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SATURDAY, MAY 23, 2015

Triple Crown News & Notes

American Pharoah gallops, Conquest Curlinate breezes, at Churchill

American Pharoah is eyeing an historic sweep of the Triple Crown (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)
Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness S. (G1) hero American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) had his first gallop on Friday at Churchill Downs since his seven-length romp in last Saturday's second jewel of the Triple Crown.

The Zayat Stables homebred is readying for the final leg of the Triple Crown, the $1.5 million Belmont S. (G1) on June 6, and galloped 1 3/16 miles over the Churchill main track at 8:30 a.m. (EDT), following the renovation break, with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez up.

"It went nice, didn't seem like he was tired or anything," Alvarez said. "He came back pretty much the same (after Derby). So far, no difference."

Alvarez says one of the biggest qualities that American Pharoah has is his ability to cover a lot of ground.

"His stride is very different from a lot of horses -- that's an advantage," he stated.

Alvarez, who has worked horses for trainer Bob Baffert for seven years, also was the exercise rider for Pioneerof the Nile, American Pharoah's sire.

"They are both good horses," he said of the Zayat-owned father and son, "but since Day One this horse (American Pharoah) has covered so much ground."

Alvarez wouldn't be disappointed if the track on Belmont Day was similar to Pimlico on Preakness Day because of how well the horse has handled an off surface. A deluge of rain turned the fast track into a sloppy mess just as the call came for riders to mount for the Preakness. Aside from that contest, American Pharoah triumphed in the slop at Oaklawn Park when he won the March 14 Rebel S. (G2).

"Once it started raining I got excited a little bit because I know he likes the mud," Alvarez admitted. "I thought he was ready to run a good race anyway, but the rain adds a lot, too. I hope it rains in New York."

Baffert's assistant, Jimmy Barnes, also was pleased with the horse's Friday gallop over the Churchill main track.

American Pharoah is progressing in his preparations for the Belmont Stakes (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)
"It went very nice," Barnes said. "He just had a 1 3/16-mile gallop today, but it went very nice. He's perfect -- just the way he always is -- so we'll gallop a little bit further maybe tomorrow (Saturday) and then by Sunday we'll be back to his normal gallop at a mile-and-a-half.

"The best horses cover the track well -- they have a large stride and they're big movers, which he is. Usually the good ones are like that."

American Pharoah's pursuit for racing immortality will mark the 14th time -- and third in the last four years -- since Affirmed swept all three races in 1978 that a horse has had a chance to join the 11 Triple Crown champions.

According to reports, his challengers in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont could include (with known jockeys) Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway), Conquest Curlinate (Curlin) (Shaun Bridgmohan), Frammento (Midshipman) (Mike Smith), Frosted (Tapit) (Joel Rosario), Keen Ice (Kent Desormeaux) (Curlin), Madefromlucky (Lookin at Lucky), Materiality (Afleet Alex), Mubtaahij (Irad Ortiz) (Dubawi), Tale of Verve (Tale of Ekati) (Gary Stevens) and War Story (Northern Afleet) (Colby Hernandez).

One of those rivals, Conquest Stables LLC's Conquest Curlinate, breezed five furlongs over Churchill's fast main track in :59 4/5 Friday morning in preparation for the Belmont Stakes.

Norman Casse, assistant to his father and trainer Mark Casse, was pleased with the move and says the Ontario-bred should handle the 1 1/2-mile distance.

Madefromlucky (yellow hat) and Conquest Curlinate (teal hat) will face off yet again in the Belmont Stakes (NYRA/Joe Labozzetta/Adam Coglianese Photography)
"The way he runs he doesn't show a whole lot of early speed," Norman Casse said. "He's always been a much more effective route horse obviously, so we think the distance is just perfect for him. Plus, he has a race over the track which we think is going to be pretty important. He obviously liked it."

Conquest Curlinate was a late-closing second in the Peter Pan S. (G2) at Belmont Park last out on May 9 behind Madefromlucky. Prior to that, the gray colt just missed by a nose while making his stakes bow in the Illinois Derby (G3).

In other Belmont Stakes news:

Jerry Crawford's multiple Grade 2-placed Keen Ice clocked three-quarters in 1:15 on Thursday. Trainer Dale Romans' partner Tammy Fox spoke highly of how the bay colt is preparing for the third and final jewel of the Triple Crown.

"As of yesterday, he's coming into the race really, really good," Fox said. "The work I thought was super. He galloped out really well."

Fox said that Keen Ice will likely work twice before shipping to Belmont Park on Tuesday, June 2. She went on to say that she is hopeful of how he'll will handle the deep and sandy track at Belmont.

"I hope he will," Fox commented. "It takes a special horse to come in there and run over that racetrack but he's a big horse and a big grinder. I think he'll handle it just fine."

Churchill Downs has a new special box seat package for the Belmont Stakes simulcast. For $24, fans can get an undercover box seat, official program, a domestic beer or souvenir soda and a custom, limited-edition Kentucky Derby 141 T-Shirt featuring a victorious American Pharaoh.

Fans may purchase the package by visiting the online box office.

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Pletcher's Belmont Stakes trio work at Big Sandy

Madefromlucky (outside) and Carpe Diem worked in company for the Belmont Stakes... (NYRA/Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out a veritable "Who's Who" of contenders for their penultimate workouts this morning at Belmont Park for the upcoming Belmont Stakes Racing Festival on June 4-6.

Grade 1 hero Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway) returned to the worktab for the first time since his 10th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Under Hall of Famer John Velazquez, the chestnut colt worked early on the fast main track in company with Peter Pan S. (G2) victor Madefromlucky. With both colts pointed to the $1.5 million Belmont S. (G1) on June 6, the pair picked up the bullet of the day, finishing together to cover five furlongs in :59.

"The (main) track was probably playing a little bit on the quick side, but I thought it was a pretty good work for both of them," Pletcher remarked. "It was a fast work but in hand with a strong gallop out.

"(Carpe Diem has) been galloping well," he added. "He's kind of an enthusiastic horse on a daily basis, so we decided on two breezes between the Derby and the Belmont and I thought we got a good, solid work this morning.

"That was the best that I've seen (Madefromlucky) breeze since we've had him. It was a very good work for him. It appears that he likes the track here, which is what we were hoping for and it seems like the Peter Pan was good going forward."

Florida Derby (G1) winner Materiality (Afleet Alex) and Louisiana Derby (G1) runner-up Stanford (Malibu Moon) hit the main track shortly after the renovation break. In a visually impressive move, the two worked five furlongs together in 1:00, the fourth-fastest time of 20 works at the distance.

"I thought both horses worked extremely well," Pletcher stated. "It was a little bit slower in the first part than the Carpe Diem/Madefromlucky team, but they finished up with similar times and a strong gallop out as well.

...while Stanford and fellow Belmont hopeful Materiality (outside) traveled in tandem around Big Sandy (NYRA/Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography)
"Before we went out, I told them we were looking for something between a minute and 1:01 with a strong gallop-out, so the fractions seemed like they were going to land them in that time frame. I just relayed the times to them and they picked it up on their own through the lane."

With Velazquez aboard the Belmont Stakes-bound Materiality, Pletcher reported that the riding assignments for his trio had yet to be decided.

Meanwhile, undefeated Competitive Edge (Super Saver), possible for the $1.25 million Metropolitan H. (G1) as well as the $500,000 Woody Stephens S. (G2), breezed over Belmont's fast dirt training track Friday morning. Working in company with impressive allowance winner Curalina (Curlin), the duo covered a half-mile in :48 2/5.

Also breezing a half-mile on the Belmont training track for the Pletcher barn were recent Humana Distaff S. (G1) heroine Dame Dorothy (Bernardini), who went in :48 4/5 ahead of the $1 million Ogden Phipps S. (G1); Harlan's Holiday S. winner Liam's Map (Unbridled's Song), who was clocked in :48 3/5; and dual Grade 2 scorer Blofeld (Quality Road), who was caught in :48 3/5 while readying for the Woody Stephens.

Alysheba S. (G2) victor Protonico (Giant's Causeway), aiming for the $500,000 Stephen Foster H. (G1) on June 13 at Churchill Downs, turned four furlongs in :48 3/5.

Palace Malice (Curlin), the 2013 Belmont Stakes winner who finished third in the May 10 Diablo S. while making his five-year-old debut, is expected to work early next week in preparation for his bid to win back-to-back editions of the Met Mile. The rest of Pletcher's Belmont Stakes Day runners are scheduled to work again Friday.

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Frosted tours track with Tamarkuz ahead of likely Belmont Stakes bid

Tamarkuz and Frosted (inside) cruised over Belmont Park's main track on Friday (NYRA/Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography) Wood Memorial S. (G1) winner Frosted (Tapit) took to the fast Belmont main track Friday morning, breezing five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 one day after he was declared a likely starter for the $1.5 million Belmont S. (G1) by trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

Working in company with Tamarkuz (Speightstown), winner of the March 28 Godolphin Mile (UAE-G2) in Dubai, Frosted and his older workmate hit the wire together and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 2/5.

"(Frosted) worked with a really nice horse, and we didn't want him to go too fast or too slow, so it was a perfect work," McLaughlin said. "They both galloped out well and came back in good shape, and we'll do it again next week for June 6."

Frosted enters the Belmont off a strong fourth-place showing in the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 2, when he went wide on both turns and closed ground late to finish 4 1/2 lengths behind American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile). The gray colt will attempt to follow in the footsteps of another McLaughlin trainee, Jazil, who went on to win the 2006 edition of the Belmont after finishing fourth in the Derby.

Frosted will attempt to regain his winning ways in the Belmont Stakes (NYRA/Susie Raisher/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Tamarkuz is probable for the $1.25 million Metropolitan H. (G1) on Belmont Stakes Day. The five-year-old chestnut horse enters the Met Mile on a four-race win streak, with his last three victories coming in group contests in Dubai.

"Tamarkuz is a nice horse," McLaughlin stated. "We're picking out a tough spot to get him started, but he's a very good horse. He's been with us about a month now and has done everything right. He's worked three times here and has been training very well.

"It's a tough race, but he won the Godolphin Mile in his last start, so it's not like we need to back him into an allowance race."

If Tamarkuz is to win his fifth straight race and North American debut, he'll have to beat a world-class field and adapt to a race shape that may not be ideal for him, according to McLaughlin.

"He runs close to the pace, and that spot might be occupied (in the Met Mile) by (multiple Grade 1 hero) Private Zone (Macho Uno)," the trainer said. "We'll see what post we draw, but he's a really nice horse."

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Racing Headlines

Fanticola the one to catch in Gamely

Little separated Gamely contenders Queen of the Sand (outside) and Fanticola (inside) in the Santa Barbara (Benoit Photos)
Queen of the Sand (Footstepsinthesand) nipped long-time leader Fanticola (Silent Name) by a nose in last month's Santa Barbara H. (G3) over 1 1/4 miles, but might have a more difficult time doing it again over a furlong shorter in Monday's $300,000 Gamely (G1) at Santa Anita.

The Santa Barbara was the first graded stakes win for Queen of the Sand, who notably finished second in the Matriarch (G1) at Del Mar in November. Out of action until mid-March, she looked a bit short when finishing eighth of nine in the Santa Ana (G2) in her season debut.

Fanticola just missed giving her connections an emotional victory in the Santa Barbara, which occurred the same week as the death of her former trainer, Mike Mitchell. The stakes-winning five-year-old has won or placed in her last five outings, and on paper looks poised to try and lead wire-to-wire.

Hard Not to Like (Hard Spun) invades from New York for trainer Christophe Clement. Upset winner of the Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland in April 2014, she was most recently third in her title defense of that race April 11. She began the year at Tampa Bay Downs on the last day of January, when she was demoted from first to second in the Endeavour (G3).

Also racing for the first time on this circuit are Danza Cavallo (Sunday Break), runner-up in the Long Island H. (G3) and first in a Keeneland allowance last month in two U.S. outings for Chad Brown, and Generosidade (Nedawi), a Group 1 winner in Brazil, who placed in one of three outings in France last year.

Also expected to garner support are Blingismything (Arch) and Smoove It (Square Eddie), who were separated by a nose at the finish of the one-mile Wilshire (G3) on April 26, and Three Hearts (Hat Trick), the Red Carpet H. (G3) heroine who subsequently placed in the Robert J. Frankel (G3), Santa Ana, and Santa Barbara.

Moulin de Mougin (Curlin), who captured the John C. Mabee (G2) at Del Mar last summer, fell when near the back of the field in the Rodeo Drive (G1) in September, and then was no factor against males in the $82,000 Thunder Road over a mile April 4. Also lining up is Elektrum (High Chaparral), who prevailed by a half-length against second-level allowance company April 5 after narrow defeats against similar in her first two U.S. appearances.

The supporting feature on the Memorial Day program is the $100,000 Los Angeles, a six-furlong dash for older horses. Leading contenders include San Carlos (G2) winner Wild Dude (Wildcat Heir), Kona Gold (G2) runner-up San Onofre (Surf Cat), Midnight Lute (G3) and Joe Hernandez victor Distinctiv Passion (With Distinction), and the Bob Baffert-trained Five Palms (Unbridled's Song), who has won three of four starts.

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Tapiture, Carve head Lone Star Park Handicap field

Tapiture goes for his fifth graded stakes win in the Lone Star Park Handicap on Memorial Day (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)
Tapiture (Tapit) and Carve (First Samurai), familiar foes during the Oaklawn meet, will square off for a third time this season on Monday in the $200,000 Lone Star Park H. (G3), a 1 1/16-mile event that highlights the Texas track's Memorial Day program.

A prominent three-year-old last season when winning three graded stakes and placing in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1), Tapiture was well beaten while securing minor awards in two starts during the Oaklawn meet. Ron Winchell's homebred was fifth, beaten 10 1/4 lengths, in the Razorback H. (G3), and then third by 7 3/4 lengths in the Oaklawn H. (G2). Both races were won by the promising Race Day (Tapit).

Carve, whose signature victory to date was last year's Prairie Meadows Cornhusker H. (G3), also ran in both Oaklawn features, finishing fourth in the Razorback and second in the Oaklawn H. The five-year-old gelding finished well behind Tapiture in their first meeting last November, finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, although he captured the $100,000 Fifth Season at Oaklawn by more than three lengths in his season debut.

Texas Air (Texas City), a seven-year-old gelding, will attempt a sweep of Lone Star Park's two graded stakes after posting a 24-1 upset of the May 1 Texas Mile (G3). Unplaced in both events last season, Texas Air enters Monday's race on a two-race win streak.

Majestic City (City Zip), formerly based in California with Ron Ellis, makes his debut for trainer Richard Baltas here. Unplaced in two starts this term, the six-year-old was a Grade 3 winner at two and has placed in five other graded stakes during his career.

The field is completed by Endurance (Indy Wind), a distant second in the Maxxam Gold Cup at Sam Houston in his last dirt attempt, and Cy Seven (Tiznow), a recent first-level allowance winner on the turf.

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Geller to succeed Loiselle as Woodbine announcer

Robert Geller will call his first race at Woodbine June 13 (Photo courtesy of Emerald Downs)
Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) has announced that Robert Geller will succeed Dan Loiselle as Woodbine's new Thoroughbred race caller.

Formerly the track announcer at Emerald Downs, Geller will call his first race at Woodbine on June 13.

"Woodbine Entertainment Group has been blessed with the distinctive tones of Dan Loiselle, truly the voice of Canadian racing, for nearly three decades. With the addition of Robert Geller, an Englishman by way of Australia, we add a new and exciting accent to accompany our races," said Jim Lawson, WEG's Chief Executive Officer. "Robert is a seasoned race caller, with a wealth of international experience having called races in Australia and Hong Kong, and we are delighted he has chosen to bring his unique talents to Canada. We warmly welcome Robert to the Woodbine Entertainment Group family."

Woodbine racing analyst Dawn Lupul and backup announcer Greg Blanchard will bridge the gap between Loiselle's final call on May 31 and Geller's first foray into the announcer's booth on the eve of the Woodbine Oaks.

The 55-year-old Geller was born in Birmingham, England, but at the age of three moved with his family to Melbourne, Australia, where he would regularly attend the races as a young boy. His love for horse racing runs in the blood, with one grandfather a former bookmaker in Brighton, England.

A qualified speech pathologist, having graduated from the Lincoln Institute of Health Sciences with a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in communication disorders, Geller worked in a variety of positions as a speech pathologist including St. Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne.

Geller pursued his passion for calling races on the weekends, eventually earning part-time work calling harness, greyhound and Thoroughbred racing in his home state of Victoria.

He took his first official job in 1984 at Wangaratta, calling 10 race days a year. His calendar began to quickly fill up, appointed as the course commentator across the four tracks in the north-east of the state, expanding to Benalla, Tatura and Wodonga along with summer duties on the picnic circuit at Wonthaggi and Woolamai Racing Clubs along the Mornington Peninsula.

In 1989, Geller pursued an opportunity with the prestigious Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club becoming the English-speaking race caller at Happy Valley and Sha Tin, a role he held for 6 1/2 years.

He left Hong Kong for Washington State in 1996 to become the track announcer at Emerald Downs for its inaugural season and has been their race caller since.

Since its 2000-01 season, Geller has also taken on announcer duties at Sunland Park in New Mexico and will continue in that capacity.

"Ever since my first visit to Toronto in 1993 when I saw Peteski win The Queen's Plate, I have felt an affinity for the track and the city. To be asked to follow on from Dan Loiselle as the next voice of Woodbine is an honor," Geller said. "I am especially excited to call turf races again. I look forward to bringing my years of experience to such a world-renowned track and to build on the skills that I have developed through both Emerald Downs and Sunland Park, as a new member of its dynamic broadcast team."

On July 5, Geller will call his first Queen's Plate, succeeding Loiselle, who has been the familiar voice of the "Gallop for the Guineas" since 1987. Loiselle began his career with Woodbine, then known as the Ontario Jockey Club on August 1, 1967 as an assistant race secretary in the Standardbred division and backup announcer. The 63-year-old native of Scarborough announced at the end of the 2014 Woodbine meet that he would bring his 29-year-career to a close on May 31.

"Robert is an elite announcer and a class act, and I wish him the very best," Loiselle said. "It has been an absolute honor for me to announce Canada's greatest races, and I am confident Robert will be embraced by Canadian racing fans, and will find a tremendous following in this country."

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Veteran rider Hole earns 2,000th career victory

Jockey Taylor Hole celebrated his 2,000th career win on Friday (Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)
Veteran jockey Taylor Hole picked up his 2,000th career victory on Friday, riding Dr Bolt (Cherokee's Boy) to victory in the 6TH race at Pimlico.

Dr Bolt, owned by Five Hellions Farm and trained by Donnovan Haughton, took the lead down the stretch from Puturseatbelton (Bustin Stones) and was 3 3/4 lengths clear on the wire while covering six furlongs over the fast track in 1:13 1/5.

After the race, Hole was joined in the winner's circle by his fellow riders, friends and staff of the Maryland Jockey Club.

"It's a little surreal," Hole said of his milestone victory. "I took my time getting here but it feels great."

When asked if he was relieved to have victory 2,000 behind him, Hole replied, "It is but it isn't. It's very special. I just never focused on this one number. I just tried to do the best I could with every horse I rode. We'd get here eventually."

A multiple stakes winner, Hole had single-season career highs of 198 wins in 2001 and $1.63 million in purse earnings in 2000. He ranked seventh at Laurel Park's 2015 winter meet with 14 victories, and is among the top 10 riders at the current Pimlico meet.

Hole, 43, captured his first black-type victory in Maryland on Rush to Glory following the disqualification for interference of favored Maysville in the Marshua S. on January 8, 2005.

He also rode Bo Badger to victory for Eighth Note Stable and trainer John Botty in the last race run before the closing of Suffolk Downs on October 14, 2014.

Hole's late father, Michael, was a British-born jockey who came to the United States in 1961 and rode 2,042 winners, mostly in New York and New England, before his untimely death in April 1976. Hole followed in the business working odd jobs as a Rockingham Park stablehand in the mid-1980s, then moved to the Maryland steeplechase farm of a family friend to learn professional riding.

On January 17, 1992, Hole earned his first victory on his third career mount at Rockingham. Hole picked up win No. 1,000 aboard Salt State at Suffolk Downs on January 14.

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Gleneagles poised for Guineas repeat at The Curragh

Gleneagles is expected to continue his winning ways in the Irish 2000 Guineas (Frank Sorge/
Newmarket's Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1) worked out as many had expected long beforehand, with Gleneagles (Galileo) proving a cut above, and now that the pecking order has been established it will be a surprise if the bay does not follow up in Saturday's Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-G1) at The Curragh. Unbeaten in Kildare, Gleneagles has all angles covered now that the ground has dried, and the only question mark would arise if any unexpected rain arrives.

"He's very like Giant's Causeway, really, but he probably would have more speed," Aidan O'Brien, who is chasing a 10th renewal, commented of the close relative to that six-time Group 1 winner. "That's the way we would rate him at the moment. He's a very well-made horse -- not too big and not too small. He has a great step to him, a lovely head and a lovely mind. He travels very well in his races and quickens well. When he gets there he doesn't do a lot, but he's very professional.

"He hasn't done a lot, it's only three weeks since (Newmarket). He had an easy week after and then he did three half-speeds and seems in good form. We'd love to keep him on good ground or better, so hopefully the ground will be good and we'll look forward to Saturday."

On the face of it, there is too much clear water between him and Ivawood (Zebedee) for it to be feasible for the Richard Hannon trainee to mount a serious challenge in this rematch. Separated by three lengths in the May 2 classic, there is little evidence that the British raider will find improvement over this mile, which stretches his stamina to the limit. Now that the impressive July S. (Eng-G2) and Richmond S. (Eng-G2) winner has suffered three straight defeats, it appears that some of his former luster has gone, but his conditioner remains in customarily positive mood.

"The odds are stacked against us, but we think Ivawood has improved again since the Guineas and, though we are not claiming we will beat Gleneagles, who looked a proper horse at Newmarket, we have always loved our fellow and he'll be giving his all to gain revenge."

In what is becoming a pattern of the current European flat season, strength in depth is definitely lacking, and although he has plenty to find, Endless Drama (Lope de Vega) is still relatively unexposed. Ger Lyons holds the bay in high regard, but he has two defeats to his name this term -- albeit respectable efforts -- when second to Zawraq (Shamardal) in the April 12 Leopardstown Two Thousand Guineas Trial at this trip and to Tombelaine (First Defence) in the Tetrarch S. over seven furlongs in testing conditions May 4.

There was a time when Ireland was a bit-player at best in the major sprints, but three of the bunch to have turned that around in recent years -- Sole Power (Kyllachy), Gordon Lord Byron (Byron) and Maarek (Pivotal) -- line up proud and tall to grace the newly promoted Greenlands S. (Ire-G2).

Despite the gravity of Sole Power's recent achievements, the fact remains that this six-furlong trip is further than ideal for him and all five of his top-level wins have come over five. Nevertheless, the eight-year-old has been kept away from Haydock's Temple S. (Eng-G2), which he won in 2011, in favor of this prize, whose fortunes mirror the rise in prominence of the Irish speed brigade.

"One of the main reasons we decided to stay at home was that Richard Hughes was available and everyone knows how well he gets on with him," Paddy Power, son of owners Sabena and David Power, told PA Sport. "It will be nice for him to finally run at home -- it's been a long time.

"It remains to be seen if he actually knows he's going for a race without having to get on a boat or a plane, though. It's six furlongs and while I'm the most optimistic man alive, I have always said there is nothing to stop him winning over six -- I'm sure he stays, the races have just never been run to suit him."

With three Group 1 wins to his name, Gordon Lord Byron is worthy of respect despite being seven, and he was ahead of Sole Power when fourth in Sha Tin's Hong Kong Sprint (HK-G1) on his penultimate start in December. Trainer Tom Hogan told PA Sport, "We did have him entered to run over a mile a couple of weeks ago, but the ground was testing and that would just test his stamina.

"While he's still able to mix it with the best sprinters, there's no real need to stretch him. His run in Hong Kong in December was very good, he was just over a length behind Aerovelocity, and that form keeps getting franked."

Maarek needs to regain old glories if he is to compete here, but the 2013 Prix de l'Abbaye (Fr-G1) hero shaped with promise when fourth in the May 10 Prix de Saint-Georges (Fr-G3) over Longchamp's five-furlong strip, while Jersey S. (Eng-G3) winner Mustajeeb (Nayef) adds further weight to the contest stepping down in trip after finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1).

Dermot Weld may be entering the veteran stage of his training career, but his star is firmly in the ascendant in 2015 and he unleashes another potential luminary in Juddmonte's unbeaten Brooch (Empire Maker) in Saturday's Lanwades Stud S. (Ire-G2). Stepping up from a maiden at the Galway festival to add Killarney's Vincent O'Brien Ruby S. and the Denny Cordell Lavarack & Lanwades Stud Fillies S. (Ire-G3) at Gowran Park to her tally, the homebred could be in line for a stellar campaign if she has made more progress.

"She's in very good form -- Dermot has been very pleased with her," the owner-breeder's racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe told PA Sport. "She's unbeaten and did everything we asked of her last season. We hope she can continue to progress and we're expecting a good run."

While Brooch has a profile that fits a race of this status, the worthiness of the remainder is questionable. Marco Botti sends across Pelerin (Shamardal), who scored on her last visit here in Dundalk's Cooley Fillies S. in October and could be open to further progression, and also Lady Dutch (Dutch Art). She was fourth in the Dahlia S. (Eng-G2) over nine furlongs at Newmarket May 3, but that form was let down in York's Middleton S. (Eng-G2) last week and she has improvement to find here.


With Sole Power staying at home, Saturday's Temple S. at Haydock has opened up for the likes of G Force (Tamayuz) to capitalize. Although he was disappointing when last of 15 in Ascot's British Champions (Eng-G1) in October, the four-year-old had looked a natural throughout the campaign and plundered the Haydock Sprint Cup (Eng-G1) in decisive fashion. Saddled with a four-pound penalty as a result, he may also have to contend with the absence of regular rider Daniel Tudhope, who was kicked in the stomach by a horse on Friday.

"He's got a penalty, but I just thought it would be a nice place to start him off," trainer David O'Meara told PA Sport. "The rain that has fallen will certainly do him no harm. After this it will be Ascot, but whether that is for the King's Stand (Eng-G1) or the Diamond Jubilee (Eng-G1), we'll decide after this."

Godolphin rely on Pretend (Invincible Spirit), who is unproven on turf but highly talented on Polytrack, as he showed when winning Lingfield's Hever Sprint S. May 14 and the six-furlong All-Weather Sprint Championships Conditions S. April 3. Trainer Charlie Appleby is watching the skies ahead of his keenly anticipated return to  grass.

"Pretend has had a nice break since his latest start and I have been delighted with his preparation," he said. "The one thing I am concerned about is the ground. We have declared him on good-to-soft and I am hoping that it dries out a bit -- if there is any more rain then it is highly unlikely that he will run.

"He is in good place at the moment and I want him to have a good experience ahead of the King's Stand (at Royal Ascot June 16). I think that running him on the wrong ground wouldn't be the best preparation for Royal Ascot."

Trainer Robert Cowell often has a leading sprinter to play with, and the May 2 Palace House S. (Eng-G3) winner Goldream (Oasis Dream) fits the bill.

"By definition this is a Group 2, not a Group 3, so he has to step up in grade essentially, but he won the Palace House quite convincingly and he arrives at Haydock in excellent condition," Cowell told PA Sport. "I've been really delighted with his preparation. He was working really well before the Palace House and he has probably come on a notch as well. He's a lot tighter and his work has been absolutely brilliant."

California Gold Rush Day on tap at Santa Anita Park

Grazen Sky will face some familiar foes in the Show Chief (Vassar Photography)
Santa Anita Park will host California Gold Rush Day on Saturday, featuring five stakes worth a total $825,000 in purses. Cal-bred sophomores will take center stage on the card in the highest-valued contests, the Snow Chief S. and Melair S., offering $200,000 each.

The Snow Chief has attracted a field of 11 three-year-olds to go 1 1/8 miles on Santa Anita's turf, including the top three from the Silky Sullivan S. and the winner of the Desert Code S.

Richard's Boy (Idiot Proof) captured that latter May 2 event going about 6 1/2 furlongs on Santa Anita's downhill turf course. The gray gelding was making his second start for new trainer Peter Miller in that contest, and is now 5-4-0-1 in his short career.

Grazen Sky (Grazen) got the best of Pulmarack (Lucky Pulpit) by 1 1/4 lengths in Golden Gate Fields' one-mile Silky Sullivan on April 26, with Cardiac (Papa Clem) finishing another three parts of a length back in third. Grazen Sky preceded the Silky Sullivan with a stakes debut second in the Echo Eddie going 6 1/2 furlongs on Santa Anita's main track.

Seven fillies will take to the main track track for the 1 1/16-mile Melair one race before the Snow Chief. Jerry Hollendorfer took over training duties on La Fiera (Comic Stripe) after the dark bay miss posted a two-length decision in the grassy Campanile S. last out at Golden Gate Fields over the re-opposing Ashley's Sassy (Decarchy) and sends her out in the Melair against Evening Jewel S. victress Sheer Pleasure (Birdonthewire).

Harlington's Rose is seeking her second straight stakes win on Saturday in the Spring Fever (Benoit Photos)
One of the more exciting match-ups comes in the $150,000 Spring Fever S., which kicks off the stakes action for the day by sending a half-dozen distaffers six furlongs on the dirt. Sunday Rules (Tribal Rule) will put her perfect four-for-four mark on the line while facing last-out Las Flores S. (G3) heroine Harlington's Rose (Harlington). Meinertzhageni (Stormin Fever), a close second in the Las Flores, is also entered.

The $150,000 Tiznow S., scheduled for a mile on the main track, boasts 10 in its line-up, including last year's runner-up Rousing Sermon (Lucky Pulpit) and recent Precisionist S. (G3) third Motown Men (Decarchy). The $125,000 Fran's Valentine S. sends out eight fillies and mares to contest a mile on the turf, with Go West Marie (Western Fame) seeking a return to the winner's circle after having a three-race win streak snapped when runner-up in the Las Cienegas S. (G3) on April 11.

California Gold Rush Day will also feature a beer festival, with unique craft brews from throughout Southern California, and food trucks.

In addition to the racing action, the Santa Anita Carnival Memorial Day weekend will take place Saturday through Monday, featuring carnival rides, games and prizes with unlimited rides for children for only $10. Admission and parking to the infield is free through Gate 6 off Colorado Place.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at

In brief

Undefeated Grade 3 victress Promise Me Silver (Silver City) breezed five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 Friday morning over Churchill Downs' fast dirt for trainer Bret Calhoun. It was the Texas-bred's second work since her victory in the Eight Belles S. (G3) on the Kentucky Oaks (G1) undercard. The gray lass is targeting the $750,000 Acorn S. (G1) on Belmont Stakes Day, June 6, at Big Sandy. Noble Bird (Birdstone) worked a bullet five furlongs in :58 4/5 for trainer Mark Casse. It was the chestnut colt's first work since finishing a head second while making his stakes bow in the Alysheba S. (G2), also on Oaks Day, May 1. The Casse barn's Tepin (Bernstein) logged five-eighths in 1:00 2/5 in her first move since taking the Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (G2) on the May 2 Kentucky Derby (G1) undercard. Sky Captain (Sky Mesa), another Casse trainee, turned five panels in :59 4/5, his first work since being disqualified from a head second to fourth in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) on Derby Day...

Unlike Saturday's colts' classic, which appears cut-and-dried, Sunday's Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-G1) at The Curragh looks a stronger affair with little deadwood among the18 fillies confirmed. Found (Galileo) has drawn gate five under Ryan Moore and is the likely favorite on the basis of her success in the Prix Marcel Boussac (Fr-G1) at Longchamp in October, with Flaxman Stables' representative Bocca Baciata (Big Bad Bob) close behind. Having impressed when winning the April 18 Salsabil over 10 furlongs at Navan, which has been advertised by the subsequent exploits of Pleascach (Teofilo) and Diamondsandrubies (Fastnet Rock), the Niarchos Family's colorbearer should have no problem with this reversion to a mile. "Bocca Baciata has just been ticking over since the Salsabil and I think she is one of those which seems to go on any ground," trainer Jessica Harrington said, before turning her attention to Silver Flash (Ire-G3) winner Jack Naylor (Champs Elysees). "I've never actually worked them together, as they came at different times last year and Jack Naylor was out much earlier," she added. "Jack Naylor was meant to run in the Blue Wind, but the ground was heavy so we didn't run her, which means she's going there without a run. All Jack's form is good and she's not over-big, so I don't think going there without a run will worry her. The way she is bred, she's a real mile-and-a-half filly, so she amazed me last year that she was able to win over six." Malabar (Raven's Pass) represents the form of the One Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1), having finished fourth in that May 3 Newmarket classic. She was in the same position in the Marcel Boussac behind Found, the subsequent Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (Fr-G1) heroine Ervedya (Siyouni) and Jack Naylor and connections are typically game in having another go."She's great and has come on plenty for the Guineas," trainer's son and assistant Mick Channon Jr commented. "It was a great reappearance, looking a little bit out-paced all the way but she never folded on us. We know she needs stepping up in trip, but this is worth going for and a bit of softer ground will help her."...

Sixteen contenders remain for the June 6 Epsom Derby (Eng-G1) following Friday's scratching stage. However, that group does not include current 7-4 favorite Golden Horn (Cape Cross). The Anthony Oppenheimer colorbearer, who remained unbeaten when defeating stablemate Jack Hobbs (Halling) in the May 14 Dante (Eng-G2), is expected to be supplemented for œ75,000 at the supplementary stage on June 1. Jack Hobbs is the 6-1 second choice for the Derby, while Dante third and last year's Racing Post (Eng-G1) trophy hero Elm Park (Phoenix Reach) is the 7-1 third choice. The Coolmore partners have won the last four Derbies, and remaining engaged from that camp is Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-G1) favorite Gleneagles (Galile); Chester Vase (Ire-G3) scorer Hans Holbein (Montjeu); Giovanni Canaletto (Galileo) and Kilimanjaro (High Chaparral). One French hopeful remains in Juddmonte's Epicuris (Rail Link), while Germany has a contender in Qatar Racing's Rogue Runner (King's Best). Storm the Stars (Sea the Stars) shortened slightly into 33-1 after taking Friday's Cocked Hat...

Frankie Dettori has picked up the mount on Epsom Derby (Eng-G1) favorite Golden Horn (Cape Cross) for the June 6 classic. Dettori was aboard Golden Horn's stablemate Jack Hobbs (Halling) when finishing second to Golden Horn, under William Buick, in the May 14 Dante (Eng-G2), but Jack Hobbs was partially bought by Godolphin this week, and thus one of that operation's retained riders, including Buick, will take over the reins at Epsom. "It's an almost certainty that Frankie will be riding (Golden Horn)," owner Anthony Oppenheimer told At The Races. "The only remark I remember Frankie saying after the Dante is he felt very sad when Golden Horn passed him. It's very exciting to have a really good horse. Whatever happens in the Derby, he will be a really good horse. He's in all the good races over a mile and a quarter later in the year."...

Unraced since a sixth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), Southern Honey (Colonel John) will make a title defense when she returns from 205-day layoff in Monday's $100,000 Winning Colors (G3) at Churchill Downs. The four-year-old filly registered a career-best 101 BRIS Speed rating when scoring by 1 1/2 lengths in last year's edition and the Rusty Arnold trainee went on to record a runner-up in the Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) and a third in the Prioress (G2). She's face nine foes in the six-furlong test with regular rider Julien Leparoux. Spring Included (Include) will enter in good form for Steve Hobby, winning the Carousel and Spring Fever at Oaklawn Park in her last two outings, and You Bought Her (Graeme Hall) posted a neck second in the Inside Information (G2) at Gulfstream Park two starts back. The stakes-winning and thrice Grade 3-placed Milam (Street Sense) also merits respect in her second start off the layoff...

Sophomore fillies take center stage Sunday in Japan for the Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) (Jpn-G1), the second classic of the season in their division, and Let's Go Donki (King Kamehameha) will be out to justify the form of her win in the Oka Sho (Japanese One Thousand Guineas) (Jpn-G1) on April 12. Let's Go Donki wired the Oka Sho field over a heavy track after getting away with a slow pace, and jockey Yasunari Iwata noted that the step up to 2400 meters is a question mark. "I need to get her to settle. If I can do that, she should last 2400 meters and let's not forget it's a race among three-year-old fillies, in which anything can happen," Iwata said. "She has no problems running left-handed, and she should be just as good as she was for her last race. I thought the field in this year's Oka Sho was pretty strong. I'm sure many of them will be looking to bounce back in the Oaks, but we won a tough Oka Sho, and we can go into the next race with our chins held high." Rouge Buck (Manhattan Cafe), a daughter of American champion Ginger Punch, seeks redemption after finishing a head-scratching ninth as the firm favorite in the Oka Sho. The bay had gone unbeaten in three previous outings against males, but was 15th turning for home in the Oka Sho and failed to make up much ground. "I imagine it's the same with some of the other horses, but the pace was so slow that she didn't have any time to recover," trainer Masahiro Otake said of Rogue Buck's Oka Sho effort. "The shine on her coat has looked considerably better and she's looking fine physically. She's been racing on a regular basis so as long as she puts in some work, she should be fine. She's untested at the distance of 2400 meters, but she's won at Tokyo over 2000 meters, which is a good sign for us. We're counting on a smoother race -- and a better result -- this time around." A new challenge comes in the form of Mikki Queen (Deep Impact), who was an early favorite for the Oka Sho but instead partook in that day's Wasurenagusa Sho S., which she won...

Twice placed in graded stakes earlier this year, A Lot (Tapit) will attempt to add black type to his resume this Saturday in the $100,000 Paradise Creek for three-year-olds on the Widener turf course at Belmont Park. The Bill Mott trainee broke his maiden on Belmont's Widener course last September and joined the stakes ranks with a fourth-place finish in the Awad S. before heading south for the winter. At Gulfstream Park, A Lot just missed in the Dania Beach (G3), finishing second by a half-length, and followed that with a 3 3/4-length allowance victory on February 22. Most recently, the colt proved to be a game contender on the grass with a toughly beaten runner-up effort in the American Turf (G2) on May 2 at Churchill Downs. A Lot is slated to face five rivals at seven furlongs on the grass, including promising turf specialist Croninthebarbarian (Stroll), who campaigned in Florida earlier this year with third-place finishes in the Dania Beach and Kitten's Joy before finishing eighth in the Palm Beach (G3) on March 7 at Gulfstream. Bridget's Big Luvy (Tiz Wonderful), most recently eighth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 11, will be making his grass debut without the blinkers he has worn in his last two starts for trainer Jeremiah Englehart...

Patrioticandproud (Proud Citizen) has finished behind Majestic Harbor (Rockport Harbor) in their last two starts, both allowances on dirt at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, but the roles could easily reverse Saturday when the pair meet up again in the $100,000 Louisville H. (G3) at Churchill. The 1 1/2-mile turf event seems more ready-made for Patrioticandproud, who was a narrowly beaten second in both the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) and San Gabriel (G2) last winter to Finnegans Wake (Powerscourt), recent winner of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) over the Matt Winn turf. Both veterans were up the track in the San Marcos (G2) at Santa Anita in February, which was Majestic Harbor's latest turf outing. The latter has excelled much more on dirt, taking the Gold Cup (G1) and Tokyo City Cup (G3) over Santa Anita's main strip last season. Also lining up in the Louisville are Cozy Kitten (Kitten's Joy), recently second in a Gulfstream starter allowance in his first turf outing of the year, and Calvados (Snipewalk), unplaced four times since missing by a neck in last September's Laurel Turf Cup. Golden Soul (Perfect Soul), notably second in the Kentucky Derby (G1) two years ago, is two-for-two on the Churchill lawn, and is joined here by Xtra Luck (Exchange Rate) and For Greater Glory (Afleet Alex), rivals he beat in a nine-furlong turf allowance at Churchill in late November...

Trainer Malcolm Pierce sends out Grade 2 winners Deceptive Vision (A.P. Indy) and Overheard (Macho Uno) in Saturday's C$200,000 Nassau S. (Can-G2) at Woodbine. Deceptive Vision has gone 5-2-2 from nine career starts thus far, including a win in the Canadian S. (Can-G2) prior to concluding her 2014 season with a third in the E.P. Taylor S. (Can-G1). The bay mare opened her five-year-old season with a gutsy head win in the Doubledogdare S. (G3) at Keeneland on April 17. Overheard, also a five-year-old, posted a record of 1-2-1 from four starts in 2014. Last year's Dance Smartly S. (Can-G2) victress made her seasonal debut a fourth-place run over soft going in a loaded Keeneland allowance tilt. Pierce wasn't too concerned with Overheard's off-the-board result at Keeneland. "She likes that Keeneland course," he said. "I don't know if it was the soft turf, but it was a pretty solid race. I know she's a graded stakes winner, but there were other graded stakes winners in the race. She'd been off awhile and maybe needed a race." That April 9 contest was Overheard's first start since October 12 when she rallied for third in the Athenia S. (G3) at Belmont Park. "It was a fairly long break, but we did that on purpose as it's probably going to be her last year of racing," Pierce explained. "She had a good break and got back to training at Palm Meadows and that was the first spot we found for her. We tried to find an easy spot, but it didn't turn out to be that easy." Overheard has since put in four breezes at Woodbine, including a recent four-panel move in :47 4/5 over the Polytrack. "She's doing well," Pierece said. "Her last breeze was very quick, which is unusual for her. She's usually a filly that works in :49 and her last breeze was in :47.4, maybe the track was fast that day, but she's coming into the race in good order." Last year, Overheard and Deceptive Vision squared off in the nine-furlong Dance Smartly, with Overheard rallying wide down the lane to collar Deceptive Vision in the final jump. Pierce believes both of his entrants may find the one-mile Nassau distance challenging. "It's probably not her best distance. We always thought she was a mile and a sixteenth horse. Last year, she was so relaxed early in her races that a mile and an eighth, maybe even a mile and a quarter might now be her better distance. It's a little on the short side probably for both fillies," he remarked...

A field of five has been drawn for Sunday's $200,000 Charles Whittingham S. (G2) going 1 1/2 miles over Santa Anita Park's turf, but multiple Grade 3 hero Divine Oath (Broken Vow) will be facing off against last-out San Luis Rey S. (G2) victor Ashleyluvssugar (Game Plan). Trained by Todd Pletcher, Divine Oath has been unable to place in three starts thus far this season after closing out his sophomore campaign with a half-length score in the W.L. McKnight H. (G3). The bay colt ran fifth in his season opener, the Mac Diarmida S. (G2), before finishing fourth in both the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. H. (G2) and Fort Marcy S. (G3). Rafael Bejarano has the call. Ashleyluvssugar was making just his second start against stakes rivals, and first against non-restricted stakes foes, in the San Luis Rey but prevailed by 2 1/4 lengths for trainer Peter Eurton. The four-year-old gelding will attempt to duplicate that performance in the Whittingham with Gary Stevens retaining the mount. Crucero (Admiral's Cruise) just broke his maiden in his 11th attempt, which came against $20,000 maiden claimers, but has been unable to defeat winners in three races since. Kent Desormeaux will be aboard for his brother and trainer Keith Desormeaux. Ganesh (Sulamani) and Going Somewhere (Sulamani) are both Group 1-winning Brazilian-breds. The former ran second most recently in the April 25 Last Tycoon S. (G3) while Going Somewhere is making his U.S. debut after competing in France last season...

Last seen winning the Bourbonette Oaks (G3) on March 21, Don't Leave Me (Lemon Drop Kid) heads a field of nine sophomore fillies in Sunday's $150,000 Selene (G3) at Woodbine. Two for three as a juvenile, the Malcolm Pierce-trained gray lass was making her first start of 2015 in the Bourbonette. Don't Leave Me can improve to three for three on Polytrack with a victory in the 1 1/16-mile Selene and will be reunited with jockey Eurico Da Silva. Mark Casse will be represented by Grade 3 heroine Ol' Fashion Gal (Sky Mesa), and restricted stakes winners Starless Night (Grand Slam) and Green Doctor (The Green Monkey) are also entered...

Monmouth Park's popular Survival at the Shore contest returns on Saturday, May 23, and runs through Monday, September 7. The rules for the contest are simple -- the Challenge Commissioner will select three races on each live date from which players will select one horse from each and receive a mythical $2 across the board wager. In order to "survive" the contest and continue on to the next racing day, any one of the player's three selections must finish in the top three. As an added twist, players will get one "life preserver" which can be used to stay in the contest should the player fail to make their selections on any given race day or if the player's selections fail to hit the board. While prizes will be awarded throughout the contest, the grand prize winner will be the player with the highest mythical bankroll come the contest's end on September 7. The grand prize winner will take home $2,000 in cash, while second place receives $1,000 and third gets $500. In addition, the player who selects the most winners throughout the contest will receive $500. To learn more about Survival at the Shore or to sign up for the contest, please visit or

The gala dinner of the Pan American Conference, presented by Longines at New York City's exclusive Cipriani 42nd Street, will be held Friday, June 5, and proceeds will benefit the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. The evening will feature the presentation of the Longines and International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) International Award of Merit and a medley of sights and sounds of Broadway-style reviews. "This annual event is a great way to celebrate the Thoroughbred and the vital equine research that Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation funds," said Dell Hancock, chairman of the foundation. "The celebration has taken on a special aura this year since we will have our international guests from the Pan Am Conference with us at such a unique and prestigious venue and since we will be watching American Pharoah attempt to win the Triple Crown the following day." Tickets for the charity celebration are priced at $400 per person. Only a limited number of tickets are available and can be purchased online at Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation is the nation's leading source of private equine research funding and helps all breeds of horses. The Pan American Conference, hosted by the Latin America Racing Channel and The Jockey Club, will address numerous topics, including international simulcasting, globalization of the breed, anti-doping, technology, customer relations and aftercare during the two days of the business program June 4-5. Conference participants will be attending the Belmont S. (G1) on June 6. Additional information for the conference is available at Additional information about the charity celebration can be obtained by contacting Nancy Kelly, vice president of development, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation at 212-521-5305 or



MAY 23, 2015

by James Scully

American Pharoah's (Pioneerof the West) superiority is unquestioned but we've been down this path many times. The 36-year drought since the last Triple Crown winner makes the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes (G1) one of the most difficult assignments in sports.

The universal question facing any Thoroughbred racing fan surrounds American Pharoah's chances to complete the sweep. Common sense dictates a strong possibility, no rival can beat him if he shows up with his best, but memories of past failures haunt any projections of unbridled confidence.

Upsets are a Belmont Stakes specialty.

The current stretch of heartbreak began one year after the last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed in 1978, with the mighty Spectacular Bid weakening to third in the Belmont stretch.

Smarty Jones (2004) and Big Brown (2009) met the same standard, appearing practically invincible following convincing victories in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1), and the list includes other capable Triple Crown aspirants such as Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Charismatic (1999) and California Chrome (2014).

As history shows, anything can happen in the Belmont Stakes.

American Pharoah is back galloping at Churchill Downs, readying for the 147th running of the American classic and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert brings valuable experience to the equation, making his fourth attempt at saddling a Triple Crown winner.

With a six-race win streak in tow, American Pharoah has made it look easy nearly every time, the one-length Kentucky Derby decision representing the only true test so far for the speedy colt, and he simply glided to a magnificent seven-length victory over a sloppy track in the Preakness last out.

Supporters would love to see a wet track again on June 6.

His main competition is rested and lying in wait, with Grade 1 winners Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway), Frosted (Tapit) and Materiality (Afleet Alex) skipping the Preakness after the Kentucky Derby. They've been preparing for weeks at Belmont Park along with Dubai stalwart Mubtaahij (Dubawi) and improving Peter Pan (G2) hero Madefromlucky (Lookin at Lucky).

The Belmont Stakes will be the fourth start in eight weeks for American Pharoah and nobody knows whether the demanding schedule will exact a toll.

Two things we're keenly aware: American Pharoah is the best horse and the unpredictable nature of the Belmont Stakes when a Triple Crown is on the line.


MAY 22, 2015

by Dick Powell

Preakness (G1) 140 is in the books and American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) is on the verge of immortality. With his convincing seven-length win, American Pharoah now goes to the Belmont Stakes (G1) with the best shot of becoming American Thoroughbred racing's 12th winner of the Triple Crown. He is head and shoulders above his competition.

With about 10 minutes to go before post time, a line of thunderstorms swept through the Pimlico area of Maryland. Many of us have apps on our smartphones that show Doppler radar and you could see that that there was no avoiding the bad weather that was coming. And it wasn't just rain but severe thunderstorms with lightning.

I was at the Kentucky Oaks (G1) years ago when in response to a severe weather alert, the horses for the Oaks were sent back to their barns from the paddock and the infield was evacuated. On Saturday, nothing of the sort happened. Despite every indication that severe was weather was about to hit, Pimlico management did little. They tried to get people in the infield under cover but the race went on like nothing happened.

All but two of the horses saddled inside with only two out on the turf course. The jockeys were not prepared so none wore rain pants or had the right rainy weather equipment with them. They mounted their horses under torrential rainfall. It looked like the inside part of the track might wash away and you couldn't help but wonder how American Pharoah was going to negotiate the wettest part of the track.

Thunder, lightning, torrential rain and high wind pelted Pimlico but the show went on in a reckless, dangerous decision. Seeing that the line of storms would pass through the area with nothing behind them, how could you not send the horses to the indoor saddling area, wait out the bad weather, and then send the tractors once around the track to make sure the surface was safe?

Luckily for American Pharoah, he raced over a sloppy track in the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park so this was not a new surface for him. Victor Espinoza gunned him from post 1 and he was able to maintain his position going into the clubhouse turn. Firing Line (Line of David), overbet at 3-to-1, stumbled in his second stride out of the gate and was effectively out of the race. Mr. Z (Malibu Moon) gunned from the gate with Corey Nakatani but to his credit, he never tightened things up for American Pharoah. 

Espinoza kept the pedal down through a first quarter in 22.90 seconds and only after putting some distance between himself and Mr. Z, did he ease up a bit and settle. There was no telling how the track inundated with rain would play but you could see that American Pharoah was having no trouble grabbing a hold of it.

After a half-mile in 46.49 seconds, Espinoza looked like he gave American Pharoah a breather going into the far turn and his pursuers closed the gap. Dortmund (Big Brown) moved up outside of Mr. Z on the far turn and Divining Rod (Tapit) made a move on the inside of those two and looked like he might put some pressure on American Pharoah.

As they neared the top of the stretch, Espinoza let it out a notch and the race was over. American Pharoah, even though the pace was slowing down, was pulling away effortlessly. Divining Rod, who I needed for second in a big, cold exacta underneath the winner, could not hang on for second as Tale of Verve (Tale of Ekati) rallied from last to get up for second and complete a $124.40 exacta.

Typical of races conducted under weather conditions like this, many in the race finished up the track. There is nothing you can do when it rains like it did. But, the race could have easily been postponed for 20 to 30 minutes to make sure that it was run under the safest conditions.

After the race, Gary Stevens said that he weighed 135 pounds without his helmet. Victor Espinoza poured water out of his riding boots up on the podium for the trophy presentation. Had they had rain pants on that go over the boot down to their feet, they would not be riding with boots full of rain in lightning.

And as dangerous as it was for the jockeys, can you imagine poor Donna Brothers on her pony out on the track with all that electronic equipment on her?

Now we go on to Belmont for another run at the Triple Crown. The question that needs to be answered is how well American Pharoah came out of the race and what will he have left three weeks from now? For a horse that has some physical issues that were serious enough for him to miss last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) and forced him into a late start to his three-year-old campaign, can he recover quick enough to go 1 1/2 miles on a track that is often tiring if dry, against a field with many fresh horses?

All that will work itself out in time but after the Derby and Preakness, there is no doubt who the best three-year-old is at this point. 

A random act of journalism broke out during the NBC Preakness coverage. During the walkover from the barn area to be saddled, Carolyn Manno was interviewing Dortmund's owner Kaleem Shah. When Shah talked about how Dortmund was doing and how good horses tend to beat each other, Shah said, "This one would be for my dad."

Manno, instead of going on to the next question, actually listened to Shah and said, "Tell us why." Shah then explained how his father was a top trainer in India, won the Triple Crown there and that lately he has not been doing well and he hoped that Dortmund would come through for him.

True story: two of my four grandchildren live next door to me and I see them every day. On Preakness Day, I was busy with betting and watching the races and did not see them. The next day, I asked my grandson did you watch the horse race yesterday. The eight-year-old responded, "No. What am I 90 years old?"

Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather


For Saturday

Arlington Park   (3rd) Seeking Luck, 7-2
    (7th) Broken In, 3-1
Belmont Park   (3rd) Jet Majesty, 5-1
    (4th) Devilish Grin, 5-1
Belterra Park   (2nd) Joaquina, 4-1
    (5th) A Single Man, 9-2
Canterbury Park   (5th) Magic D' Oro, 9-2
    (8th) Money Tree, 5-1
Charles Town   (1st) Our Love Story, 5-1
    (2nd) Mint to Fly, 7-2
Churchill Downs   (2nd) Top Clearance, 3-1
    (5th) Queen of Scat, 9-2
Delaware Park   (3rd) Culous Way, 3-1
    (5th) Gold Potion, 5-1
Emerald Downs   (3rd) Smokin Padre, 7-2
    (7th) Marvin's Magic, 4-1
Evangeline Downs   (1st) Sovol, 7-2
    (6th) Philli Four, 5-1
Finger Lakes   (5th) The Yank, 5-1
    (8th) Clearly Perfection, 7-2
Golden Gate Fields   (3rd) Vegas Rules, 3-1
    (5th) Eddie Could Go, 9-2
Gulfstream Park   (2nd) Cosmic Harmony, 4-1
    (5th) Potochon, 5-1
Indiana Grand   (1st) Have Faith Sister, 4-1
    (3rd) Cherokee Callie, 6-1
Lone Star Park   (1st) High Dollar Kitten, 5-1
    (7th) Panena Tornai, 4-1
Louisiana Downs   (1st) Crash Code, 3-1
    (8th) Grace's Bandit, 5-1
Monmouth Park   (3rd) Didn't Take It, 7-2
    (7th) Street Brawl, 7-2
Mountaineer   (1st) Unlikely Scenario, 3-1
    (4th) Gridlock, 4-1
Parx Racing   (6th) Boss Cat, 4-1
    (9th) Return Abroad, 7-2
Penn National   (2nd) Whispering Forest, 7-2
    (5th) Updated Daily, 7-2
Pimlico   (3rd) Coraggio, 6-1
    (5th) Lightning Electric, 4-1
Prairie Meadows   (2nd) Brussel Sprout, 9-2
    (9th) Odes of Pindar, 9-2
Santa Anita   (2nd) Clem Juice, 5-1
    (9th) Joy Boy, 4-1
Thistledown   (2nd) Carolyn, 4-1
    (5th) Forester's Diva, 5-1
Woodbine   (3rd) Town Leader, 4-1
    (8th) Stellar Path, 7-2

HANDICAPPER'S EDGE is compiled by Bloodstock Research Information Services. This newsletter may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Copyright 2011, Bloodstock Research Information Services. Information as to the races, race results and earnings was obtained from Equibase Company LLC and is utilized herein with the permission of the copyright owner, Equibase Company LLC.


Help Wanted

A horse racing website is currently hiring for part-time positions as a Customer Service Representative in Lexington, Kentucky. Must be available nights and weekends. Some weekdays may also be available. Computer literacy required, horse racing knowledge and customer service experience a plus. To schedule an interview, email or send your résumé to the following:, P.O. Box 4097, Lexington, KY 40544.