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Kingsley hoping to catch lightning in a bottle again

Posted: November 17, 2011 1:57 p.m.
Updated: November 18, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Arch Kingsley might feel as if he is a stranger in his own house.

Kingsley, the 1997 National Steeplechase Association champion jockey-turned-trainer, stables his horses in a barn located on the grounds of the Springdale Race Course, year ‘round. Come Saturday, in the $100,000 TD Bank Colonial Cup steeplechase, he and Here Comes Art will be the outsiders.

With Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard having six and leading owner-in-waiting Irv Naylor sending out four and trainer Tom Voss having a pair of jumpers entered into Saturday’s feature, it leaves little room for a local guy like Kingsley in the 13-horse field.

But none of the other conditioners in the final Grade I chase of the 2011 NSA campaign has their horse’s fate in their hands as does Kingsley, who will again come out of his on and off retirement to don Carrington Racing Stable’s pink and blue silks and hop aboard Here Comes Art.

The 9-year-old New York-bred comes into the race well-rested following his most recent start, a victory in the $59,000 Ninepins at Saratoga on Sept. 1. Like he was that afternoon in which he wired the field of nine, Here Comes Art will again have his trainer on his back for the latest of Kingsley’s string of comeback rides.

"Why am I riding him?" Kingsley asked, rhetorically. "I really enjoy this horse. I enjoy this race course, I love this town and it seemed like something I would enjoy doing, win, lose or draw. And, I felt like I could do a good job, as well."

In a field of experienced jumpers, Here Comes Art is a relatively Johnny-come-lately to the group in having made just seven starts over fences in a steeplechase career which started with a second in a $50,000 maiden stakes at Far Hills in October of 2009. Since then, the Royal Anthem gelding has a pair of wins, two more seconds and a third.

Here Comes Art broke his maiden his second time out when fellow Camden resident Bernie Dalton rode him to victory in a $25,000 maiden special weight as part of the 2009 Colonial Cup card. Dalton has been in the irons for all but two of Here Comes Art’s starts over fences. Saturday, he will ride Organisateur, which he piloted to a second-place finish in the $250,000 Grand National last month.

Kingsley said there were other riders who were in the mix for a possible ride aboard his horse in the Camden fall classic. In the end, he decided to leave the driving to himself. That decision, he said, came about rather recently.

"There was definitely consideration given to other people riding the horse," said the man who rode back-to-back Colonial Cup winners in Ninepins and Romantic in 1999 and 2000, respectively. "But like I’ve said and shown, my professional riding days are over. To do it when there are others out there who can do it so well … Bernie Dalton rode him beautifully and I certainly gave him thought."

Like a boxer who returns to the ring after having hung up the gloves for what was thought to have been the last time, Kingsley has gone back to retrieve his tack and jump on the back of a horse. One of his "post retirement" wins came aboard the Todd Wyatt-trained You the Man in the 2009 Jonathan Kiser Stakes at Saratoga.

While he made his retirement from riding official several years ago, Kingsley never said "never" when asked if there was the possibility of taking a ride here or there. So, consider this the latest in a series of scheduled or impromptu returns to racing for the 39-year-old.

In the Ninepins, Kingsley brought Here Comes Art to the front in the 2 1/16-mile chase and kept him there en route to a 3 3/4-length win. The race came on the heels of a dull seventh in the $73,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes at Saratoga. The 2 3/8 mile distance was the longest which the 9-year-old was slated to travel before being eased at the 10th fence.

The Walsh Stakes came 20 days after a third-place in the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes for Here Comes Art. The quick return to the track did not suit. "I ran him back too quickly," said Kingsley when asked about the lone clunker in his horse’s seven jump starts.

The win in the Ninepins started Kingsley putting the wheels in motion as to giving Here Comes Art a start in the Colonial Cup, on his hometown course over which he has a win. On that 2009 fall afternoon, Kingsley saddled three winners.

Since returning from Saratoga, Kingsley estimated that Here Comes Art has jumped "maybe" two fences. In the same breath, however, the trainer of 2011 Carolina Cup victor, Sunshine Numbers, said Here Comes Art has been spot-on in his training in the days and weeks leading up to Saturday’s feature which, for the first time, will be contested over National fences rather than the packed-brush Colonial Cup fences.

The Kingsley checklist for Here Comes Art includes winning over the course and over national fences. The change comes in the 2 ¾-mile distance, which Here Comes Art has never had to travel before.

"That’s always a concern when you are doing it for the first time," Kingsley said of the length of the race. "He’s never gone 2 ½ miles. He has gone 2 ¼ and was asked to go 2 3/8ths, but did not fare well in that (2 3/8 miles) race."

The longer distance puts more of the onus on the jockey as to getting their horse around the 17-fence circuit. Kingsley, who has ridden 125 winners over fences, said he and his fellow riders will have more than a few decisions which they will need to make once the field of 12 meets the starter’s flag.

"All the fundamentals … the driving force in the way you ride him and switching him on and off and getting him to jump well," Kingsley explained as to his ride on Saturday. "Deciding when it’s time to push the button in a race is always relative to the pace and how far you’re going and how your horse has traveled up to that point. All those things will play into the timing of it.

"Let’s hope I’m right, let’s hope he’s right and let’s hope that I have enough horse to get there."

For Here Comes Art, getting to the race course will require a short walk from his stall at Kingsley’s barn which is located across the street from the Springdale Race Course. While the other entries have been shipped to Camden, it makes Kingsley and his mount the veritable hosts to the invaders.

"As far as me being an outsider on Saturday," he said, "I guess that I don’t think about that stuff.

"I like my horse. Whether or not he belongs in that company on Saturday will be decided on the race course. All I can focus on, right now, is giving him a good clean trip and getting him around there in the best rhythm I can. That is what is going to give us our best chance."

While he made his retirement from riding official several years ago, Kingsley never said never when asked if there was the possibility of taking a ride here or there. So, consider this the latest in a series of scheduled or impromptu returns to racing for the 39-year-old who refused to say if this will be his final ride.

"I get asked that all the time," he said with a laugh. "I don’t know that in all my many retirements to this point that I’ve ever said at any point that that was my last race. I announced my retirement and found peace with it.

"It was definitely difficult for me, at first and at times, along the way. But I like the role that I’m in now which is training, my (horse) shoeing business, my farm, my family and my clients, not necessarily in that order. If I can still ride a race from time to time and do it well on a nice horse, I’d love to keep that door open because I do enjoy it."

 

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