Brazilian star’s long journey to the winner’s circle

When Brazilian Horse of the Year and Triple Crown champion Bal a Bali (Brz) (Put It Back) knifed through a narrow gap and kicked clear after being blocked the entire run through the Santa Anita Park turf stretch to win the GIII American S. May 9, it was, for most North Americans, the first glimpse of the 5-year-old’s ability to overcome adversity.

But those closest to the dark bay know that the eye-catching performance was nothing compared to the tenacity Bal a Bali displayed in overcoming a sudden and severe bout of laminitis that nearly took his life last summer after being privately purchased to campaign in the United States.

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The Racetrack Return of Bal a Bali

Saturday marks a huge day for Fox Hill Farm with the U.S. debut of Bal a Bali in the American S (G3) at Santa Anita. It has been a long road to get here, and we will be nervous and anxious to see what Bal a Bali shows us.

The first part of the journey was acquiring the colt which in itself was no easy task. Bal a Bali was a superstar in Brazil and he quite intrigued us so we put out feelers to see if he could be purchased. He could and we made a deal, but unfortunately that deal fell through. Afterwards, he was reported to have been sold to Besilu Stable and on his way to join Bill Mott, but that deal also fell through. Team Valor was next up at the plate but that deal fell through as well. We tried again, and this time agent John Fulton secured us the colt.

We were very excited when Bal a Bali stepped off the plane onto American soil, but the excitement turned to anxiety within 48 hours. The agent for the government quarantine reported him as ill, and fairly quickly we decided that he must leave quarantine and get to a clinic. We got the clearance to leave the quarantine facility though the horse had to remain in quarantine. Bali was shipped by private van to the Palm Beach Equine Clinic, and the clinic cordoned off an entire barn for Bali which was certainly an inconvenience for them and their clients.

Palm Beach’s Dr. Westin Davis spearheaded the treatment of Bali in consultation with Dr. Meg Turpin, who had originally treated Bali at the quarantine facility. We brought in Rood & Riddle podiatrist Dr. Vern Dryden and later brought in Hagyard’s internal medicine specialist Dr. Nathan Slovis nearing the time of the colt transitioning from Florida to Kentucky. All did magnificent jobs and we will forever grateful for the expertise and dedication they brought to making Bali well.

Bali was finally declared stable enough to travel from Florida to Kentucky. We decided the best place for Bali to continue his treatment was at Siena Farm who is our partner in the horse. Farm manager Nacho Patino and his team took excellent care of Bali until it was finally time to get him legged up for a return to training. Nacho drove Bali over himself to WinStar Farm where we were awaiting his arrival. Nacho stepped out of the truck and told us of what we’ll call a “positive ruckus” that ensued when they drove through the WinStar gate. Bali was looking out and saw horses training on the track and got very excited. He bounced out of the van and we saw it as a positive sign that he seemed to be signaling that he wanted to get back out onto the track.

Dr. Dryden continued to work on Bali’s feet while at WinStar, and Richard Mandella consulted with WinStar’s trainer Richard Budge in getting the colt ready to return to the track. Finally, after a journey that started in the previous July, Bali boarded a Tex Sutton plane to California on January 30 of this year.

Bali was a superstar in Brazil, winning the Brazilian Triple Crown in exhilarating fashion and sporting 11 wins in 12 starts. What could be most exciting about Bali is his versatility. He won at distances from five furlongs to 1 1/2 miles, and did so impressively.

Bali nearly set a world record for 1600 meters (6 meters short of 1 mile) when he recorded a time of 1:31.36 in the G1 Estado do Rio de Janeiro. It’s believed two horses have run faster — Candy Ride in recording a 1:31.01 and Riton recording a 1:31 flat.

Bali also recorded an excellent time going 1 1/2 miles in 2:23.1. To compare, Secretariat’s Belmont stakes record time was 2:24 flat, and the record-holder appears to be Twilight Eclipse who stopped the clock at 2:22.63.

To top things off, Richard Mandella has thought that Bali has trained fabulously over dirt so the colt may not be limited to just a turf surface.

All this said, foreign form doesn’t always translate to the United States. In addition, Bali has every right to not win this race coming in off nearly a year layoff and fighting off laminitis. He’s also meeting a stern test as there are some very nice horses scheduled to line up beside him on Saturday. But we are very hopeful, not just for ourselves as owner of the horse, but for the horse himself. If it can be said that a horse deserves to achieve stardom, then Bal a Bali is such a horse. — Rick Porter

Stable Update for 3/26/15

Cassatt had a thorough exam by Dr. Bramlage over the past 2 days, including a bone scan. She has a displaced chip in one knee and a non-displaced chip in the other. She also has strained her hind suspensories. She will be fine after chip removal surgery and 60 days of recuperation.

Bal a Bali is doing great and seems to have Mandella pretty excited. He is now in regular racing plates and worked his first official 3 furlongs and got a bullet in the process. Mandella thinks that now he’s seeing the Bali that he saw in his race videos and he’s delighted.

Another top horse doing extremely well is Normandy Invasion. Larry was always high on him but thinks that he’s moving and breathing better than before his injury and recuperation. He speculates that Normandy’s lungs may’ve not quite been 100% after his lung infection last year given how much more energy and air he’s seeing in Normandy now. Normandy is ready for his first breeze but we’re being cautious and going to first have Dr. Bramlage look at him next week to ok him to start breezing.

Look of Eagles came out of his debut sore in a knee so we suspect a chip. He’s going in to Dr. Bramlage and we’ll find out what the issue is with him.

Broadway Show and Bluff both had very nice works this morning. Thirteen Arrows, Cinnamon Spice, and The Sandman are all doing fine. Coup de Grace came out his race well.

Exodus and The Trunk Monkey are getting some time off at the farm but should be returning before too long. General Ike has been gelded and is also getting some time off.

All seems fine at the Kellyn Gorder barn with Texas Two Step.

Jerry Hollendorfer is very excited about Kentuckian. He thinks the horse may be a future superstar, he does everything perfect and with ease. He’s sending him out with company to give him lessons in rating and he seems just fine with rating and listening to his rider.

Jerry is also happy with the three others in the barn — Glory, Ideal, and Bronze Star.

Jeff Runco has Ballad, Kicker Bond, Beetlebomb and Jubilation. The first three are all racing and doing fine physically. Jubilation looks to be getting close to her debut.

All of our two-year-olds with Bill Recio are doing well. The only two-year-old that we had any issues with is the Therese 13, but she’s recuperated and under tack at WinStar and coming along well.

Stable Update for 2/11/15

Normandy Invasion is back with Larry and doing very well. Larry thinks it’s remarkable how well he seems to have healed. He can’t tell from the way he feels when Larry’s on his back, nor can he find any heat or swelling or any other even slight indication that one of his ankles had incurred an injury. Normandy is supposed to just jog for 30 days, and they’ve mostly been able to keep him at a jog. He wants to do more so occasionally he’ll get into a gallop before they slow him down again. He has another week or so to go before he’ll be allowed to start galloping.

Cassatt came out of the Houston Ladies Classic as well as a horse can come out of a race. She’s doing beautifully. Larry plans to breeze her 3 times prior to the Santa Margarita, with the last one being five days out from the race.

Coup de Grace couldn’t be doing better. Larry really likes Coup and thinks that he’ll stretch out though he’ll start back at a sprint distance. He’s about 5-6 weeks from making his 2015 debut.

Broadway Show runs on Saturday. Expectations are high that she could be a special filly.

Exodus exited his race in Texas in good order. As has been reported in the press, Larry intends to keep this one going short, at least for now.

Bluff is training great and is pointing to the Risen Star on 2/21. Should he earn his way in the Risen Star, he’ll make his next start in the 3/28 Louisiana Derby.

General Ike has been gelded and sent to the farm for some R&R. This horse has been a bit frustrating to us as he has a huge gallop and seems to have far more talent than he’s shown in the afternoon. We’re going to see if a vacation may be able to turn him around.

Texas Two Step was sent to Kellyn Gorder at Oaklawn since he didn’t like the Fair Grounds surface. Kellyn reported that he was a little anxious in his new environment for a couple days but then he settled right in. He is moving nice over the Oaklawn surface.

We’ve determined that we made a mistake with The Sandman in his last race by running him back too quickly. He had run a really huge rag number in his race prior, so we should’ve given him at least a month or so to recover. We’re throwing out that race and will give him more time between races.

Cinnamon Spice is doing great. Larry’s planning to run her long next out. She should race again in the first or second week of March.

Larry was really happy with The Trunk Monkey’s return. He ran really well off such a long layoff, but Larry was particularly happy with the way The Trunk Monkey dug deep.

Jerry has always liked Kentuckian but has had to go slow and steady with this big Tiznow colt. It looks like he’ll make his debut in mid-March.

Ideal is ready for a race and Jerry is looking for one for him.

Glory was a disappointing second in the California Oaks this past weekend. The surface there is said to be extremely slow and tiring. She came out of the race well and we’ll hope that her next start on dirt shows us the filly we think she is.

Bronze Star has started back galloping.

Kicker Bond is in tomorrow and is the morning line favorite going seven-eighths. Beetlebomb will be trying his hand again at the $5,000 level and will hopefully get the win next time. Ballad is doing well and should start again in a couple weeks. Jeff is happy with the way Jubilation is training. He thinks she just might have some talent.

Thirteen Arrows is still at the farm, but she’s jogging now. She should be ready to go back to Larry in a week or two.

Clark Kent has retired and is still recovering from a serious sesamoid fracture. He had to be confined to his stall for quite a long time, but he handled his confinement well and so we have to credit Clark himself for a big part of his recovery. It does appear now that he will heal well enough that he can be a stallion or riding horse.

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