Sherman: 'I call him the California rock star'
Despite the deflating defeat, in the eyes of his adoring "Chromies," California Chrome lost no luster and likeable great-grandfather Sherman remained racing's darling.
"I call him the California rock star," Sherman said of his prized racehorse. "He's got such a following all over the world. I thought nobody would know me in Dubai but from the moment I stepped off the plane, people said 'There's California Chrome's trainer.'
"Everybody wants you," he added. "Royal Ascot and Hong Kong want me there. He's kind of like a drawing magnet for racing right now."
First things first. California Chrome will enter the starting gate on Saturday attempting to become the third Kentucky Derby winner to succeed in the World Cup, joining Silver Charm (1998) and Animal Kingdom (2013).
"He's kind of push button," Sherman said of California Chrome. "He's not a one-dimensional horse and that's important. Just keep him in the clear and have a place to go. That's all I ask."
Another chapter to California Chrome's unlikely story will be written on Saturday, but win, lose or draw, Sherman is well aware of the impact his horse has already made on a variety of levels.
"By a $2,500 stud out of a maiden $8,000 claiming mare, to come by and win all these races, it gives an incentive to the little guy," Sherman said. "This is a game where you can buy your way into a lot of things, but we are proof that a dream can happen. You don't have to be a millionaire or a billionaire to win these kinds of races.
"In the end, I'd like to leave some sort of legacy with him that says 'Wow, I remember California Chrome, he was a great horse and we had a lot of fun watching him run.'"
As for Lea (First Samurai), the other U.S. runner in the World Cup, the chestnut jogged over the training track Thursday morning to "keep him fresh," according to assistant trainer Riley Mott.
The Kentucky-bred six-year-old remains on schedule to blow out 400 meters on Friday.
"I thought about it (Dubai World Cup) a little bit after he won the Hal's Hope (G3) and then after he ran second in the Donn (G1) it was on my mind," trainer Bill Mott said.
"After looking around and trying to compare him with the rest of the horses in the U.S., I thought we were sitting in a pretty good position. Top five in the country, if you can be rated that well, I think you deserve a chance in the World Cup. Hopefully the best is yet to come."
Joel Rosario, who rode Animal Kingdom to victory in the 2013 Dubai World Cup, will be aboard Lea on Saturday.
"He is an easy horse to ride," Rosario said. "He'll do anything you want him to do. I have a lot of confidence."
African Story could make Dubai World Cup history
"I think he's in very good form," added African Story's jockey, James Doyle. "When I rode him the first time, I was very tender with him, but I rode more aggressively the second time firstly to take up a position and then to hold it in the race. That's the way I think you have to ride him."
One and Only is trainer's last chance at Meydan
"When Heart's Cry came back to the paddock after finishing third in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth S., many racegoers sent him applause for his impressive performance," Hashiguchi said. "Since then, I wanted to come back to the world stage with the Heart's Cry offspring again and now it's time to accomplish the feat before my retirement.
"One and Only could follow into his father's footsteps and was able to bring me back to Dubai. I really hope One and Only can show his best performance as a Japanese Derby winner this coming Saturday, and then grab another big title at Ascot in July."
Among those standing in One and Only's way is fellow Japanese hopeful Harp Star (Deep Impact), who drew widest of all in the nine-horse field going 2410 meters.
"The horse just seems to love it here," Moore said. "Joao Moreira worked him on Thursday and was very pleased. He worked on the turf. Nice and easy, 1200 meters in about 1:26. He's really fit, he looks particularly well in the coat and I couldn't be happier with his preparation."
France is launching a two-pronged attack in the race with Dolniya (Azamour) and Flintshire (Dansili), who clashed in a 1900-meter Polytrack conditions race earlier this month. The Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained Dolyniya just came out on top on that occasion.
"She is lovely filly who has strengthened up over the winter," de Royer-Dupre said. "All has gone to plan thus far."
Andre Fabre trains Flintshire for Prince Khaled Abdullah, the combination who won the 2004 Sheema Classic with Polish Summer (Polish Precendent). Racing Manager Teddy Grimthorpe was at the track on Thursday morning to watch Flintshire canter.
Ridden by Annelie Ackermann, Flintshire jogged once up to the stands before cantering around the track. He slightly quickened in front of the stands.
"I hadn't seen him since he ran in Chantilly and he certainly has trimmed down a bit more and seems very relaxed," Grimthorpe said. "He has traveled really well out here and everything has been very straightforward with him, which has been one of the prerequisites of having a successful campaign anywhere. We have to say we are very pleased."
Speaking further about his preparation, Grimthorpe added, "The idea was after his run in Hong Kong to give him a break over Christmas and then obviously we had to start back with him in the new year.
"Coming into his race at Chantilly, he was certainly a bit short of work, I don't know exactly, but just looking at him he seemed above his normal racing weight I would say.
"But with the weather, we deliberated whether we would come straight to Dubai to race or whether we would just give him a piece of work. As it turned out this race over 1900 meters, which was obviously shorter than 2400 meters that he likes best, came at about the right time.
"It was important for him to do some really strong work. They went a relatively steady pace and then quickened up. And actually he looked a bit rusty and once he got onto his right leg, he finished really well and you would have to say you would be pretty happy with that."
U.S. hopeful Main Sequence (Aldebaran), runner-up in the 2012 Epsom Derby (Eng-G1) when trained in England by David Lanagan, has been transformed since switching to America in the care of Graham Motion.
Winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Turf (G1), he has yet to taste defeat in five outings for his new trainer, four at the highest level, and was duly honored with Eclipse Awards as champion male turf horse and champion older male. The six-year-old gelding scored in his sole start this year, the Mac Diarmida S. (G2) at Gulfstream Park, in his prep for Saturday's test.
After being a "bit antsy" at the starting gate on the main track Wednesday, Motion took Main Sequence to the starting gate on the training track for another schooling session.
Observers said he was noticeably calmer on Thursday in the more quiet environs of the training track. After the schooling session, the chestnut went about 1800 meters at a steady canter.
Head: Solow 'is the best chance I have had here in Dubai'
Solow is currently looking in great form, something his handler confirmed.
"He looks well, he adapted well, his action's good," Head stated. "At home we work on sand, it's not the dirt but it's very close to it. So for the moment everything is fine. We know him well and I have great expectations."
Head is not the only one who is hoping that Solow can win on Saturday. He is the firm favorite with a lot of racing fans.
"I think he is the best chance I have had here in Dubai," the trainer added. "He is a very nice horse and is improving all the time."
Maxine Guyon rides Solow, who won his four most recent outings including his prep going 1600 meters at Chantilly at the beginning of the month.
"He seems nice and relaxed and has taken the trip in his stride," Head said. "We are hoping for a good run on Saturday in what looks a very strong race."
The Dubai Turf (formerly the Dubai Duty Free) has a new name this year but keeps its tradition of being one of the the strongest races on the Dubai World Cup card.
Ten have been declared and there's a strong French connection with both Solow and Cladocera (Oasis Dream) trained in France, as well as last year's Prix du Jockey Club (Fr-G1) hero The Grey Gatsby (Mastercraftsman) in the field.
"It's difficult to tell how she is as she has been here for a long time already," he explained. "I thought she was a bit nervous at the track this morning. I don't really know what to make of her. She is a good-looking filly, but to me she looked better before her first start here than today. It's been very hot here."
Euro Charline (Myboycharlie), winner of the Beverley D. S. (G1) last out in August at Arlington, breezed on the turf track shortly before 5 a.m., where she traveled under restraint from young Italian rider Paolo Sirigu, who has been aboard her all week.
"She is not the easiest in the mornings but I get on well with her," Sirigu said. "She seems happy, fit and well which is all we can ask for."
Trainer Marco Botti has arrived in Dubai and will put the finishing touches to the filly's preparation Friday.
"She will go again on the grass and will probably stretch out over the last 200 meters this time," he said. "She did all her fast work at home before she came here.
"I was pleased to see how she looked, as I haven't seen her for a week, and I'm very happy with the way she is moving. It's a hard race but she has earned her place in this company."
In some not so good news, Al Shaqab Racing's U.S. advisor Bradley Weisbord reported early Thursday afternoon that Mshawish (Medaglia d'Oro) has a minor foot bruise and did not go to the track Thursday morning. Weisbord said he hopes the horse will go to the track Friday.
A Meydan winner last year when trained in France and mount of Frankie Dettori in the Dubai Turf, Mshawish was shipped to the United States and joined trainer Todd Pletcher shedrow. The move was vindicated after the five-year-old won his last three starts, including the Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1) most recently on February 7.
Americans seek 10th score in Dubai Golden Shaheen
"He is just a monster of a horse and a proper sprinter," she said. "He has been full of himself since he arrived and seems at the top of his game."
Fellow Grade 1 winner Big Macher (Beau Genius) looks well berthed in 6, one higher than compatriot Salutos Amigos (Salute the Sarge), a Grade 3 scorer in both of his most recent outings.
"We have schooled him at the gates as he has always been bad at the stalls, which probably cost him any chance (when ninth) in last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint," trainer Richard Baltas said of Big Macher. "He is in good shape and, hopefully, will break on terms on Saturday."
"He's sharp and I expect him to be on or just off the pace," trainer David Jacobson said of Salutos Amigos in post 5. "He'll be in striking distance, but that I really leave up to (jockey) Cornelio (Velasquez) because you don't know how the race is going to fall. I hate to give him instructions to put him on the lead and then they break slow and the jock feels obligated to put him on the lead. That's counterproductive."
Krypton Factor (Kyllachy) won the 2012 Shaheen for Bahrain and owner/trainer Fawzi Nass, was third in 2013, but well beaten last year when finishing 10th. The dark bay gelding seeks to emulate Caller One (2001-2002), the only previous dual winner of the race.
"He is probably not as good as he was," Nass acknowledged. "That said, he has a decent draw and ran very well first time this season and a slow start did not help him last time on Super Saturday."
Krypton Factor will trot and swim over the final two days after working on the dirt track on Monday morning.
"He completed his work earlier in the week and will not do anything serious again -- his work is done," Nass said.
That course-and-distance Super Saturday contest, the Mahab Al Shimaal (UAE-G3), provided a surprise winner in the form of Shaishee (Indian Charlie). The five-year-old gelding is trained by Musabah Al Muhairi for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, as is Muarrab (Oasis Dream), winner of the listed Jebel Ali Sprint the day before Shaishee's Meydan success.
The owner's first retained jockey, Paul Hanagan, rides Muarrab with Dane O'Neill, also in the employ of the owner, aboard Shaishee.
Al Quoz Sprint jam packed with well-matched talent
Moreira rides Bundle of Joy (Magic Albert) for David Hall, who said, "We kept him in the quarantine area for a few days when he arrived which was always the plan. He went nicely on the track on Thursday and we are happy with him.
"We've had no complications with the trip and his wellbeing. People say his low draw near the far rail (in stall 2) isn't ideal but horses seem to race well from any gate down the straight."
Peniaphobia (Dandy Man) completes a really strong Hong Kong team in the race with Doug Whyte riding for Tony Cruz.
"He worked very well on the turf the other day and we expect him to be very competitive on Saturday," Cruz said. "He's 100 percent and he will run well. I believe his draw by the stands' rail (in far outside stall 16) is preferable so that's another boost. Really looking forward to the race."
Charlie Appleby will saddle Ahtoug (Byron), second in this race last year and narrowly denied by a head when going in the course-and-distance Meydan Sprint (UAE-G3) on Super Saturday.
"These are his optimum conditions," Appleby said. "Obviously it is a strong race but he should be thereabouts. He has been ultra consistent and has thrived once more during his second winter here in Dubai. Few other sprinters can match his consistency.
"We were delighted with his last run. He should be bang there again in what, for me, is one of the most exciting and competitive races on Saturday's card. It should be a great race to watch."
Sir Maximilian (Royal Applause), a first UAE winner for British-based Ian Williams, was the one who denied Ahtoug in the Meydan Sprint after being produced to lead right on the line by Kieren Fallon.
Williams was at the training track on Thursday to watch his six-year-old at exercise for the first time since his Super Saturday success over several of this Saturday's rivals.
"I'm delighted with him; he's in good nick, and Dawn Oxley, who has been with him in Dubai since January, has done a great job," said Williams, who has left a string of mainly jump horses back in rainy England to make his fourth but most important trip to the UAE this winter.
"He's the first horse I've run here, so there's been a lot to learn, but he is at the top of his game" Williams added. "It is exciting to have a runner on Dubai World Cup night."
Ahtoug actually led momentarily in the Meydan Sprint three weeks ago, having headed Caspar Netscher (Dutch Art) yards from the line. Andrew Mullen has the return mount on the latter for trainer David Simcock.
The conditioner sent Caspar Netscher to the training track, where the sprinter covered 1200 meters on the all-weather surface under a tight hold. The 2012 German Two Thousand Guineas (Ger-G2) winner was visibly straining for more rein at the finish, prompting Simcock to issue a positive bulletin about his prospects on Saturday.
"I think he has a live chance," the trainer said. "The Asian sprinters look very tough but mine has drawn well and he looks to have come forward for his prep run here (on March 7). That was a great run reverting to sprinting with him and he has done well since.
"He showed plenty of speed that day, he's in very good order and I like the fact he is drawn high (stall 11)."
One horse who enjoyed no luck in the Meydan Sprint on Super Saturday contest was Sole Power (Kyllachy), who will be contesting the Al Quoz Sprint for the fifth consecutive year. Second in 2012 and a close fourth in 2013, the multiple Group 1 winner can certainly not be ruled out, assuming the gaps appear for him and Richard Hughes in the closing stages.
"We have been very pleased with his preparation," trainer Eddie Lynam said. "We all know he is more than capable of a big run but his style of running does often mean we need a bit of luck."
Sole Power stayed in the quarantine yard on Thursday morning where he was walked and jogged.
"He stayed in here more to protect himself from himself than anything else," Lynam explained. "He is very fresh. He will go back to the training track tomorrow morning where we are hoping for a slow canter. But he probably will quicken a bit."
Tamarkuz's odds reflect draw in Godolphin Mile
At the other end of the draw spectrum is Surfer (Distorted Humor), winner of the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (UAE-G2) on the first night of the 2015 Dubai World Cup Carnival. Trained by Satish Seemar, the chestnut gelding drew the dreaded gate 16 whereas stablemate Gold City (Pivotal), second to Tamarkuz in his last two starts, fared a bit better in stall 10.
"If any horse deserves a decent draw it is Surfer," Seemar bemoaned. "He has been so unlucky with draws so many times. We have to hope but it will be little short of a miracle if he was to win from there.
"With Gold City the draw is less of an issue as he comes from off the pace."
Richard Mullen rides Surfer with Marc Monaghan, unable to utilize his apprentice claim, aboard Gold City.
Another local hope dealt a cruel post is Layl (Street Cry), to be ridden by Pat Dobbs for Doug Watson.
"Disappointed would be an understatement, when I saw the draw," Watson said of his charge drawing stall 14. "Pat knows the horse well so we will probably just have to let the speed horses get on with it and try to pick up the pieces in the straight.
"At least our horse will face the kickback and he is going to be a really nice horse next season."
The Jeremy Noseda-trained Sloane Avenue (Candy Ride) was considered a Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) prospect but has been off the track since November. In his last race the chestnut beat Dubai Turf (UAE-G1) runner Cladocera (Oasis Dream), who has since gone two-for-two at Meydan this season, on the Kempton all-weather but also has a poor draw in 15.
Big-race jockey Frankie Dettori, who arrived at Meydan for the Breakfast With the Stars, said, "I'd have preferred to be drawn somewhere in the middle, but he's the best horse in the race and if I can get a clear run, he'll be knocking at the door."
Noseda was on hand for the first time to watch the four-year-old Sloane Avenue in action under traveling groom David Bradley. The pair completed a circuit of the main dirt track, stepping on the gas in the straight.
"That was excellent, just what we wanted, because he did his main work last Friday," Noseda said.
Trainer Eddie Kenneally was also looking on for the first time this week after arriving in Dubai as his runner, Bradester (Lion Heart), galloped 2400 meters on the dirt under exercise rider Julie Stormfelt.
"I like what I see," Kenneally said. "I hadn't seen him in a week (since the five-year-old shipped to Dubai from Florida) and I didn't see any change. Sometimes when they ship you can see the stress of the trip in the way they look, but I didn't see any."
Kenneally also observed that Bradester seemed to be travelling well over the Meydan track, which he found to be similar to the surface at Churchill Downs.
Since Bradester typically likes to race close to the pace in his races, he should be suited to racing at Meydan, he added, noting that horses with tactical speed fared well in the dirt races during the Dubai World Cup Carnival.
While Bradester has not raced since last September, when he won the Ack Ack H. (G3) at Churchill Downs and then was unplaced in the Kelso H. (G2) at Belmont Park, Kenneally said the horse has run well in the past after a break from competition.
DUBAI WORLD CUP 2015
GODOLPHIN MILE (UAE-G2), 1600M, 8:40 a.m. (all times EDT)
DUBAI GOLD CUP (UAE-G2), 3200MT, 9:15 a.m.
U.A.E. DERBY (UAE-G2), 1900M, 9:55 a.m.
AL QUOZ SPRINT (UAE-G1), 1000MT, 10:30 a.m.
DUBAI GOLDEN SHAHEEN (UAE-G1), 1200M, 11:05 a.m.
DUBAI TURF (UAE-G1), 1800MT, 11:40 a.m.
DUBAI SHEEMA CLASSIC (UAE-G1), 2410MT, 12:15 p.m.
DUBAI WORLD CUP (UAE-G1), 2000M, 1 p.m.
Shared Belief to Charles Town Classic
It will be Shared Belief's first start outside of California and Hollendorfer is expected to point the classy gelding toward the $1.25 million Metropolitan H. (G1) on the June 6 Belmont Stakes undercard afterward.
Sise pleased with Prospect Park; Smith regains Santa Anita Derby mount on Bolo
Prospect Park (Tapit) arrived on Santa Anita's grounds Tuesday from his San Luis Rey Downs headquarters for the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 4. Trainer Cliff Sise Jr. couldn't be happier with the status of the Pam and Marty Wygod homebred, who finished second while making his stakes debut in the March 7 San Felipe (G2).
"He galloped here yesterday," Sise said Thursday morning. "He'll work five furlongs on Saturday. It's a very good crop (of three-year-olds) this year, and thank God, they're not dropping like flies like they did last year.
"Right now, I'm as happy as I could be. He's doing great."
A winner of a record 21 Breeders' Cup races and considered by many to be the best big-money rider in American Racing, Hall of Famer Mike Smith took off Bolo (Temple City) to ride Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense) in the San Felipe but will regain the mount on the Carla Gaines-trained colt for the Santa Anita Derby.
Bolo won two of his first three starts with Smith on grass, including the one mile Eddie Logan on December 27, prior to running a big third in the San Felipe, beaten only 1 3/4 lengths by Dortmund (Big Brown) in his first dirt start.
Smith was asked if Bolo can turn the tables on the unbeaten Dortmund.
"We're sure hoping so," he said. "He had a slight tendency to get tired the other day. He made a beautiful run, looked like he was going to be a big part of it, but he just got tired.
"He missed close to three weeks of training in between the Eddie Logan and the San Felipe, so he definitely had a license to need that race and it should move him forward, but you just hope it moves him forward enough."
Smith, who will also ride Far Right (Notional) in the April 11 Arkansas Derby (G1), was asked who was the most impressive three-year-old he's seen so far.
"I think Dortmund is the best three-year-old because he hasn't missed a beat," Smith said. "He's the only one that's been marching straight through. He hasn't missed training. He hasn't missed anything. I think he'll want every bit of a mile and a quarter and he's already proven he likes Churchill Downs with the way he won there (last November).
"American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) ran really well at Oaklawn the other day. I'm not sure how much was in that race and it was his first race back, but he surely can't be as tight as Dortmund is right now, so I'd have to give the edge to Dortmund."
In other Santa Anita Derby news:
Bob Baffert said Thursday morning he is considering the Santa Anita Derby for One Lucky Dane (Lookin at Lucky), a 9 3/4-length winner of his three-year-old debut over entry-level allowance/optional claiming foes on March 19. The bay colt was making his first start since finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).
"I might run him," Baffert said. "He likes this track. He's two-for-two on it (One Lucky Dane broke his maiden by 9 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita last October). Either that, or I could wait for the (April 11) Lexington (G2) (at Keeneland). Now's the time to find out if you fit."
La Tia retired, will visit Candy Ride
"She is the best horse I've ever been around and she means a lot to me, " said De La Cerda, also a former assistant to Noel Hickey and Mike Stidham. "She is so fast and is a very sound and happy horse who gives 100 percent in every race. She is one of the best turf fillies in the country and has a great attitude.
"She could race another season (through 2015), but (Hernandez) would like to breed her. I would love to run her on Kentucky Derby Day to show everyone how good she is one more time, but she has nothing to prove. She's a Grade 1 winner and will make a great broodmare."
According to De La Cerda, La Tia is scheduled to leave Fair Grounds for Lane's End Farm near Versailles, Kentucky, on Sunday afternoon.
Asian runners have high hopes in Australian Group 1s
With a winner and a runner-up at the Group 1 level for its first-up competitors at Rosehill last weekend, the Japanese have staked daunting claims to the rich spoils set to be offered at Sydney's The Championships on April 4 and 11, and the nation rolls out what could be the strongest of its invaders in To the World (King Kamehameha) in Saturday's A$1.5 million The BMW (Aus-G1).
To The World flashed promise when runner-up in last year's Satsuki Sho (Japanese Two Thousand Guineas) (Jpn-G1), and he solidified himself as one of the top horses in the country with a runner-up finish to Gentildonna when stepping up to 12 1/2 furlongs for the Arima Kinen (Jpn-G1) when last seen on December 28.
The BMW has been a rich hunting ground for Melbourne Cup (Aus-G1) winners in recent years, with the likes of Makybe Diva and Might and Power having proven victorious.
Thus it is no surprise to see last year's Melbourne Cup hero Protectionist (Monsun) prominent in the betting. The five-year-old has failed to shine in two outings thus far this year, including a last-out eighth in the Australian Cup (Aus-G1) going 2000 meters two weeks ago, but he will appreciate the added distance on Saturday in The BMW.
Godolphin import Hartnell (Authorized) has made a big impression in his first two Australian outings this campaign -- a runner-up finish to stablemate Contributer (High Chaparral) in the Chipping Norton S. (Aus-G1) and a victory in the Sky High S. (Aus-G3) over this track and trip two weeks ago -- and he seeks his first score at the highest level.
One race earlier, the Vinery Stud S. (Aus-G1) is a key prep race for the April 11 Australian Oaks (Aus-G1), and the China Horse Club's First Seal (Fastnet Rock) is still considered the leader of her division despite being turned over first-up against elders in the Coolmore Classic S. (Aus-G1) two weeks ago.
First Seal was just nipped on the wire after traveling wide that day and has strong claims at Saturday's 2000 meter distance, having finished second to the colt Hampton Court (Redoute's Choice) in last season's Spring Champion S. (Aus-G1) at the same distance. Trainer John Thompson told Racenet First Seal has come through her season opener well and "hasn't left an oat."
James McDonald will ride First Seal for the first time, replacing regular rider Blake Shinn.
One who undoubtedly fits the distance profile is Set Square (Reset), last season's Crown Oaks (Aus-G1) winner who has yet to race outside Victoria. Set Square has placed in a pair of leadup races at seven furlongs and a mile, and should be ready for this jump back up in trip.
Thunder Lady (Mastercraftsman) finished second to Set Square in the Crown Oaks and has also spent her first two starts of the season building up to a favorable distance. She has been off-the-board in her two starts this season but will undoubtedly relish the added ground.
International Star tops nine-horse Louisiana Derby
"We have a good enough horse; we'll be fine," Maker said of the outside post.
Campaigned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the reigning back-to-back Eclipse Award-winning owners, International Star would be the first sophomore to sweep all three races since Friesan Fire in 2009.
War Story (Northern Afleet) will be looking to turn the tables on his rival after finishing second in the Lecomte and Risen Star. Installed as the 4-1 co-second choice, the Tom Amoss-trained gelding has never finished worse than second in four career outings, capturing his first two outings at Churchill Downs (maiden special weight) and Fair Grounds (entry-level allowance). Joe Talamo will pick up the mount on the stalker.
Risen Star third-placer Keen Ice (Curlin) and fourth-placer St. Joe Bay (Saint Anddan) will also be back for the Louisiana Derby. The late-running Keen Ice is listed as 5-1 co-fourth choice for Dale Romans and retains the services of James Graham. Risen Star pacesetter St. Joe Bay is expected to show speed once again for Peter Miller and the 10-1 outside adds a new pilot in Robby Albarado.
Mr. Z (Malibu Moon), who is 4-1 on the morning line, invades from Oaklawn Park for Hall of Fame conditioner D. Wayne Lukas. Third in both the Smarty Jones and Southwest (G3) this season, the chestnut colt has placed in a total of seven stakes since capturing his debut last June. Mr. Z will shed blinkers after wearing the headgear in his last five starts and Kent Desormeaux will take over the reins.
Stanford (Malibu Moon) will represent leading trainer Todd Pletcher in the Louisiana Derby. An allowance/optional claiming scorer in 2015 bow at Gulfstream, the bay colt finished second most recently in the 1 1/8-mile Islamorada on March 6 but was disqualified and placed sixth by the stewards. He receives a new jockey in Florent Geroux and is an early 5-1.
Rounding out the field are a trio of expected longshots: A Day in Paradise (Yes It's True), Defondo (El Corredor) and Fusaichi Flame (Fusaichi Pegasus).
I'm a Chatterbox seeks Fair Grounds sweep in Oaks
I'm a Chatterbox will face seven rivals in the Fair Grounds Oaks, which will award points on a 100-40-20-10 basis to the respective top four toward a starting berth in the May 1 Kentucky Oaks.
Forever Unbridled (Unbridled's Song) has thus far picked up 14 points, good for 16th place on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard, thanks to running second in the Silverbulletday and third in the Rachel Alexandra. The Dallas Stewart will jump all the way to first with a win in the Fair Grounds Oaks, a race her older full sister Unbridled Forever finished third in last year. Unbridled Forever would go on to fill that same spot in the Kentucky Oaks, a race the duo's dam, Lemons Forever (Lemon Drop Kid), actually captured in 2006.
Brian Hernandez Jr. has the call on Forever Unbridled for the Fair Grounds Oaks.
The rest of Saturday's field would need some improvement to beat I'm a Chatterbox, with the most likely candidate being maiden Danette (Curlin). The Keith Desormeaux pupil has yet to post a win, but she has finished third in the Chandelier S. (G1) and ran fifth by just 1 1/2 lengths in last season's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). Shook Up (Tapit), a 13-length maiden victress, is also in with a chance after a wide-trip fifth in the Rachel Alexandra most recently.
Ekati's Phaeton faces familiar foes in Gulfstream Park Oaks
Luis Saez has been aboard for all three of Ekati's Phaeton's starts this year and retains the mount Saturday as the filly tries two turns for the first time.
"She's doing outstanding. She has a tremendous amount of speed, and we are seeing if we can lengthen it out," Kaplan said. "It's all a progression, and this is a test of two turns. Training-wise, she's doing well going into this race and she's learned how to relax a little bit, and I'm hoping we get the two turns without a problem.
"Speed and talent and heart, she's got all that. Now we've got to make sure we've got the ability to not use the speed early and that's what the two turns is all about."
The Oaks will be the season opener for a pair of fillies in Cristina's Journey (Any Given Saturday) and Danessa Deluxe (Summer Bird). The former captured the Pocahontas S. (G2) at Churchill last September before being unplaced in her next two, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Golden Rod S. (G2), while Danessa Deluxe took a Gulfstream Park West allowance/optional claimer by 5 1/4 lengths before running fourth while making her stakes bow in the Delta Downs Princess S. (G3).
Twilight Eclipse gets time to shine in Pan American
"In our previous races, I thought we were a little bit unlucky. When we faced him in the United Nations (G1) at Monmouth, we were unfortunately pinned inside a little bit, and Main Sequence got the jump on us, and also in the next race at Belmont (Turf Classic [G1]), something similar happened where he got first jump on us, but I had no excuses last time. We got the first jump and we still got caught, but our horse is doing really good, and I feel really good about our chances this weekend."
Imagining (Giant's Causeway), last year's Man o' War (G1) winner, is looking to rebound in the 1 1/2-mile turf event after sub-par performances in the Gulfstream Park H. (G1) and Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) in his last two. The seven-year-old chestnut finished in close attendance to Twilight Eclipse multiple times last season.
Trainer Graham Motion, who conditions Main Sequence, has a serious contender in Glenard (Arch), a sharp second in the Fair Grounds H. (G3) in his U.S. debut. Also exiting that race is third-place finisher Pyrite Mountain (Silent Name), who narrowly missed winning a Grade 3 at Kentucky Downs last fall.
The likely pacesetter is Change of Command (Gators N Bears), who held on for third in the Mac Diarmida at odds of 30-1.
Riposte (Dansili), a Group 2 winner in England and the U.S., is the one to beat in the $150,000 Orchid (G3) for fillies and mares, also at 1 1/2 miles on the turf. The Juddmonte Farms homebred captured the Ribblesdale (Eng-G2) at Royal Ascot at three, the Sheepshead Bay (G2) and New York (G2) at Belmont last year, and enters off a second in the February 21 The Very One (G3) in her first start in nearly eight months.
Primary challengers include Tabreed (Sakhee), third in The Very One last time and making her final start before retiring to WinStar Farm for broodmare duty; Photo Call (Gallileo) third in the December 27 La Prevoyante H. (G3) in her stakes debut for Graham Motion; and French stakes-winning import Beauty Parlor (Elusive Quality), who makes her U.S. debut for Christophe Clement.
Among those set to oppose is multiple Grade 3 winner Sandiva (Footstepsinthesand), most recently the heroine of the Suwannee River (G3); Grade 2-winning speedster Istanford (Istan); Lady Lara (Excellent Art), first in the Pebbles and second in the Mrs. Revere (G2) in her two U.S. outings last fall; Marbre Rose (Smart Strike), who took the South Beach when last seen in December; and the multiple stakes-placed Party Now (Tiznow).
The male counterpart to the Honey Fox, the $150,000 Appleton (G3), features local Grade 1 scorer Lochte (Medaglia d'Oro) and the promising War Correspondent (War Front), third by a length in the Gulfstream Park Turf last time. Other contenders include Mr. Online (Silent Name), second by a neck in this event last season; Grand Tito (Candy Ride) and Aripeka (Bernstein), second and third, respectively, in the Canadian Turf (G3) last out; and gate-to-wire threat Excaper (Exchange Rate).
Encryption (Exchange Rate) could parlay an impressive second-level allowance win on February 22 into victory over 1 3/16 miles in the $150,000 Skip Away (G3). Grade 3-placed last season, the Kelly Breen trainee won the aforementioned allowance by eight lengths going 1 1/16 miles.
Among the hard-knocking opponents are Commissioner (A.P. Indy), last year's Belmont (G1) runner-up who is still seeking his first career stakes win, and East Hall (Graeme Hall), who landed the Indiana Derby (G2) and Millions Classic Preview before a second-place effort to returning rival Sr. Quisqueyano (Exclusive Quality) in the January 17 Sunshine Millions Classic.
The leading contenders in the $100,000 Sir Shackleton, a seven-furlong dash for older horses, are Fred W. Hooper (G3) winner Valid (Medaglia d'Oro), third last out in the Gulfstream Park H. (G2); multiple Grade 2 veteran Pants On Fire (Jump Start), unraced since mid-December; and the multiple Grade 3-placed Confrontation (War Pass).
New Orleans 'Cap, Mervin Muniz highlight Fair Grounds undercard
Since then Moreno has captured the Whitney H. (G1) and placed in the Woodward S. (G1) and Suburban H. (G2). The five-year-old bay gelding gets Joe Talamo in the saddle as he seeks his first win of 2015 on Saturday.
The New Orleans 'Cap also features the second- and third-place finishers from the February 21 local prep, the Mineshaft H. (G3). Mystery Train (Not for Sale) just missed by three parts of a length in the Mineshaft while making his fourth U.S. start. The Darrell Vienna charge is dual Group 1-placed in his native Argentina, but didn't show much in his first three U.S. starts against graded rivals until the Mineshaft. Grade 2 hero Red Rifle was making his five-year-old bow in the Mineshaft for trainer Todd Pletcher, and ran well to be third.
Florent Geroux was in the irons for Red Rifle's Hawthorne Gold Cup H. (G2) win last November and takes back the mount here while Francisco Torres stays aboard Mystery Train.
Also in with a shot is Grade 3 scorer Albano (Istan), who posted a 6 1/2-length triumph in the Maxaam Gold Cup at Sam Houston on February 28 in his final prep for this race.
The $75,000 Crescent City Oaks kicks off the day's black-type action when sending a field of 11 sophomore fillies a mile and 70 yards on the main track. Sibling War (Brother Derek) beat a number of others in this field last out in the Azalea S. including Forest Lake (Forestry), who will try to break a case of seconditis from her past three races, and Wind Chill Factor (Successful Appeal), who saw her three-race win streak against state-bred stakes rivals broken when third in the Louisiana Premier Night Starlet to the re-opposing Private Promise (Private Vow).
One race later, a full field of 14 three-year-old colts and geldings will go 1 1/16 miles in the $75,000 Crescent City Derby. The respective top three from the March 7 Pelican S. -- Cat Sup (Discreet Cat), Four Leaf Chief (Lookin at Lucky) and Charlie's Affair (My Pal Charlie) -- will once again challenge each other, while maiden winners Cajun Spirit (Bernstein) and Mobile Bay (Lone Star Special) make their stakes debuts.
The $60,000 Star Guitar S. will wrap up the state-bred stakes two races following the Crescent City Derby after attracting a field of 10 older runners going 1 1/16 miles. It's preceded by the $60,000 Costa Rising S., which drew 11 runners to go 5 1/2 furlongs on the Fair Grounds turf.
Upstart breaks outside as favorite in Florida Derby
Itsaknockout, who was elevated to first in the Fountain of Youth, remains undefeated from three starts, all at Gulfstream. He preceded that victory with maiden and allowance scores, both around one turn, but looked more than capable at a distance in his first two-turn attempt.
Pletcher trains Itsaknockout and Materiality (Afleet Alex), who enters the Florida Derby off two wins in as many starts. After a 4 1/4-length maiden romp going six furlongs, Materiality came back to win the nine-furlong Islamorada H. by 5 3/4 lengths earlier this month. Pletcher has experience getting lightly-raced colts into the Florida Derby winner's circle, having saddled Constitution (Tapit) last year in just his third lifetime start.
"To be running in the Florida Derby off three starts and two starts is fairly uncommon," Pletcher said. "We were able to do it with Constitution last year but it takes exceptional horses to do it, and so far these two have handled every step up that we’ve given them."
Ami's Flatter (Flatter) has placed in two of three stakes appearances this season, finishing second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) most recently. Trainer Josie Carroll found the timing of the Florida Derby worked out better than waiting a week for the Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland.
"The time-frame between this race and the (Kentucky) Derby is better," said Carroll, who saddled Ami’s Flatter for a second-place finish in the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream in January. "He seems to like this surface very much."
The remainder of the Florida Derby field are longshots Jack Tripp (Flatter), Indianaughty (Indian Charlie), Quimet (Birdstone), My Point Exactly (Concord Point), and Dekabrist (Street Boss). My Point Exactly, who broke his maiden by more than 10 lengths at Gulfstream last summer, will be making his first start since September 6 when he captured the Sunday Silence on grass at Louisiana Downs.
American Pharoah early favorite in final KDFW
Wagering in the three-day Kentucky Derby Future Wager finale opens at noon (EDT) on Friday and is set to conclude on Sunday at 6 p.m. (EDT). Betting will be available at Churchill Downs and other racetracks and off-track betting and satellite wagering facilities across North America. Wagering also is available at TwinSpires.com, the official online wagering platform of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, and other online wagering outlets.
Interest has been strong in this season's three previous KDFW pools. The betting total of $422,331 in Pool 3 pushed combined betting on earlier pools in November, February and March to $1,105,503. This is the second year that the Kentucky Derby Future Wager has been offered in a four-pool format that opens with three days of betting in late November.
The Kentucky Derby Future Wager enables fans to wager on America's greatest race well in advance of the famed Run for the Roses at odds that could be much more attractive than those offered on the day of the race. Winning payouts on all KDFW pools are determined by the odds that are in place at the end of the respective betting pool. Those winning mutuel payouts for the $2 minimum win and exacta wagers placed in each Kentucky Derby Future pool will be made following the running of the Kentucky Derby on on May 2.
No scratches or refunds are permitted during a KDFW pool. If Churchill Downs officials confirm that an individual horse will not participate in the Derby because of injury or other circumstance, wagering on that interest will be suspended immediately.
Other horses expected to draw strong support in Pool 4 include Sunland Park Derby (G3) winner Firing Line (Line of David) (#12, 12-1), unbeaten Withers (G3) winner Far From Over (Blame) (#10, 15-1), Holy Bull (G2) winner Upstart (Flatter) (#22, 15-1) and San Felipe runner-up Prospect Park (Tapit) (#21, 15-1).
The upcoming fourth pool features seven horses that were not a part of Pool 3, with six of them appearing in a Derby Future pool for the first time. Holy Bull runner-up Frosted (Tapit) (#13, 30-1) returns after appearing in Pools 1 and 2, and is joined by newcomers Ami's Flatter (Flatter) (#2, 50-1), Bold Conquest (#3, 50-1), Spiral (G3) winner Dubai Sky (Candy Ride) (#8, 30-1), Rebel runner-up Madefromlucky (Lookin at Lucky) (#17, 30-1), unbeaten Materiality (Afleet Alex) (#18, 20-1) and U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) contender Mubtaahij (Dubawi) (#20, 30-1).
Wagering interests for the Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools are selected by a committee that includes Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman, Senior Director of Communications Darren Rogers, Director of On-Air Racing Communications Jill Byrne, Pari-Mutuel Marking Manager Gary Palmisano and Vice President of Communications John Asher.
Real-time odds for each KDFW pool and other information on the wager and the Kentucky Derby are available at the official event web site at http://www.kentuckyderby.com/racing-wagering/future-wager/pool-4-final-odds.
Free Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances for wagering interests in Pool 4 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager are available at http://www.brisnet.com/brisnet_promos/KDFW4.pdf. Brisnet also has complimentary past performances for all Triple Crown nominees at http://www.brisnet.com/brisnet_promos/TC15noms.pdf.
Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner Bayern (Offlee Wild), with regular rider Martin Garcia up, worked six furlongs in company Thursday morning in 1:13 2/5 at Santa Anita. Stablemate Oh Billy Billy (Unusual Heat) was timed in 1:14 2/5. "Nice and easy" is how for Bob Baffert described Bayern's move, but the trainer offered no word on what race he might have in mind for the colt's four-year-old debut. Two-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder (Henny Hughes), unraced since capturing the Zenyatta (G1) in last September, worked six furlongs under exercise rider David Neusch in 1:12 2/5. "She's training great," said Richard Mandella, adding, "We're still working on where to start."...
Firing Line (Line of David) punched his ticket to the May 2 Kentucky Derby with a 14 1/4-length score in Sunday's Sunland Derby (G2). "He's back here at Santa Anita and will train up to the Derby," trainer Simon Callaghan said. "I was kind of hoping for that (kind of margin of victory). I think he needed to go and do that to really put himself into the Kentucky Derby picture."...
Trainer Todd Pletcher's three charges racing in Saturday's graded stakes -- Stanford (Malibu Moon), Divine Oath (Broken Vow) and Red Rifle (Giant's Causeway) -- have arrived at Fair Grounds and are no worse for the wear after shipping from their Florida base. With Pletcher assistant Adele Bellinger supervising them, the talented trio arrived around noon on Wednesday afternoon. "They all shipped well and are ready to run," Bellinger said. "It's nice when you have horses ship well for you. Sometimes they can come off (the van) caked in sweat." The first to compete on Saturday will be multiple Grade 3 hero Divine Oath in the $300,000 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial H. (G2). "The race seems to have come up nicely," Bellinger said. "I can't speak for Todd's exact thinking, but I would imagine it's a case of the right time and right distance for him." Grade 2 victor Red Rifle will break from the rail two races later on the card in the $400,000 New Orleans H. (G2). "Hopefully we have a better trip this time, like when he won (at Hawthorne)," Bellinger said in reference to Red Rifle's third in the Mineshaft H. (G3) last out. "Both times he's shipped in well and doesn't really turn a hair. It'll be good to have (jockey) Florent (Geroux) back on him." In the day's main event, the $750,000 Louisiana Derby (G2), Pletcher sends out Stanford off a runner-up effort, but placed sixth via disqualification, going the race's 1 1/8-mile distance in the Islamorada S. at Gulfstream Park. "He's only run four times, but he was really impressive in his first race this year and ran well last time," Bellinger said. "I think he will continue to improve. He's still lightly raced. He has a lot of energy and enjoyed the track today. He briefly tried to dump me, but then he settled. You want to have a horse showing some (energy) like that."...
Sweet Opportunity (Distorted Humor), who is scheduled to make her next start in the $400,000 Fantasy S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park on April 4, worked five furlongs over that venue's fast track Thursday morning. Under regular rider Luis Quinonez, the chestnut filly was clocked in 1:02 to record her second move since taking a March 13 entry-level allowance in her last start for trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel. Also pointing for the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy are Sarah Sis (Sharp Humor), who turned a half-mile in :50 2/5 and Oceanwave (Harlan's Holiday), who posted a five-furlong move in 1:01 3/5, both on Wednesday at Oaklawn. The duo ran one-two, respectively, in the March 7 Honeybee S. (G3)...
Though it was not unexpected, Brereton C. Jones' homebred Lovely Maria (Majesticperfection) was not entered in Saturday's $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2). Trained by Larry Jones, the bay miss was a game second last out to stablemate and Fair Grounds Oaks favorite I'm a Chatterbox (Munnings) in the Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) on February 21. "She's going to Keeneland -- that's the way it looks right now," Jones reported. "We'll enter in the Ashland." Lovely Maria exits a sharp bullet work on Monday at Fair Grounds, negotiating five furlongs in :59 1/5 -- faster than I'm a Chatterbox's :59 3/5 posting that morning. The $500,000 Ashland S. (G1) is slated for April 4...
Trainer Steve Asmussen is approaching another career milestone. According to Equibase, Asmussen entered Thursday with 6,995 career winners, the second-highest total in North American history. Asmussen only trails the late Dale Baird (9,445 career winners) and has 6,997 career victories worldwide. The two additional victories were in 2008 when Asmussen sent Curlin to the United Arab Emirates and won both starts, including the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1). Asmussen, 49, saddled his first career winner in 1986...
Laurel Park will end its winter meet Saturday with a day of giveaways, free live programs and admission, and the simulcast of the Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1). Laurel's live program Saturday will feature nine races, with the first race starting at 12:30 p.m. (EDT). Gates open at 9:45 a.m. for fans to watch and wager on the Dubai World Cup program, featuring Horse of the Year California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) and dual Eclipse champion Main Sequence (Aldebaran). There will be free coffee and donuts from 9:45-10:45 a.m. at Tips. Laurel will provide free live programs and admission Saturday as well as drawings to win infield tickets to Black-Eyed Susan Day, the Preakness infield concerts and the Brew & Bourbon Classic. The Maryland Jockey Club resumes live racing Thursday, April 2, at Pimlico. That meet will be highlighted by the 140th running of the Preakness S. (G1) on May 16...
As part of a pilot out-of-competition testing (OOCT) program, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) will be collecting hair, urine and blood samples from horses to be sold at this year's Barretts May Sale. This pilot program will not impact the conditions of sale for the May venue, and efforts will be made to minimize the inconvenience to both horses and consignors. The test results will not affect the sale of any horses at this auction. "We are pleased to be working closely with the CHRB as it explores a new OOCT standard for the sales industry" Barretts General Manager Kim Lloyd said. "The preservation of the integrity and credibility of sales programs is a top priority. Barretts will assist the CHRB with the process of introducing and implementing the OOCT pilot protocols at the upcoming May Sale."...
Newmarket Racecourse will introduce a change to the course layout of the Rowley Mile for this year's Guineas Festival scheduled for May 2-3. The starting gates, previously positioned in the center of the course, will now be placed alongside the stand-side rail. A false rail will also be introduced three meters off the permanent stand side rail and will cut in at the three-furlong pole. The maximum field size for the festival will be cut to 25 from 30 last year; however, over the last five years the festival has not had a race with more than 25 runners declared. The Jockey Club Racecourses' Head of Racing Michael Prosser explained the changes were decided upon with a view to preventing the field from splitting. "Following consultation with certain horsemen, it was agreed that the stalls would be positioned in the center of the course for the 2004 classics, which has remained the same ever since," Prosser said. "This has been a successful move and the best horse in the race has invariably won. However, tactics can lead to the field splitting, which was the case in the 2014 Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1), and this is unsatisfactory. By positioning the stalls against the stand-side rail and introducing a false rail at the three-furlong pole, we are encouraging the field to stay together with the false rail helping to eliminate any hard luck stories." Trainer Roger Varian voiced his support for the change. "I think it's a good thing that Michael Prosser and his team are thinking of ways that the showcase event gets run as fairly as possible as nobody likes seeing the race split," he said. "There is a strong argument for having the stalls against the stand-side rail to encourage the field to race as one. The false rail at the three-furlong marker should eliminate any hard luck stories, which are inevitable when large fields race against one rail. Truth will be in the running but I think it's certainly a positive development."...
The Hunter Valley, Australia's Thoroughbred breeding capital, is once again under threat from new coal mines, with the mining company Anglo American having submitted its third proposal to cut ground within miles of Darley and Coolmore. The plans submitted by Anglo American last year were rejected by the New South Wales government's planning assessment commission because the affected areas were too close to Darley and Coolmore, but Anglo American reportedly believes its latest proposal, which suggests breaking ground more than two kilometers from the farms, addresses all the previous concerns raised. The Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders' (HTBA) and Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Associations have called on political parties to protect their industries, according to Racing and Sports. "Together our two industries inject more than A$4.5 billion to the NSW economy, support nearly 100,000 jobs and attract over 3 million visitors every year to the Hunter region," HTBA President Cameron Collins said. "These are internationally and nationally recognized industries of state significance and should be protected. The equine and viticulture critical industry clusters are the bedrock of the Hunter's agricultural and regional economy. Our industries have been mapped and recognized as nationally significant. Yet they have not been protected from mining."...
Tattersalls has appointed established bloodstock agent John Fulton to be its representative in South America in a role that will complement that of Samir Abujamra, who will continue to represent Tattersalls in Brazil. Fulton, who trained for more than 15 years in America and whose success included the Japan Cup (Jpn-G1) with Mairzy Doates, moved into bloodstock work more than 25 years ago and is now based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His business focuses primarily on Argentina and Chile although he has also expanded to include Uruguay and Peru. "Tattersalls has long exported bloodstock to South America and it remains a market of key importance and we are delighted to have someone of John's extensive experience working for us," Tattersalls Chairman Edmond Mahoney said. Fulton added, "Horses purchased at Tattersalls have had an enormous impact on the South American racing and breeding industry and I am looking forward to assisting Europe's leading bloodstock auctioneers throughout the continent." John Fulton may be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org...
Bronzo (Fusaichi Pegasus) should appreciate the class relief in Saturday's $100,000 Tokyo City (G3) at Santa Anita. The six-year-old exits a pair of efforts behind the mighty Shared Belief (Candy Ride), finishing fourth in the San Antonio (G2) and fifth in the Santa Anita H. (G1), and is a likely favorite while dropping down to face seven rivals here at the 1 1/2-mile trip. Gary Stevens will ride the Neil Drysdale-trained gelding. Sky Kingdom (Empire Maker) captured the 2013 Tokyo City and returns to the fold after missing last year's edition. The Bob Baffert trainee will make his first start since a fourth in the Marathon S. (G2) on the Breeders' Cup Friday undercard. Multiple stakes winner Rousing Sermon (Lucky Pulpit) snapped an eight-race losing skein when capturing a February 20 allowance/optional claimer over the track and will attempt to carry his form forward for Jerry Hollendorfer...
Gulfstream Park will offer bettors a daily double wager Saturday on the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) and the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1). The Dubai World Cup goes off at approximately 1 p.m. (EDT), while the Florida Derby will go off at approximately 6:48 p.m. The World Cup-Florida Derby double will have a $1 minimum. The double will be taken in North America, Australia, South Africa and Germany...
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced that Gulfstream Park has earned reaccreditation from the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance. Located in Hallandale Beach, Florida, between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, the 76-year-old track is in the final days of its Championship Meet, which closes Sunday and is highlighted by Florida Derby Day on Saturday, with seven graded stakes topped by the $1 million Florida Derby (G1). Gulfstream Park received its initial Alliance accreditation in 2012 -- all accreditations and reaccreditations carry an effective period of two years -- and is one of 23 racing facilities currently fully accredited by the Alliance...
Popular longtime Southern California-based trainer Norman MacDonald passed away in Vancouver, B.C., this past January 16 at age 89. A former professional hockey player, he was perhaps best known as the conditioner of long-fused turf gelding Flying Gene. MacDonald was surrounded at his passing by his sons, former trainers Brad and Mark MacDonald.
MARCH 27, 2015
by Dick Powell
The $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) will be run for the 20th time at Meydan in the United Arab Emirates and for the first time since Meydan opened up six years ago, it will be run on dirt.
As I have pointed out in the past, when Meydan was opened with the main track being surfaced by Tapeta Footings, the races had full fields every year. On the dirt at the old Nad al Sheba track, there were times when the World Cup only had seven starters. At Meydan, a full gate of 14 to 16 starters was the norm.
With all the attention that the switch to dirt has garnered, and the appearance of 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) because of it, this year's Dubai World Cup has only attracted nine starters and one of them was quickly added when there was a defection last weekend due to injury.
Before the Dubai Carnival begins, a condition sheet is released with all the races laid out months ahead of time. On Tapeta, there was not a single main track race that did not fill.
This year, on the dirt, there were numerous instances of scheduled races not filling and being replaced by cheaper, $60K handicap races for horses rated 60 to 80. This is quite the comedown for a track that always had horses rated at least 95. Trainers like Mike de Kock came out at the start of the Carnival and said that he would not race over the dirt, but he quickly changed his mind as he trains for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum's Shadwell Stables and it was Sheikh Hamdan who was the primary proponent to move the main track races back to dirt.
So we have dirt at Meydan and we have California Chrome as a premier American presence on a card that is very strong. The Dubai World Cup will be decided by either the Americans (California Chrome, Lea [First Samurai] and the imported Candy Boy [Candy Ride]), the locals (last year's winner African Story [Pivotal] and Prince Bishop [Dubawi]) or the Japanese (Hokko Tamurae [King Kamehameha] and Epiphaneia [Symboli Kris S]).
The Americans will be very tough to beat. California Chrome can handle the distance but could lose a lot of ground from post 9. Because of the severe kickback on the dirt surface, horses that race in behind others usually hate it so their riders move outside to avoid it. Victor Espinoza, it says here, will have to send him to gain better position as the connections of the other horses have all publicly stated they need to race forwardly.
If the race turns into a slugfest and falls apart in the stretch, Japan Cup (Jpn-G1) winner Epiphaneia might pick up the pieces. Most of his races have been going longer and all came on the turf. He handled shipping when he went to Hong Kong and was beaten four lengths by Designs on Rome (Holy Roman Emperor) in the QE II Cup (HK-G1) and after winning the Japan Cup by four lengths, he finished out last season with a close finish in the Arima Kinen (Jpn-G1) behind Gentildonna, who made mince meat of her competition in last year's Sheema Classic (UAE-G1).
Epiphaneia is a mystery on dirt and the kickback could be a big problem, but he will be the strong horse in the stretch. His countrymate, Hokko Tamurae, is not a mystery on dirt as he is a Grade 1 winner over it in Japan and like 2011 World Cup winner Victoire Pisa, he does his best racing at 10 furlongs.
All reports coming out of Meydan this week indicate that Lea has thrived since arriving. He just missed in the Donn Handicap (G1) last out at Gulfstream Park and that race should set him up well for this. Nine furlongs is the farthest he has ever raced, but he certainly has the right running style and Joel Rosario should break him running from the gate.
The local horses have competed at the Dubai Carnival for years and a pair of eight-year-olds (African Story and Prince Bishop) could be taken for granted. Big Mistake! African Story won this race last year on the Tapeta and captured the final round of the 1 1/4-mile Maktoum Challenge (UAE-G1) on the dirt last out. His final time of 2:04 4/5 seconds was especially good since the race was run much earlier in the day and the track had not firmed up like it will this Saturday night when the sun goes down. Stablemate Prince Bishop unleashed furious rallies in the stretch to just miss in the last two legs of the Maktoum Challenge. He likes to go way outside for a clear run and will be coming again.
These veteran performers have taken to the dirt like they have raced on it all their lives.
One horse that deserves honorable mention is world traveler Side Glance (Passing Glance). At the age of eight, the multi-millionaire's accomplishments include a Group 3 victory in England; a Group 1 score placings in the prestigious Cox Plate (Aus-G1) and Caulfield Cup (Aus-G1) in Australia; a pair of thirds in the last two runnings of the Arlington Million (G1) stateside; and a fourth in the past two runnings of the Dubai World Cup. Throw in some trips to Hong Kong and Singapore and this guy's passport has been filled up in a remarkable career.
In an upset, I am going to go with Japanese invader Hokko Tamurae to take down the $6 million first prize. He has won his last three starts, two of them Group 1s, and had the perfect setup last month when he beat listed stakes foes as the 1-to-20 favorite. An earner of more than $8 million, Hokko Tamurae has won 15 of his 29 lifetime starts.
Last year, Hokko Tamurae raced in the World Cup on the Tapeta, ran poorly, then suffered a severe case of colic and had to be left behind before he was well enough to return to Japan. He has recovered nicely and should take full advantage of the dirt course to pull off the upset.
MARCH 26, 2015
Chrome lands outside for World Cup
by Emma Berry
California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) may have drawn widest of all for the world's richest race, Saturday's $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1), but his position in stall 9 came as welcome news for trainer Art Sherman.
"I love it," proclaimed the trainer at the glitzy gathering in the Meydan theatre. "Nine is a perfect position for our horse. I've got all the speed horses to the inside of me and he loves to run from the outside."
Sherman added, "(Jockey) Victor (Espinoza) knows him really well. I'm just really glad to be here. We've gotten a lot of texts. He's a rock star in California, I can tell you that."
"This horse has got some natural speed, and he can get out, get in and keep the dirt out of his face. This is a good post for us -- we're really happy with it," stated co-owner Steve Cobourn, who stood alongside Sherman for the draw.
"This has been an amazing journey for us, to end up here," Cobourn concluded. "The hospitality we've received here -- you know that tall building out there, the tallest building in the world? Take that times 10, that's the hospitality we've received here -- it's been fantastic."
California Chrome will have to get rolling early to take on Godolphin's defending champion African Story (Pivotal), who has been drawn in stall 3 and fared much better in his recent start when winning from a more prominent position throughout in the Al Maktoum Challenge (UAE-G1). The runner-up in that race, his stablemate Prince Bishop (Dubawi), drew the inside gate.
"He won this race last year. I'm happy with stall 3," trainer Saeed bin Suroor said in regards to African Story. "He won the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 -- good horses go on any surface and this is a very good horse."
Splitting the two Godolphin runners in stall 2 is Hokko Tarumae (King Kamehameha), whose compatriot Epiphaneia (Symboli Kris S) will be racing from one inside California Chrome in gate number 8.
Epiphaneia's trainer Katsuhiko Sumii was also happy with his draw, stating of last year's Japan Cup (Jpn-G1) winner, "He jumps out of the gates really well. This is a good draw to be able to see the inside horses."
Five was given to another of the American contenders, Lea (First Samurai), whose trainer Bill Mott lifted the first ever Dubai World Cup with Cigar. Mott attended the draw along with Walker Hancock and Bernie Sams of Claiborne Farm, where the six-year-old was bred.
"We're proud to have been associated with Cigar who won the first Dubai World Cup and we're excited to be back with Lea," Mott said. "I've heard that speed is a big asset here and he has tactical speed. We'll let him place himself and see what happens."
Mott added, "I think we got lucky. We'd have been happy with anything from the middle to outside draw. In a perfect world, we'd have liked to have been outside California Chrome, but we are still in a good spot."
The Doug Watson-trained Candy Boy (Candy Ride) was last to be selected and is in stall 6. Completing the field is the Salem bin Ghadayer-trained Long River (A.P. Indy) in stall 7 and Andrew Balding's admirable globetrotter Side Glance (Passing Glance), who was fourth in the last two World Cups and is drawn in stall 4.
Emerald shines bright for Powell
When Dark Emerald (Dark Angel) lines up for the $1 million Godolphin Mile (UAE-G2) Saturday, it won't just be a Dubai World Cup night first for the horse but also for his trainer Brendan Powell and jockey Adam Kirby.
Though an admirable campaigner at home in England, with five wins to his credit prior to shipping to Dubai, the hardy five-year-old has been something of a revelation since his arrival in the UAE in early January. From four starts on the turf at Meydan he has won twice and been second twice, most recently finishing runner-up to Safety Check (Dubawi) in the Zabeel Mile (UAE-G2) on February 26.
"The first time he ran I came over for a week to see the setup," said the Irish-born Powell, whose success as a jump jockey included winning the 1988 Grand National on Rhyme n' Reason. Since setting up as a trainer in 2000, he has prepared horses under both codes and currently has 23 Flat horses alongside his "10 or 12 jumpers."
"In Lambourn, we're so used to hill gallops and I got there and thought, 'How am I going to train him?'" he said. "We thought we'd run him twice and see how we got on. At the minute his work has improved so much I'm now wondering how I'm going to train him back in England, but a lot of it has to do with the warm weather and he's really blossomed since he's been out here."
As well as putting the finishing touches to the biggest runner of his career, Powell is also in the process of moving his horses from his Berkshire yard to next-door to David Lanigan at Kingsdown Stables, the former home to fellow World Cup night runner Main Sequence (Alderbaran). Though frustrating, the move takes him only a mile up the road, to a new base at Frenchman's Lodge.
While the trainer has been commuting between his horses in Lambourn and his stable star in Dubai, Dark Emerald has been looked after during his time at Meydan by Tom Cox.
"Tom's done a wonderful job with him -- he used to be a bit of wild lad but he's stepped up and taken the responsibility for him over here while I've been to and fro. I think he and the horse have grown up together," said the trainer, who first set eyes on Dark Emerald at the Goffs breeze-up sale in 2012.
"The horse had another two-year-old leading him and that doesn't happen very often these days," Powell recalled. "He was being pushed along past us but then I watched him go past the winning post and he half looked at the bend and his rider Rory Cleary gave him a slap on the shoulder and he just took off and galloped on halfway down the back straight.
"So we went and saw him with Bobby O'Ryan and we bought him -- his owners Ken and Caroline Rhatigan loved him. He ran against some good horses in nice maidens at two and all his form was good. Then he came back and won first time out at three -- he's best fresh, really."
Having been bought by the Rhatigans for £26,000, Dark Emerald now has earnings in excess of £215,000, with almost three-quarters of that tally having been earned in Dubai alone.
"I've nicknamed him the slumdog millionaire. He just keeps doing it for us," said Powell, who admits to relief that his pride and joy failed the strict vetting process required for Hong Kong when an offer came for him early in his racing career.
"He's never taken a lame step. He had some work done on his back when I noticed he was moving a bit short last year but he's been very sound," he said. "Last year he was running in the good handicaps at Goodwood and Ascot and he kept running well, finishing third and fourth, and that kept his mark high. I'm glad it did as we crept up to about a mark of 98 and I started to think he might be one to take to Dubai.
"I said to Ken that there was prize money down to sixth in these races and if he ran a couple of races in fourth or fifth he might pick up £15,000. We figured it would cost us £10,000 to come so we thought we might make a little bit but mostly have a bit of fun. He's now won £158,000. Before him I'd never even had a runner in a listed race and now he's been second in a Group 2."
Powell is deservedly enjoying his chance to shine on the big stage as a trainer, just as he once did in his riding days. The skills he possessed as a jockey have been inherited by both his children. Brendan Jr., 20, rides over jumps primarily for Colin Tizzard and his sister Jenny, 18, is a Flat apprentice formerly with Brown Panther's trainer Tom Dascombe but now attached to Henry Candy's stable after a winter riding trackwork in the United Stakes for Simon Callaghan.
"I'm proud of them both and they're both a lot cooler in their races than I ever was -- they are much more patient," Powell said. "When I rode in big races I was never nervous and I was never particularly animated when I won but with Dark Emerald this is something else. You're out there with all the big trainers -- Saeed bin Suroor came and congratulated me after his first win and I didn't think he even knew who I was."
Dark Emerald will face 15 rivals for the biggest challenge of his career on Saturday -- and his first on the dirt -- but the battler won't be running scared and neither will his trainer.
"He's a tough horse and he doesn't like to let others pass him," Powell explained. "He's been on the dirt for three and a half weeks and he's been training great. We've been working on making sure he jumps out of the stalls quickly -- all I want is for him to get out of the gate and be handy. Whatever he does, he's already done us proud.
"Being here in Dubai means an awful lot and we've had so much support from people, it's just brilliant," the trainer added. "I think it helps the sport to see smaller owners and trainers having some success like this. It makes everyone think that one day they could have a chance against some of the big names."
MARCH 25, 2015
American-based horses looking to make a serious impact in Dubai
by John Mucciolo
A very strong contingent of U.S.-based horses will take aim at various races during the 20th edition of the Dubai World Cup on Saturday at Meydan. With top runners in the most lucrative races on the day, the U.S. group might be leaving the desert with a lot of dirhams (dollars).
I've taken a look at a few of the major contenders below before departing overseas and will be reporting on-site this Saturday for the TwinSpires.com/blog.
World Cup (UAE-G1)
Reigning Horse of the Year California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) looms the one to beat and could be a fairly short-priced favorite in the marquee event of the day. The Art Sherman trainee was a big second in the San Antonio (G2) in his 2015 bow, finishing behind arguably the best dirt horse in training right now, and 'Chrome appears to be training forwardly since the tightener. Proven at the trip, the four-year-old has reportedly settled in nicely since his arrival and could spearhead a one-two finish from the U.S. runners.
Lea (First Samurai) is a most intriguing contender in the race and it should come as no surprise to see the six-year-old right there at the finish. Conditioned by Bill Mott, the Kentucky-bred is lightly raced since 2014 but has recorded four big efforts during that interval, coming up just short most recently in the Donn H. (G1). I'm expecting a big performance from the tactical chestnut as he makes his third start off a long layoff and Lea may wind up being my top selection. His running style, form and pedigree to thrive at the trip, combined, makes him most interesting.
Sheema Classic (UAE-G1)
Champion turf star Main Sequence (Aldebaran) has blossomed into a sensational performer since being importing to the U.S. and teamed with savvy horseman Graham Motion. The late-blooming six-year-old gelding does his best running late but leaves little doubt at the same time, and his last two performances were visually phenomenal. A decisive winner over a top the field in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) two prior, Main Sequence showed off his rapid acceleration in the stretch to take the February 21 Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1) with ease and could be even stronger for this test. In a field loaded like this one, it's possible that we might get a hint of value on the explosive closer.
Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1)
A three-pronged attack of U.S. entrants figure to have a big say in the outcome of this sprint event. Secret Circle (Eddington) has dropped six straight starts since winning the 2013 Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) and it's possible to doubt whether he'll be in absolute peak form on Saturday, but the Bob Baffert-trained horse almost always runs big (with five placings in his six losses) and figures to be ready for his Hall of Fame conditioner.
Grade 1 hero Big Macher (Beau Genius) is a touch below the top contenders in this heat, though the Richard Baltas-trained former claimer is more than capable on his best day, and American runners have had a huge impact on this race when on dirt, historically.
Salutos Amigos (Salute the Sarge) brings razor-sharp form with a four-race win streak and the five-year-old gelding packs an outstanding late punch for trainer David Jacobson. One of the top sprinters on the East Coast, he must avoid leaving himself too much to do, especially over a track that has played kindly to front-running types, but Salutos Amigos rates as a viable top-three contender if he shows up with his best.
Dubai Turf (UAE-G1)
The Todd Pletcher-trained Mshawish (Medaglia d'Oro) has been a fine performer this winter in Florida, reeling off a trio of stakes wins in succession, and is another who has impressed from a visual standpoint. The five-year-old may be a cut below a few of these from a class perspective, perhaps, but the Grade 1 winner has been in superb form. He checked in fourth last year behind the mighty Just A Way in this event and could be knocking at the door inside the final furlong on Saturday at a fair price.
Godolphin Mile (G2)
This race always seems difficult for me to gauge and it's the same situation in regards to the U. S. contingent this year. A three-pronged attack with Bradester (Lion Heart), Prayer for Relief (Jump Start) and Quadrivium (Henrythenavigator) will go postward, and while I am not fond with any of the trio, their dirt experience could be a big edge in a field that is often wide open. Of the group, Prayer for Relief has perhaps the best chance to pick up some pieces late after having knocked heads in some big spots stateside and could be a nice horse to key underneath in the vertical exotics.
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