The homebred 2-year-old colt pacer will get the biggest test of his brief career Saturday when he competes in his first stakes race in a division of the International Stallion Stake at The Red Mile in Lexington.
It’s a chance for owner-trainer Brent MacGrath to see exactly where his horse is when it comes to high-level competition. Melmerby Beach, who has a win in two races, will start from post three with driver Paul MacDonell and is 12-1 on the morning line. Limelight Beach, who last week won a division of the Bluegrass Stakes, is the 5-2 choice.
“That’s obviously the plan,” said the Nova Scotia car dealer. “It looks like we hit two of the tougher ones in Limelight Beach and Erv Miller’s colt, Jet Airway. I certainly would have liked to miss them but we didn’t, and we’re ready to go. You can’t put them into these kinds of races and not expect the good ones to be there.”
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|The lightly raced Melmerby Beach has banked $8,919 in just two starts.|
MacGrath has faith that Melmerby Beach can join the long list of successful horses sired by Somebeachsomewhere, one of the greatest pacers to come along in decades. “The Beach” won 20 of 21 lifetime races and was Horse of the Year in 2008.
He has since become as great a sire as he was a racehorse, as his first crop earned a record $4.75 million for 2-year-olds in 2012. Among the horses sired by Somebeachsomewhere is current 3-year-old star Captaintreacherous, who also races on Saturday in a division of the Tattersalls.
That’s a lot to live up to, but MacGrath feels Melmerby Beach, out of the dam DB Blue Chip, has the potential.
“I’m high on him; I’ve been high on him all along,” he said. “We’ve trained him again in Nova Scotia and his qualifying start at Mohawk (winning in 1:56.3; final quarter in :26.3) was very impressive. He trained down very good. He won his first start in (1):52.4, and he was really strong and very comfortable there.”
Prior to that race, the horse popped an abscess in his foot that was taken care of. He popped another one after the race that had to be tended to. Prior to his second start, he came up sick.
“He raced good, but he didn’t race the way he had qualified or raced the way he had been training or prepping or anything else,” MacGrath said. “He just was sick, and we gave him a couple weeks and fixed him up, and we’re ready to go, we’re excited about him.
“He looks sharp and he seems to like Lexington. He’s really had a lot of issues in the last month, but I think we have them behind us and we’re good to go.”
Melmerby Beach is also eligible for the Breeders Crown, and MacGrath said, “That’s our plan. It depends a little on what happens Saturday but the plan is to go for the Breeders Crown.”
The obvious question for MacGrath is how Melmerby Beach compares with Somebeachsomewhere.
“They’re both good gaited and both very happy horses with good attitudes,” he said. “This horse is certainly not the size of his father, but he’s got a very efficient gait and lots of speed. This horse has a very high turn of speed and of course so did his father.
“Probably the size of them, the overall stature, is the biggest difference. One’s a bigger, stronger horse. But their personalities are a lot alike. They’re both very laid back, easy to deal with horses. They’re both very smart.”
Another difference is that The Beach was Ontario-sired and never raced in the U.S as a 2-year-old.
“My plan was a little different getting him ready as far as what we were prepping him for,” MacGrath said. “We’re kind of pointing this colt for this event, where with Beach we had the Battle of Waterloo in August in Ontario, which is $300,000, and I prepped him for that.
“I wasn’t planning on sending this colt to Pennsylvania for the summer so I really wasn’t in any big rush with him. I really like to only have four or five starts in a 2-year-old anyway. It’s tough on them. We planned on racing him in the Metro and the Champlain but we had a few little setbacks and it just didn’t work out.”
MacDonell has been Melmerby Beach’s regular driver, which should not come as a surprise since he drove Somebeachsomewhere throughout his career.
“We’ve been friends a long time and he always drives for me,” MacGrath said. “If my horses have any kind of shot at all, he takes them. The horses he has driven have usually been very competitive and it’s usually worked out for the both of us.
“He’s been very loyal to me. He’s coming down to drive him and get a little holiday too.”
He just doesn’t want it to take a holiday from winning with a horse named beach.