CHESTER - Until now, Hot Sauce has not been a horse who travels a significant distance from home. But that situation is about to change as she's going to the post in Tuesday's $75,000 Firecracker Stakes at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort.
The 5-year-old mare was bred by O'Sullivan Farms, which is in West Virginia's eastern panhandle, about six miles from the Charles Town racetrack. Hot Sauce's career record includes 14 starts, seven placings and purse earnings of $114,010. And all of her efforts so far have been at Charles Town.
She has been a solid hometown competitor, no question about that, and her resume includes a pair of placings in restricted West Virginia stakes. But Charles Town has only a 6-furlong dirt oval - there is no turf racing there. And the Firecracker is run at one mile on the grass.
Hot Sauce will run on Tuesday at a track where she has never previously competed; in open stakes company, which is something she has not previously tried; upon a surface which she has never previously raced. Add it all together, and she appears to be facing a formidable chore.
It's a 4-hour van ride from Charles Town to Mountaineer.
"Hot Sauce will handle it well," said her trainer, George G. Yetsook. "Nothing really bothers her. If she was a finicky mare I'd probably bring her to Mountaineer a day early. But that's not necessary. We'll ship on race day."
And Hot Sauce's breeding? There's actually significant grass potential there. Her sire, Prized, won the 1989 renewal of the Breeders' Cup Turf. Hot Sauce's dam, Some Likeit Hott, raced for five years, and while she did not win on the grass, she placed on that surface in allowance company at tracks such as Hialeah, Monmouth Park and Hawthorne.
Some Likeit Hott's career purse earnings totaled $257,909.
"She did it the old-fashioned way - by trying hard," said Yetsook. "The same's true of Hot Sauce. She's a good-looking, well-balanced athlete, not a big mare, but she moves beautifully."
The 66-year-old Yetsook is originally from Boston. He spent his early years with Thoroughbreds on the old Massachusetts fair circuit, at tracks such as Great Barrington, Northampton, Brockton and Marshfield.
He now lives a short walk from O'Sullivan, which was founded in 1939 on land that a few centuries ago was owned by George Washington (Charles Town is named for George's brother, Charles).
For decades, the O'Sullivan operation was run by Ruth C. Funkhouser. Since Ruth's death in 2006, her son Randy, a Stanford University graduate and a lifelong horseman, has been in charge.
"We stood Prized at O'Sullivan, before he was retired to Kentucky," said Yetsook, whose association with the Funkhouser family spans 13 years.
The eastern panhandle has been a good landing point for Yetsook. Of his 25 career stakes wins, 24 have been achieved at Charles Town. Included are eight scores in West Virginia Breeders' Classic events, and a victory with Confucius Say in the 2007 Charles Town Dash.
Hot Sauce made her career debut on Feb. 18, 2011.
"She stumbled coming out of the gate, but ended up winning by 9 lengths," said Yetsook. "I knew right then that she was something special. Look at Hot Sauce's past performances and you'll see that she has never finished worse than fourth."
O'Sullivan remains a co-owner of Hot Sauce. The other partners are Richard and Ellen Schwartz.
Hot Sauce's regular jockey, Arnaldo Bocachica, ranks fifth in the Charles Town standings this year with 55 wins. He will be making the journey to Mountaineer on Tuesday as well.
NOTES: Hansen, last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner and Eclipse Award recipient as North America's 2-year-old champion, was a 10-length winner of the Grade 3 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows on Saturday. During post-race interviews with the Des Moines Register and Blood-Horse magazine, the colt's breeder and co-owner, Dr. Kendall Hansen, confirmed the colt's next start would be in the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer on Aug. 4. ... John McKee, based at Churchill Downs, has been named to ride Strike Impact in Tuesday's co-feature, the $75,000 Independence Day Stakes.