purchased her for $2,750,000 out of the 2020 Fasig-Tipton November Sale, the easy decision would have been to have her take up residence with Beholder and start contributing the operation’s breeding program. Instead, Toffey called Casse moments after signing the ticket to see if he was game to keep Got Stormy as his stable star – a no-brainer of a question for the Hall of Famer conditioner.
“My wife Tina and I went from sad, to jumping up and down and giving each other high fives,” Casse recalled.
Only days after Got Stormy’s Fourstardave triumph – her 12th career win from 30 starts – Spendthrift owner B. Wayne Hughes passed away at the age of 87. That Hughes got one last piece of validation for his exceptional sporting nature was both a fitting tribute to what he had invested in the game and affirmation that Casse’s skillset could still unearth the best from the mare who had been there and done that.
“I think sometimes less is more with (older horses),” Casse said. “They’re old pros and that’s really kind of the case with any horse, just try to keep them happy. Obviously, when they’re younger, you’re trying to teach them things but as they get older, there is less there. It’s just keeping them happy.”
Not every horse loves Kentucky Downs’ European-style course, but Got Stormy relished the venue a year ago when she annexed the Ladies Sprint Stakes (G3) last September. If she is to duplicate that kind of run, she will have to contend with the likes of fellow Grade 1 winner Casa Creed, who captured the six-furlong Jaipur Stakes and but had to settle for third in the Fourstardave.
“He’s doing really, really well,” said Hall of Famer Bill Mott, trainer of Casa Creed. “We’re anxious, at this point to get back to the six furlongs.”
The Turf Sprint will also feature defending race winner Imprimis and the dead-heat runners-up from a year ago, Bombard and Front Run the Fed. Though the race is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Del Mar on Nov. 6, Casse said that Got Stormy is bound to take another swing at the FanDuel Mile (G1), where she ran second in 2019, in an attempt to add her moniker alongside another illustrious group of female victors.
“The race this weekend, we’d love to win it. It’s a big purse, a big race. But this is just kind of a step for the Breeders’ Cup,” Casse said. “We felt like there needed to be a race in between and there wasn’t a perfect spot and since she showed her fondness last year at Kentucky Downs, I was looking for a spot that felt comfortable with the timing and everything. I think she’ll run good on Saturday, but the Breeders’ Cup is our main concern.”