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FRIDAY, APRIL 17, 2015

Triple Crown News & Notes

Upstart pleases Violette with return to worktab

Upstart (left) caught a tiring Gulfstream Park track when finishing second to Materiality in the March 28 Florida Derby (Brian Caputo/Coglianese Photo)

Kentucky Derby contender Upstart (Flatter) returned to the work tab Friday morning at Palm Meadows, recording a sharp four-furlong breeze in 47 2/5 over the fast track.

Winner of the Holy Bull (G2) earlier this season and most recently second in the Florida Derby (G1), Upstart spiked a fever last Saturday and missed a scheduled breeze for trainer Rick Violette Jr. He took three days off from training, but the dark bay New York-bred appeared strong in his return to serious work.

He posted the fast work of six at the distance and the gallop out may have been more impressive, as the sophomore strode out five-eighths in :59 2/5 under little to no urging from exercise rider Vicki King.

Following the work, King said her mount did not seem to display any ill effects from the missed time.

"It doesn't seem to have (made a difference)," she said. "I guess we'll find out. He seems fine after that. He had three days off, and on his first day back, he galloped quiet, which was perfect. You don't want to overdo it first day back. Since then, he's been great.

"He felt the same. He's push-button, too, really push-button. He'll just do what you ask him. If you want him to go faster, he will. If you want him to go slower, he'll do anything you ask of him. He galloped out really good, might have been a little bit too good! I think we're happy with him."

Violette was similarly in no shortage of superlatives when reviewing his trainee's performance.

"All in all, wow," he said. "He did things so easily. He wouldn't pull up on the backside. He galloped out three-quarters in 14 (seconds), and that was under orders for the rider on the walkie-talkie to ease him up. I'm not sure if we could have done things any differently or any better.

"He's just a good horse, and we try not to get in his way."

After cooling out, Upstart also received a positive report from the veterinarian. He was scoped and found to have no remaining mucus in his system.

"He just scoped clean," Violette said. "He's cooling out great. We'll see how he comes out of it."

Violette elected to move Upstart's rescheduled breeze up a day when discovering rain in the forecast for Saturday. He said that decision will allow his trainee to have an extra day to recover if necessary.

"We breezed a day early, so now I have an extra day to let him bounce out of this if it's taken any toll on him, which I don't know if it did," the conditioner said.

Violette noted that the ease with which Upstart breezed might have been the most impressive aspect of the work.

"He's not a brilliant workhorse. He'll do what you ask him to do, but today offered a lot for him," he said. "He fools people a lot. He looks like he's going in 50 and he goes in 47. He does what good horses do. Today, he showed us that we're not supposed to cancel any travel plans."

Owned by Ralph M. Evans, Upstart has earned $971,480 from a 7-3-3-1 career mark.

He will have one more breeze in South Florida late next week before departing for Churchill Downs on April 28.

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Bolo bound for Kentucky Derby; Metaboss expected in American Turf

Bolo worked five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 Friday (Benoit Photo)
Bolo (Temple City), whose Kentucky Derby (G1) status was questionable following a disappointing third in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), is on course for a tilt at the May 2 Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.

Trained by Carla Gaines, Bolo drilled five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 over Santa Anita's fast main track Friday morning. Gaines was pleased with the work and said that her charge would leave Santa Anita for Kentucky on April 26.

Bolo is best known as a turf horse, thanks to his 4 1/2-length romp in the Eddie Logan. But he ran well in his dirt debut in the March 7 San Felipe (G2), where he challenged unbeaten Dortmund (Big Brown) briefly before settling for third. He was expected to perform at least as well in the Santa Anita Derby, only to wind up 6 1/2 lengths behind the same rival.

Also on Friday, Santa Anita Oaks (G1) winner Stellar Wind (Curlin) went five furlongs in 1:01 under regular rider Victor Espinoza, who has the mount in the Kentucky Oaks (G1).

In other Derby news from Southern California, Firing Line (Line of David) plans to work at Santa Anita Saturday. The Arnold Zetcher colorbearer is likewise scheduled to fly to Louisville on April 26.

Trained by Simon Callaghan and ridden by three-time Derby winner Gary Stevens, Firing Line worked five furlongs at Santa Anita last Saturday in :59 1/5.

"He looked real good," Zetcher said of the front-running winner of the Sunland Derby by 14 1/4 lengths. "He did it easy, he went in 59 and change and galloped out (six furlongs) in 1:12. It was exactly the time we were hoping for. Gary liked the way he did it, too.

"We've run two horses in the Derby, Midnight Interlude, after he won the (2011) Santa Anita Derby; he didn't do well, and then Liaison, who came in sixth (in 2012). I think Firing Line could be our best opportunity.

Onetime Derby hopeful Metaboss is listed as probable for the American Turf (Keeneland/Coady Photography)
"He had six weeks between the Robert Lewis ([G3] February 7, when he was outdueled by Dortmund) and the Sunland Derby (March 22) and he'll have six weeks until the Derby. That was the plan all along.

"We thought the timing was right. There are good three-year-olds this year. Dortmund and American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) from here, and Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway) and Frosted (Tapit) from back East.

"The competition is stiff, but it's exciting."

El Camino Real Derby (G3) winner Metaboss (Street Boss), who ranked 25th on the Kentucky Derby points scoreboard, is now setting his sights on a different target -- the American Turf (G2) on the Derby undercard.

Most recently sixth as the 9-5 favorite in the March 21 Spiral (G3) over Turfway's Polytrack, Metaboss covered five-eighths in 1:01 4/5 on the fast track at Keeneland Friday. The Jeff Bonde pupil previously sped the same distance in a bullet :59 2/5 on the Keeneland dirt April 6.

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Churchill Downs to provide live streaming of Derby, Oaks workouts

Churchill Downs Racetrack, in conjunction with, will provide live online streaming of Kentucky Derby (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1) workouts when the exclusive 8:30-8:45 a.m. (EDT) training window begins Saturday in earnest.

The live stream presented by will be available at

Training hours at Churchill Downs will be 5:45-10 a.m. daily through April 30, with an 8-8:30 a.m. break to renovate the racetrack. A special 15-minute session from 8:30-8:45 a.m. is exclusive to Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks participants and any workmates. The specially-made Derby and Oaks saddle towels must be worn to gain access to the racetrack during that window.

Five of the top 20 horses on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard are on the grounds at Churchill Downs: American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) (trained by Bob Baffert, stabled in Barn 33); Far Right (Notional) (Ron Moquett, Barn 10A); Danzig Moon (Malibu Moon) (Mark Casse, Barn 36); War Story (Northern Afleet) (Tom Amoss, Barn 29); and Mr. Z (Malibu Moon) (D. Wayne Lukas, Barn 44).

Two others -- Keen Ice (Curlin) (Dale Romans, Barn 4) and Bold Conquest (Curlin) (Steve Asmussen, Barn 38) -- hope to get in the race if there are any defections.

The Mike Maker-trained International Star (Fusaichi Pegasus) -- the points leader who swept the Lecomte S. (G3), Risen Star S. (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds -- is expected to van from his base at Churchill Downs' Trackside Training Center for a breeze on Saturday. Danzig Moon, runner-up to Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway) in the Blue Grass S. (G1), will breeze five furlongs, according to assistant trainer Norman Casse. Both are expected on the track at 8:30 a.m.

Six of the top 14 fillies on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard are stabled at Churchill: Birdatthewire (Summer Bird) (Romans, Barn 4); Oceanwave (Harlan's Holiday) (Wayne Catalano, Barn 30); Maybellene (Lookin at Lucky) (Baffert, Barn 33); Puca (Big Brown) (Bill Mott, Barn 19); Shook Up (Tapit) (Asmussen (Barn 38); and Luminance (Tale of the Cat) (Baffert, Barn 33).

Forever Unbridled (Unbridled's Song) (Dallas Stewart, Barn 48) is next in line to gain entry into the field if there are any defections.

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Graded Recaps

Deceptive Vision narrowly best in Doubledogdare

Deceptive Vision is now a graded stakes winner on dirt as well as turf (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

Sam-Son Farm's homebred Deceptive Vision (A.P. Indy) narrowly prevailed over an unlucky Lunar Surge (Malibu Moon) in the $100,000 Doubledogdare (G3) at Keeneland on Friday.

The 6-5 favorite under John Velazquez, Deceptive Vision made the most out of a relatively clean trip. Fourth as Twenty in One (Invasor) led through splits of :24 1/5 and :48, she maintained that position when Blue Violet (Curlin) inherited the lead around the far turn and passed six furlongs in 1:12 4/5.

Bottled up behind runners most of the way, Deceptive Vision moved outside rivals around the far turn for clear running room, advanced during the short stretch and prevailed by a head in a time of 1:44 1/5 for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track. Trained by Malcolm Pierce, Deceptive Vision paid $4.60.

"She was traveling so well the whole way around," Velazquez said. "About the sixteenth pole, it looked like she was going to win easily. As soon as she opened up a half-length with the other horses inside her, she started waiting. Her ears went up and she saw the tire tracks (from the starting gate). She didn't really pay attention at all. So (I was) trying to keep her momentum going and keep her mind on running. She never saw the horse on the inside. I just wanted her to stay focused. She held on."

Lunar Surge, near the back for a large share of the race, attempted to squeeze through a non-existent opening at the rail in the stretch. When a gap finally appeared she darted up the rail under Corey Lanerie, but her bid came a couple of strides too late. She finished a half-length ahead of Blue Violet, who won a photo for third over Pretty Fancy (Lemon Drop Kid).

Completing the order of finish were Tiz Windy (Tiznow), Twenty in One, and Liberated (Curlin). Scratched from the field were Handmade (Candy Ride) and My Miss Sophia (Unbridled's Song).

A debut second to future Grade 1 scorer Coffee Clique (Medaglia d'Oro) at Woodbine in December 2012, Deceptive Vision won her next two starts over dirt at Fair Grounds before she was sidelined for a year. Returning to action in February 2014, the bay mare beat allowance foes on the Fair Grounds turf and then finished third in the Nassau (Can-G2), second in the Dance Smartly (Can-G2), first in the Canadian (Can-G2) and third in the E.P. Taylor (Can-G1), all on the Woodbine grass.

With this initial stakes win on dirt, and her first outing since October, Deceptive Vision has now won $462,355 from a line of 9-5-2-2.

Bred in Ontario, Deceptive Vision was produced by Grade 2 winner Eye of the Sphynx (Smart Strike), making her a full sister to Canadian champion Eye of the Leopard and multiple Grade 2-placed stakes winner Hotep. Also hailing from this family is Canadian Horse of the Year Quiet Resolve (Affirmed).

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Racing Headlines

Dozen Players to make Derby Show Bet for $1-million

Twelve players have a chance to win $1-million by making a $20 show bet on the May 2 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

The 12 players arrived at this point after making 19 successful show wagers on Kentucky Derby prep races February 7-April 11 culminating with American Pharoah's victory in the Arkansas Derby.

If more than one person hits his/her Kentucky Derby show bet then they will split the $1-million prize, which is available either as a 40-year annuity or with a 50 percent cash option. In addition to the $1-million prize, all players who have participated in the SHOWdown game on are eligible for a $10,000 Kentucky Derby prize pool as well as other prizes such as event tickets and swag.

The 12 surviving players are: Matthew Ball of California, Charles Cornish of Kentucky, Jeremy Enke of California, Justin Johnson of California, David Jones of Pennsylvania, James Levine of Kentucky, Burnett Polk of Kentucky, Kristin Stuedle of Kentucky, Bill Weber of Oklahoma, Robert Weir of Virginia, Kevin West of New York, and David Wielga of Massachusetts.

"My strategy has changed as I progress through the contest," Johnson said. "I started the game picking horses that I thought would win the race but eventually made picks based on who would have the best chance of hitting the board."

Wagering on this year's Kentucky Derby will begin on Kentucky Oaks day, Friday, May 1.

"We encourage all our players -- not just the 12 playing for a $1-million pool -- to fund their accounts early," Director of Communications Ed DeRosa said.

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Cozmic One trails in last as Tried and True breaks maiden

Friday's 2ND race at Santa Anita Park was supposed to be the start of big things for Cozmic One (Bernardini), the highly touted first foal of supermare Zenyatta, but it wasn't to be as Tried and True (Medaglia d'Oro) got up for the half-length win.

Attack (Quality Road), making his third start in this spot, took command soon after the start and established splits of :23 3/5, :48 2/5 and 1:12 4/5 while tracked by Volume (Blame) as well as Tried and True to his outside. Meanwhile, jockey Victor Espinoza allowed Cozmic One to settle in last, just like his late-running dam.

Tried and True put in his move three wide rounding the turn and Cozmic One was beginning his run after being more than 10 lengths back on the backstretch. The latter colt flattened out in the lane and was unable to pass a single rival as Tried and True grabbed the lead in the stretch. The eventual winner held off Volume to stop the clock in 1:37 for a mile on the fast dirt in the $57,258 maiden special weight.

Tried and True was making his second start in this spot after running sixth in his January 31 bow. In fact, every runner but Cozmic One had prior experience under his girth coming into Friday's contest.

Cozmic One never showed any speed in the race, running one-paced in last throughout. Trained by John Shirreffs, who also conditioned his immensely popular dam, the Kentucky-bred dark bay wound up 8 1/2 lengths behind Tried and True on the finish line after saving ground throughout.

Zenyatta was nearly undefeated in her career, racking up three championships and Horse of the Year honors while going 19-for-20. Her only loss came in her career finale, when the massive mare finished a head second while trying to become just the second horse to score back-to-back victories in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).

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Ben's Cat celebrates ninth birthday with runner-up finish at Pimlico

Veteran stakes king Ben's Cat will contest the Jim McKay Turf Sprint for the fifth straight year (Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)
Making his fourth start of the year and first since returning from South Florida, Bold Thunder (Bold n' Flashy) spoiled the 2015 debut of nine-year-old multiple Grade 3-winning millionaire Ben's Cat (Parker's Storm Cat) with a front-running, three-length victory in Friday's 2ND race at Pimlico.

Trained by Patricia Farro for owner Andrew Sulley, Bold Thunder led a field of five through a quarter-mile in :22 3/5 seconds and a half in :45 2/5 while Julien Pimentel settled Ben's Cat in second. Bold Thunder hit the wire in :57 3/5 for five furlongs over the firm turf course in the $55,000 allowance.

Ben's Cat -- bred, owned and trained by legendary Mid-Atlantic horseman King Leatherbury -- was making his first start since winning the Fabulous Strike H. on November 29 and went off the 3-5 favorite.

Friday's race came nine years to the day when the gelding was foaled.

"It was disappointing, naturally, anytime you get a horse that wins all the time and doesn't win. But, this is what happens in all races. We know there's no such thing as a sure thing," Leatherbury said. "He ran a good race, just not good enough. He met a horse that had everything his way. He was the only speed in the race, and he's a legitimate horse. He's beaten me before, and I've beaten him several times. He's a nice horse, and he beat us."

Named Maryland-bred Horse of the Year in February for an unprecedented fourth time, Ben's Cat had run in 23 consecutive stakes -- winning 13 and placing in seven others -- since finishing sixth in an allowance/optional claimer on April 21, 2012, at Pimlico.

Leatherbury will next point his dark bay charge to the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint, scheduled for five furlongs over the grass on May 15, Black-Eyed Susan Day at Pimlico. Ben's Cat won the McKay in 2011, 2013 and 2014.

"This should set him up for the next one. It's been a good spot for us," Leatherbury said. "He'll be ready for that. We'll go on and follow the same format as we did the last few years."

Ranked fourth all-time with 6,454 career wins, Leatherbury is a first-time finalist for induction into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame this summer in Saratoga Springs, New York. The Class of 2015 will be announced Monday.

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Full brother to Eight Belles makes stakes bow in Federico Tesio

All Hands flew home to earn his first victory (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Godolphin Racing's late-starting colt All Hands (Unbridled's Song) looks to continue the family tradition when he makes his stakes debut at Pimlico on Saturday in the $100,000 Federico Tesio S. for three-year-olds. 

Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, All Hands is a full brother to ill-fated filly Eight Belles, who won three consecutive stakes, including the Honeybee S. (G3) and Fantasy S. (G2), before breaking down in the 2008 Kentucky Derby (G1) after passing the finish line in second.

"He ran once in Florida and was real green, and didn't run well," McLaughlin said. "We put him on a van and sent him to Aqueduct to run long, and we won easy. He's trained very well since. It's a big step up from breaking your maiden to a stake but he's a quality colt." 

All Hands was never in contention in his February 7 debut at Gulfstream Park, but returned five weeks later with a front-running, seven-length score in a mile-and-70-yard maiden special weight, with jockey Jose Ortiz gearing down in the stretch. 

"It was a very impressive maiden win," McLaughlin said. "It was just breaking his maiden, but he did it the right way and that's what was encouraging."

A narrow 2-1 favorite on the Tesio morning line, All Hands will break from post 2 of seven in the 1 1/16-mile Tesio under jockey Fernando Jara.

"He's improving all the time, and he wants to go long," McLaughlin said. "The last race, it wasn't like we sent him and he has to be in front. He doesn't have to be there, but he does have speed. He's got a big, long stride and is a nice-looking colt. We hope to see him in some of the big three-year-old races in the summer and fall." 

One of All Hands' rivals on Saturday is Hillwood Stable's Top of Mind (Curlin), who will make just his third career start and first in a stakes when he breaks from the rail in the 1 1/16-mile Tesio. 

The three-year-old bay has been with trainer Rodney Jenkins at Laurel Park since late fall but didn't debut until mid-February, winning a six-furlong maiden race by 3 3/4 lengths. In his subsequent start, Top of Mind led into deep stretch before yielding late and finishing a half-length behind 39-1 longshot Noteworthy Peach (Read the Footnotes), who returns in the Tesio.

Favored in his first two outings, Top of Mind is the 3-1 third choice on the morning line. 

"He's a very big colt. As a yearling when we bought him, he was really big," Jenkins said. "We break all our horses in Florida and when I brought the other two-year-olds up I left him down there just to take our time. I knew if I got him here I'd probably run him. It was hard not to bring him here and go ahead with him because he's bred well enough to do pretty much what you want. I think some of these horses need a little time and he was young and he acted young. We just kind of let him tell us when he wanted to do it."

Jenkins plans to employ the same strategy when it comes to mapping out future spots for Top of Mind, who is Triple Crown nominated.

"This time of year if you've got a three-year-old, you find out what you've got a little bit and see where you belong," the horseman explained. "The colt's done everything we ask him. Knock on wood, he's sound. If he runs well, sure, we have aspirations. Again, we'll let him tell us where to go."

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Lovely Maria, Include Betty give owner two shots at third Oaks victory

Lovely Maria toured Keeneland's main track early Friday morning (Keeneland/Coady Photography)
Former Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones was at Keeneland early Friday morning, and part of his mission was to check on Ashland S. (G1) heroine Lovely Maria (Majesticperfection) and Fantasy S. (G3) victress Include Betty (Include).

Jones is the sole owner of Lovely Maria and owns Include Betty with his longtime farm manager at Airdrie Stud, Tim Thornton. Both fillies are likely to leave Keeneland next week for Churchill Downs and the 141st running of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 1.

"My job at the Oaks will be to be in charge of cheering," said Jones, who won the 2008 Oaks with Proud Spell and the 2012 Oaks with Believe You Can. "I let the trainers train and the riders ride. You surround yourself with good people and good things generally happen."

Larry Jones trains Lovely Maria and also was the trainer of Proud Spell and Believe You Can. Tom Proctor trains Include Betty.

Brereton Jones said his confidence level with his two fillies this year is similar to that of his two winning years.

"It is about the same," he stated. "I had the belief that they had done all they could to get ready."

There are other similarities.

Proud Spell never had run at Churchill prior to the Oaks and used a third-place finish in the Ashland as a final Oaks prep. Lovely Maria has not run at Churchill but will have her final pre-Oaks work next weekend at the Louisville, Kentucky, track as did Proud Spell.

Include Betty ran twice last fall as a two-year-old at Churchill, finishing third and fifth.

"Believe You Can ran there the year before in the fall and didn't do too well," Jones said, noting the filly's sixth-place finish in the Pocahontas (G2).

However things shake out in the Oaks, one thing is certain: Jones will have no trouble keeping track of his fillies.

"I haven't run two in the Oaks before, but I know where they will be. One of them will be last early," Jones said with a laugh, referring to the stretch-running Include Betty. "The other one should be close to the pace."

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Vintage Greenham on tap; Tiggy Wiggy auditions in Fred Darling

Saturday's Greenham S. (Eng-G3) at Newbury offers a middle ground for last year's sprinting juveniles attempting eventually to stretch out to the mile of the Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1), which is where Ivawood (Zebedee) is headed if he can prove his stamina here.

Westward Bloodstock's bay looked to have more than a fair share of star quality when capturing the July S. (Eng-G2) at Newmarket and Goodwood's Richmond S. (Eng-G2) over six furlongs last summer before surrendering his perfect record when nosed out by Charming Thought (Oasis Dream) in the Middle Park S. (Eng-G1), also over that trip back at Newmarket in October.

"We are very hopeful," trainer Richard Hannon commented. "We didn't go to Newmarket, because we wanted to run over seven before we went over a mile in the Guineas and he doesn't have a penalty. He'll definitely stay seven, but has an awful lot of speed so (the mile) is a concern. We won't know until tomorrow or possibly not even until the afternoon of the Guineas."

Jockey Richard Hughes added, "He's moving absolutely wonderful and although he's not much bigger than last year, he was big enough then. There is a bit of improvement left in him and I'd like to think that the run at Newbury will bring him on. I'd be disappointed if he got beat, as he's a very clear-winded horse and if he wins it's all systems go for the Guineas."

In what looks a much stronger trial than Thursday's Craven, Godolphin and Prince Faisal's Belardo (Lope de Vega) looks to uphold the impression he created when a clear-cut winner of Newmarket's Dewhurst S. (Eng-G1) in October.

Trainer Roger Varian commented, "I have been happy with Belardo throughout the winter and he has trained well this spring. I have always had it in my mind to run him in the Greenham as his prep race for the Two Thousand Guineas and I think it will put him just right for Newmarket in two weeks' time. He showed in the Dewhurst that he is a very high-class colt and this looks like the ideal spot to launch his three-year-old campaign."

Only fourth in the Dewhurst, Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum's Estidhkaar (Dark Angel) was notably slowly away and seemed to underperform after his taking wins in the Superlative S. (Eng-G2) at Newmarket in July and the Champagne S. (Eng-G2) at Doncaster in September.

"I've been particularly pleased with Estidhkaar," Richard Hannon said. "When he came back from Newmarket he had a tiny hairline fracture and didn't run his race. Physically, he's done probably the best of all of them. Ivawood seems to have a taller reputation, but I'm very happy with both of them."

Also in the Shadwell silks are Fannaan (Speightstown) and Muhaarar (Oasis Dream).

"Fannaan has won both his starts very nicely," racing manager Angus Gold said. "He's from quite a speedy family and, physically to look at, it wouldn't surprise me if he turned out to be a sprinter, but as with all the horses at this time of year you have to give them the opportunity to see if they can stay further. It's a similar thing with Muhaarar, who showed a lot of speed last year to win the Gimcrack (Eng-G2) and we'll see if he can stay a bit further this year or not."

On last year's sprinting form, there is no doubt that Tiggy Wiggy (Kodiac) is in a league of her own lining up for Saturday's Fred Darling S. (Eng-G3), but the small matter of a seventh furlong is the troubling scenario as connections face the age-old question of the spring.

Potensis Bloodstock's flying filly was ablaze in the Lowther S. (Eng-G2) at York in August and Cheveley Park S. (Eng-G1) at Newmarket in September, but that natural fire will have to burn more steadily in the hands of Richard Hughes Saturday.

"In her coat and physical well-being, she looks a million dollars and looks like a colt," he commented of the Hannon pupil. "If she stays, she stays and it's not the end of the world if she doesn't, so I'm going to try and drop her in. She's only been dropped in once in her career and she settled quite well and if I go and make it, I would then have to try and drop her in first time in the Guineas. I'd rather do the homework and use it as a trial on Saturday and hope that she settles."

While Hannon is a name accustomed to the big time, Jonny Portman is the opposite, but he supplies a genuine contender here in Royal Razalma (Lope de Vega). Successful in the five-furlong Cornwallis S. (Eng-G3) at Newmarket in October, the chestnut is stepping up markedly in trip but her conditioner is expecting her to relish the test.

"She has wintered well and she's training well," he told PA Sport. "We had anticipated starting her off on slightly softer ground, but it's not the end of the world. We are looking forward to seeing her out and seeing what her trip is going to be and how good she is going to be. I'd be confident of seven furlongs being no problem for her. It might give us some clues that she might get the mile as well."

John Gosden puts forward the promising Jellicle Ball (Invincible Spirit) for the Lloyd-Webbers and she looked a filly with a bright future when scoring on debut over this trip on Kempton's Polytrack in October.

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Kool Kompany can't be caught in Craven

Ignored by the jockeys of the leading fancies as well as the punters in Thursday's Craven (Eng-G3), Kool Kompany (Jeremy) enjoyed a perfect uncontested trip under the wily tactician Richard Hughes as most of his rivals pulled away their chances waiting for him to fold.

With the unexposed brigade struggling to change gear in behind, the battle-hardened front runner had only Nafaqa (Sir Percy) to worry about late on but always had that rival's measure as the 2-1 favorite Moheet (High Chaparral) stayed on in encouraging fashion without looking likely to threaten.

One of the blue-collar juveniles of 2014, Kool Kompany earned early black-type when taking the Rochestown S. at Naas in early June and by the end of that month had rebounded from a disappointing 12th placing in Royal Ascot's Coventry S. (Eng-G2) to regain the winning thread in the Railway S. (Ire-G2) at the Curragh. After a win in the 5 1/2-furlong Prix Robert Papin (Fr-G2) at Maisons-Laffitte in July, the dark bay was second to Dick Whittington (Rip Van Winkle) in the Phoenix S. (Ire-G1) back at the Curragh in August before finally feeling the effects of an arduous campaign when sixth in York's DBS Premier Yearling S. 11 days later.

Signing off with a fifth in the Middle Park S. (Eng-G1) after a relative holiday on Future Champions Day here at Newmarket in October, he entered this seemingly as a backnumber racing beyond six furlongs for the first time under a Group 2 penalty.

"He likes to be up there handy and have a bit of room, so it worked out beautifully," his rider commented. "When this track is riding firm and you have a bit of a tailwind, you can really bowl along and they are hard to peg back like the horse in the European Free yesterday. I had it easy to the three, he is a tough horse and there were some inexperienced horses behind me.

"He keeps popping back up, despite us overlooking him in the yard and he had a huge amount of experience and has a huge constitution. You won't get an easy lead in the (Two Thousand) Guineas (Eng-G1) and it might be tough for him to get a stiff mile, so maybe France or Germany might be better."

Kool Kompany is the second feature-race winner in the space of four days for the late Irish National Stud sire Jeremy after another of his three-year-old colts, Success Days, upset the Ballysax S. (Ire-G3) at Leopardstown Sunday.

Also Thursday, Astaire (Intense Focus) likewise used his early speed to good effect to land the Abernant S. (Eng-G3).

Despite his two-year-old exploits when winning the Gimcrack S. (Eng-G2) and Middle Park in 2013, Astaire always gave the impression he would be able to hold his own during the difficult sophomore season for sprinters and confirmed that with a second in the Duke of York S. (Eng-G2) last May. Contesting the four major British sprints thereafter, he was unable to land a blow on each occasion, running sixth in the Diamond Jubilee S. (Eng-G1) at Royal Ascot, 11th in the July Cup (Eng-G1) here and Haydock Sprint Cup (Eng-G1) and 10th in the Nunthorpe S. (Eng-G1) at York.

Run down late on by Naadirr (Oasis Dream) on his four-year-old bow in the Cammidge Trophy over this trip at Doncaster March 28, the bay faced nothing with that progressive profile here and with the help of conditions highly beneficial to front runners was able to register another pattern-race success. Soon at the head of affairs, Astaire had only the similarly prominently placed Watchable (Pivotal) to concern him where it mattered but drew on his extra element of class to prevail.

Now at the grand age of seven, the ultra-consistent French Navy (Shamardal) delivered arguably his most impressive display to date in the Earl of Sefton (Eng-G3), again showing he has more than enough ability to slap down the younger brigade.

Making it pattern-race win number three in Epsom's Diomed S. (Eng-G3) last June, the bay was rolling back the years to his salad days when successful in the 2010 Prix des Chenes (Fr-G3) at Longchamp and the following year's Select S. (Eng-G3) at Goodwood. Absent from Derby Day until the start of November, the homebred showed no ill effects when returning with a seventh black-type win overall in the Ben Marshall S. over a mile here and again demonstrated his potency when fresh on this seasonal bow.

Held up early traveling strongly, French Navy was angled wide by William Buick to swoop on Arod (Teofilo) just before the furlong pole and surge clear before idling close home.

"He seems to be getting better and that was an impressive performance," trainer Charlie Appleby said. "He built up so much confidence last year and wintered well and he proved me wrong with regards to the ground today. He tells me when he's ready to run and there are an array of options for him."

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Dutch Connection interest scooped up by Cheveley Park

Cheveley Park Stud has bought into last year's Acomb S. (Eng-G3) winner Dutch Connection (Dutch Art), a 25-1 chance for the Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1) May 2, according to Racing Post.

Cheveley Park, which stands Dutch Art, joins the colt's breeder, Susan Roy, on the ownership line, and Charlie Hills trains. Dutch Connection was last seen finishing third behind Gleneagles (Galileo) in the National S. (Ire-G1) at The Curragh in September, and he galloped on Newmarket's Rowley Mile before racing Thursday under William Buick.

"I am absolutely delighted with him," Hills said after Dutch Connection pulled away from a stablemate by five lengths. "It was great to get William back on board, as he has a great relationship with the horse. He said that he gave him a really nice feeling, while he showed a good turn of foot, which was nice to see. I didn't want him to come here and go through the motions; I wanted to give him a good blow up the hill."

Hills said his charge has progressed over the winter.

"He has certainly lengthened and looks pretty imposing -- whatever he did as a two-year-old was a bonus," Hills said. "I really think the Guineas will suit him, as they will go hard, while I see him as a mile-and-a-quarter horse in time. We have got an exciting couple of weeks ahead."

A short time later, Hills's father, trainer Barry Hills, sent out Sheikh Hamdan's One Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1) hopeful Fadhayyil (Tamayuz) for a seven-furlong gallop under Paul Hanagan.

"All I can say is that I've been very happy with her, as she has had a clear run all the way through the winter," the elder Hills said. "We took her through the motions today and she quickened up well when coming down the hill."

John and Julia Aisbitt's Malabar (Raven's Pass) will go straight to the May 3 One Thousand Guineas without a prep race, trainer Mick Channon told Racing UK. Winner of last year's Prestige S. (Eng-G3) at Goodwood, Malabar finished fourth in both the Moyglare Stud S. (Ire-G1) and Prix Marcel Boussac (Fr-G1).

"She's done very well over the winter and I think she's quite forward -- all the fillies are," Channon said. "We've had a pretty good run, lots of sun has helped, even though it's been cold."

The conditioner said he could see his charge successfully stepping up in distance.

"She could be a mile-and-a-quarter filly; she's in the French (Oaks [Fr-G1]), she's in everything," he noted. "All options are open with her really."

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Satono Crown favored in Satsuki Sho

Fifteen sophomores will face the starter Sunday in Japan's first colts' classic of the season, the Satsuki Sho (Japanese Two Thousand Guineas) (Jpn-G1), and Satono Crown (Marju) is the 2-1 morning line favorite as he looks to extend his unbeaten record to four.

Wrapping up a two-race juvenile campaign with a Grade 3 score under Ryan Moore at Tokyo in November, the dark bay resumed March 8 with a victory over Bright Emblem (Neo Universe) in the Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho (Japanese Two Thousand Guineas Trial) (Jpn-G2). That rival was also a Group 3 winner as a two-year-old, but could manage only seventh behind Danon Platina (Deep Impact) when trying Grade 1 company for the first time in the Asahi Hai Futurity. Bright Emblem's most recent performance suggests he has progressed, however.

Danon Platina won three straight last year after finishing a debut second, culminating in the Asahi Hai and juvenile championships honors, but he could manage only third on seasonal debut behind Kitasan Black (Black Tide) and Real Steel (Deep Impact) in the Spring S. (Jpn-G2) over 1800 meters of this Nakayama strip March 22.

Like the favorite, Kitasan Black goes into this classic an unbeaten three-for-three. He has made all his starts since January 31, and won over this 2000-meter distance at Toyko February 22. Real Steel got going shortly before Kitasan Black, breaking his maiden on debut December 27, and followed up in the Tokinominoru Kinen (Jpn-G3) February 15 prior to suffering his first defeat.

The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth S. (Eng-G1) winner Harbinger is represented here by his first-crop son Beruf. Among the more seasoned competitors in the lineup, Beruf has started five times for three wins, all over this 2000-meter distance. Beruf was fourth when dropping back to 1800 meters in the Spring S., and should relish the step back up in trip.

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Seven seek to prove Preakness worth in Federico Tesio

Noteworthy Peach makes his stakes debut in the Federico Tesio (Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)
Noteworthy Peach (Read the Footnotes), a winner in two of three starts this year, will try stakes company for the first time in Saturday's $100,000 Federico Tesio S. at Pimlico.

The 34th renewal of the 1 1/16-mile Tesio for three-year-olds, regarded as Old Hilltop's local prep for the $1.5 million Preakness S. (G1) on May 16, highlights a 10-race card featuring six stakes worth $575,000.

In 2003, trainer Gary Capuano sent Cherokee's Boy to the Preakness off a victory in the Tesio. Cherokee's Boy was already a four-time stakes winner by the time he ran in the Tesio while fellow Maryland-bred Noteworthy Peach has made a total of five starts for Capuano, all at Laurel Park.

"We're going to give it our best shot and if everything goes good, we'll see how he does," Capuano said. "It's exciting. It's good to have a horse that might be competitive in those kinds of races. I'm looking forward to later in the year because he may just get better and better. He acts like the farther he goes the better he's going to get. He's still got to prove it."

Noteworthy Peach ran for a tag in each of his first three starts, going winless at two before breaking through in a one-mile maiden event January 9 to open his sophomore campaign. Second in his first try against winners on February 7, he rallied from a troubled trip to take an allowance/optional claimer by a half-length March 28. 

"He really stepped up last time. He ran a huge, huge race," Capuano said. "Sometimes, those two-year-olds when they turn three they'll make those big jumps. Hopefully he'll be able to repeat that. My only question would be whether his best races are a one-turn mile. He definitely ran well going two turns at Laurel, but not like he did last time. He had kind of a rough trip and when he got outside he really kicked in and finished up that last quarter brilliantly. Hopefully he can go back to that race or at least close to it, anyway, and have a competitive chance." 

Noteworthy Peach went off at 39-1 in his most recent start, outfinishing favored Top of Mind (Curlin) to win by a half-length. Top of Mind and Ghost Bay (Ghostzapper), a distant fifth in that race, both return in the Tesio. 

"The race he was in last time looked like a really tough race on paper. There were some pretty nice horses in there," Capuano said. "It didn't look to me like he should have been (almost) 40-1 but being that there were a couple of horses that really looked outstanding, they took the action and made everybody else's odds a little bit different.

"Did I expect a race like that? No. Obviously, on paper he had to improve which he did. He improved dramatically. Everything's moving forward and looking good. I'm pretty optimistic and looking forward to see if he can repeat that." 

Maryland homebred Ghost Bay was third in his first two starts last year before coming from dead last to capture the December 27 Maryland Juvenile Futurity at Laurel. Given three months off, the dark bay colt returned to run fifth by 12 lengths in his sophomore debut, racing unusually close to the pace before fading down the stretch and leaving trainer Lawrence Murray wondering what kind of race is in store in the Tesio.

"I was very disappointed in his last race. It was very uncharacteristic for him. He was in front early, which is not the way he ran his three prior races. I was expecting him to always be a come-from-behind horse," Murray said.

"I don't know what to expect in the Tesio. Certainly, the outcome of the last race wasn't what I was looking for. He always breaks well and then takes himself back and makes a run. That day he was just very sharp for some reason. I don't know if it was the fact he hadn't run in 90 days or what, but it was kind of a surprise to see him run like that. I'm hoping he goes back to relaxing and making one run."

Like Noteworthy Peach, Top of Mind is making his stakes debut in the Tesio after going unraced at two. The bay colt has run twice this year, rolling by 3 3/4 lengths in a six-furlong maiden special weight on February 13 prior to the March 28 race at Laurel. 

"He ran a nice race the other day," trainer Rodney Jenkins said. "He got beat when that horse closed down on him really quick. It was a good race, and I think he should move up off of that effort." 

Veteran trainer Hamilton Smith entered another Maryland-bred gelding, Laurel maiden winner Slick William (Great Notion), for the Tesio, who is cross-entered in a 1 1/16-mile Pimlico allowance on Friday. Most recently, the bay gelding was fourth in the Private Terms S. on March 21. 

"He came out of his last race fine. I just ran a short horse there," Smith, 70, said. "He got a little tired the last part of it. I thought he should have been closer had he been fit enough. I don't know if he'd have won it but I think he could have been a few lengths closer, anyway.

"He should improve off that race. He's still learning, this colt. It takes him a little longer to get things together than some of the other horses I've got. I think the best of him is yet to come. He's learning and maturing all the time." 

Private Terms runner-up Bodhisattva (Student Council); All Hands (Unbridled's Song), a recent seven-length maiden winner at Aqueduct for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin; and Laurel maiden winner Jack O Liam (Lookin at Lucky), cross-entered in the same Friday allowance as Slick William, round out the field.

The other stakes on Pimlico's Saturday program are the 14th running of the $100,000 Dahlia S. for fillies and mares going one mile on the turf; the 15th running of the one-mile, $100,000 Henry S. Clark S. for three-year-olds and up on the turf; the 28th running of the $100,000 Primonetta S. for fillies and mares going six furlongs on the main track; the eighth renewal of the $100,000 Stormy Blues S., a five-furlong turf sprint for sophomore fillies; and the $75,000 Geisha S. for Maryland-bred distaffers at 1 1/16 miles.

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Shared Belief faces eight in Charles Town Classic

Shared Belief romped in the Santa Anita Handicap last out (Benoit Photo)
Despite the presence of champion Shared Belief (Candy Ride), a field of nine has been entered in Saturday's $1.5 million Charles Town Classic (G2). The lucrative contest is scheduled for 1 1/8 miles at the West Virginia track with an approximate post time of 6:05 p.m. (EDT).

Shared Belief brings a 10-0-0 mark from 11 career starts into the race, which will be his first outside of California. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee was unbeaten leading up to last year's Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), including Grade 1 scores in the Pacific Classic and Awesome Again Stakes, and wound up fourth in the Classic after a horrible start.

The dark bay gelding returned to the winner's circle to close out his sophomore campaign in the Malibu S. (G1) and thus far this season has added the Santa Anita H. (G1) and San Antonio Invitational (G2) to his resume. Mike Smith has been aboard Shared Belief since last July and makes the trip east along with his mount.

"It's an unknown," Hollendorfer said in regards to Shared Belief handling going around three turns on Charles Town's six-furlong track. "But we have a very athletic horse that has a big turn of foot. We think he should be able to handle that and get the job done, or we wouldn't come. I talked to Mike Smith, and he was quite confident the horse would do well there. (Smith) has done well there, himself, so I tend to think he knows what he's talking about."

Smith was aboard Game on Dude in 2013 when that multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire captured the Charles Town Classic, but the duo found themselves upset while going for a title defense last year by 26-1 longshot Imperative (Bernardini).

Imperative is looking for the upset yet again in the Charles Town Classic (Charles Town/Coady Photography)
Imperative, who is now seeking a title defense of his own, hasn't done much since his shocking victory. In eight starts since last April the bay gelding has placed just twice, finishing well-beaten thirds in the Pacific Classic and Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1). He even took a trip to the Japan Cup (Jpn-G1) but wound up next-to-last in that 16-horse field. Despite all that, trainer George Papaprodromou has not lost faith in his five-year-old charge.

"He got into trouble over there, bad trip and all that," the horseman asserted about Imperative's foray to Japan. "The plan was always to come out here to Charles Town and win this race. We always jump from one race to another, but the plan was to come here. Shared Belief is a great horse. He's a freak. But Game on Dude was a freak and unbeatable. He can run. He can do it."

Grade 1 victor Moreno (Ghostzapper) will try to provide an upset of his own Saturday evening for trainer Eric Guillot, but the bay gelding will have to do better than his second in the Big 'Cap on March 7. The five-year-old was easily caught by Shared Belief and left 4 1/4 lengths behind on the wire that day. He returned three weeks later to just miss by a half-length when third in the New Orleans H. (G2) last out. Cornelio Velasquez has the call for the first time on Moreno.

"On that particular track, at that particular moment, for that kind of money: If they ride him right, yes, he's got that kind of ability," Guillot replied when asked if Moreno could beat Shared Belief. "Three turns and a short stretch -- that's Moreno's type of racetrack."

General a Rod got back to his winning ways in the Challenger (SV Photography)
General a Rod (Roman Ruler) is looking for a return to the form that saw him be a major player in Florida's Kentucky Derby preps last season. The Kentucky-bred captured the Gulfstream Park Derby and placed in both the Florida Derby (G1) and Fountain of Youth S. (G2) prior to an unplaced effort in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

The dark bay colt was one of the few who contested all three legs of the Triple Crown, going on to be fourth in the Preakness S. (G1) and seventh in the Belmont S. (G1). The latter race was his final one as a sophomore, and General a Rod returned to be fourth in an allowance/optional claimer on January 14 before switching from Mike Maker's barn to Todd Pletcher's shedrow in time for a 6 1/4-length triumph in the Challenger S. at Tampa Bay Downs on March 7. John Velazquez was in the irons for that last one and has the call on Saturday.

"We've had this race under consideration for well over three seeks," Pletcher said. "He showed last year, on occasions, he's very good. He got time off in the fall and his last race was a step in the right direction. We're optimistic. It's his third start off the layoff, and, hopefully, he's sitting on a peak performance."

Completing the Charles Town Classic field are multiple Grade 2 victor Vyjack (Into Mischief), Grade 3 winners Looking Cool (Candy Ride) and Street Babe (Street Sense), multiple stakes hero Page McKenney (Eavesdropper), and stakes runner-up Warrioroftheroses (A. P. Warrior).

There are six other stakes on the undercard, headed by the $150,000 Sugar Maple S. sending distaffers seven furlongs. Prior to that is the $100,000 Robert Hilton Memorial S. at the same distance for three-year-olds, while the remaining four are all restricted to accredited West Virginia-breds.

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Whiskey Ticket, Cross the Line top Illinois Derby field

California Derby winner Cross the Line is one of two prior stakes winners in the Illinois Derby (Shane Micheli/Vassar Photography)

Bob Baffert famously trained the most accomplished Illinois Derby (G3) winner in history, but has not yet won the race himself. That could change Saturday when he sends out debut winner Whiskey Ticket (Ghostzapper) in the $400,000, 1 1/8-mile feature of the Hawthorne spring meet.

War Emblem captured the 2002 Illinois Derby, then a Grade 2 event at now-defunct Sportsman's Park, and was privately acquired by the Thoroughbred Corp. and Baffert prior to his wins in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1). Baffert's most recent flirtation with the Illinois Derby came last year, when his Midnight Hawk (Midnight Lute) lost in a tight photo.

Whiskey Ticket came out on the right side of a photo in a March 19 maiden event at Santa Anita over a mile after a prolonged stretch duel, a strong effort given he set quick splits of :22 3/5, :46 1/5 and 1:10 2/5, and relinquished the lead briefly at the eighth pole.

Also likely to attract significant support is Cross the Line (Line of David), who captured the California Derby at Golden Gate Fields in January and then ran second in the El Camino Real Derby (G3) over the same track the following month. Last time, he finished fifth in a six-horse Santa Anita Derby (G1) while making his dirt debut.

Hoping to move forward off recent allowance wins are Phenomenal Phoenix (Summer Bird), who won by a neck in the Oaklawn mud last month, and Verraco (Old Fashioned), who rallied from off the pace to win by a neck over the Santa Anita strip in late February. Exiting third-place finishes in allowance company at Oaklawn are Kantune (Kantharos) and Conquest Curlinate (Curlin), who are trained by last year's Illinois Derby-winning conditioner Mark Casse.

Lewys Vaporizer (Lewis Michael) goes for the upset after romping by 11 3/4 lengths against maiden foes at Hawthorne March 27. Stakes winner Private Prospect (Discreet Cat) has finished out of the money in four starts dating to November, while A. Rod Again (Awesome Again) adds blinkers following an allowance fourth at Fair Grounds.

The $150,000 Sixty Sails H. (G3), over 1 1/8 miles, has attracted a modest field of five fillies and mares. Multiple stakes winner Awesome Flower (Flower Alley) and Delta Downs stakes scorers Parc Monceau (Giant's Causeway) and Yahilwa (Medaglia d'Oro) are the main contenders.

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Unitarian goes for title defense in Elkhorn

Unitarian will try for a second straight Elkhorn victory at Keeneland (Keeneland/Coady Photography)
A contentious field of 11 grass runners has been entered to go 1 1/2 miles over Keeneland's turf on Saturday in the $250,000 Elkhorn S. (G2). Among that group is last year's victor, Unitarian (Pulpit), who is seeking to become the fourth consecutive winner of that contest.

African Dancer (1998-99), Kim Loves Bucky (2002-03) and Musketier (2010-11) were the previous back-to-back Elkhorn scorers.

Unitarian captured his seasonal bow, taking the H. Allen Jerkens S. at Gulfstream Park, but hasn't competed since that January 31 contest. The Todd Pletcher-trained five-year-old raced just three times following his Elkhorn score, taking the summer off and returning in the fall to be fifth in the Sycamore S. (G3) at Keeneland, fourth in the Red Smith H. (G3) at Aqueduct and fourth in the W.L. McKnight H. (G3) at Gulfstream Park.

Javier Castellano was aboard for Unitarian's last one and retains the mount Saturday.

Biz the Nurse (Oratorio) could be Unitarian's biggest rival in the Elkhorn, having captured his U.S. debut last out on March 7 at Gulfstream Park going 1 7/16 miles. A Group 1 winner in Italy, the Tom Albertrani-conditioned five-year-old is no stranger to running at 1 1/2 miles or farther. Castellano was holding the reins for the Biz the Nurse's stateside bow but relinquishes piloting duties to Luis Saez for this one.

Holiday Star (Harlan's Holiday) and Optimizer (English Channel) are both returning in this spot from vacations. The former went 2-2-1 from six starts last year, including a win in the aforementioned Sycamore, before closing out his four-year-old campaign with uncharacteristic eighth in the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2). Optimizer was making just his second start for new trainer Jose Fernandez when wrapping up the season with a seventh-placing in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) at Keeneland. He preceded that one with a nose second in Saratoga's Bernard Baruch H. (G2) and a double-digit loss in this same race.

Rajiv Maragh has the call on Holiday Star while Corey Lanerie will get a leg up on Optimizer.

My Afleet (Afleet Alex) brings a two-race win streak into the race while also making his first start following a long layoff. The gray gelding captured a 1 1/2-mile turf allowance at Saratoga last August before showing up at Kentucky Downs to take the 1 5/16-mile Dueling Grounds Derby to close out his sophomore season. Xtra Luck (Exchange Rate) boasts two starts this year already, including a nice win at Fair Grounds going nine grassy furlongs. The four-year-old gelding is making just his second stakes try here.

Completing the Elkhorn field are Grade 1 scorer Java's War (War Pass), Las Vegas Marathon S. (G2) victor Cary Street (Distorted Humor), Grade 3 winners Aldous Snow (Theatrical) and Dynamic Sky (Sky Mesa), and last-out Appleton (G3) fourth-placer Dramedy (Distorted Humor).

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In brief

Multiple Grade 3-placed and Bewitch S. (G3) hopeful Tabreed (Sakhee) worked five furlongs over the fast main track at Keeneland on Friday in 1:01 for trainer Christophe Clement. The bay mare recorded fractions of :24 3/5 and :48 2/5 in advance of the $150,000 Bewitch on April 24. Last-out Shakertown S. (G3) winner Something Extra (Indian Charlie) logged three-eighths in :37 1/5 at Keeneland for trainer/co-owner Gail Cox in preparation for a possible start in the $150,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3) at Churchill Downs on May 1. Multiple Grade 3 hero Clearly Now (Horse Greeley), trained by Brian Lynch and nominated to the $500,000 Churchill Downs S. (G2) on May 2, logged five furlongs in 1:01...

Corey Nakatani has been given the green light by Dr. James Tibone and will resume riding at Santa Anita next Friday, according to his agent, Tony Matos. Nakatani, 44, nominated to the Hall of Fame this year, suffered a fractured left collar bone when his mount clipped heels in a race on March 15...

NBC Triple Crown announcer Larry Collmus, a Baltimore native who got his start calling races at Bowie at the age of 18, and John Scheinman, recipient of the 2014 Eclipse Award for writing in a feature/commentary category for his moving story on the late horseman Richard Small, will be the recipients of the Old Hilltop Award for covering Thoroughbred racing with excellence and distinction at the Alibi Breakfast May 14 at Pimlico. "I am truly honored to receive the Old Hilltop Award. It means a lot to me having grown up in Maryland and starting my announcing career here, nearly 30 years ago," Collmus said. "Being a part of the incredible team at NBC Sports and getting the opportunity to call the Triple Crown has been a mind-blowing experience for me. Calling the Preakness (G1), in particular, for a national audience has been a dream come true." Scheinman said, "What a tremendous honor, to be included among some of the finest sportswriters and broadcasters ever. Red Smith, the first recipient of the Old Hilltop Award, was an enormous influence on my life and approach to writing, so this is extra special. I have attended and written about the Alibi Breakfast for years. It is a unique event in racing, and I cherish the way it connects the present to the past. Anyone who knows me knows Pimlico is my favorite track, and the Old Hilltop Award is such a wonderful prize. I wish Joe Kelly and Clem Florio were here to see this." Seats at the Alibi Breakfast are limited. For more information, contact

Last year's Melbourne Cup (Aus-G1) winner Protectionist (Monsun), a well-beaten seventh before pulling up sore in last Saturday's Sydney Cup (Aus-G1) at Royal Randwick, will be spelled six to eight weeks before connections reassess him with the hopes of embarking on a spring campaign, according to Racing and Sports. Tests performed this week revealed the five-year-old had a badly bruised left knee, but no chips or breaks. "It's good considering what we thought it was going to be this time yesterday," trainer Kris Lees told Racing and Sports. "He got down on his bumpers really badly (in the Sydney Cup) so he could have hyperextended (his knee), which caused some bruising and he did have some localized swelling behind his knee." If Protectionist is deemed healthy enough for an Australian spring campaign, a title defense of the Melbourne Cup will be his main goal...

A new national body, Racing Australia, has formed Down Under. Racing Australia merges three key national functions -- the Australian Racing Board, Racing Information Services Australia and the Australian Stud Book -- into one entity. The delivery of the organizations' services will remain the same, while the movement will consolidate the databases of the industry. The shareholders of Racing Australia are the eight principal racing authorities representing each state and territory, and Racing NSW Chairman John Messara was elected chairman of Racing Australia by his fellow directors at the inaugural board meeting Monday. "The integration of the databases will significantly enhance integrity and transparency and a number of initiatives in this regard will be announced in coming months," Messara said. "Racing Australia represents a long-held desire by the Australian racing industry for greater unity and cohesion between jurisdictions."...

Reigning Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) hero Hootenanny (Quality Road) is entered in Saturday's 4TH race at Keeneland, an allowance for three-year-olds going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf course. The race will mark the 2015 debut for the Coolmore-owned colt who last year won the Windsor Castle S. at Royal Ascot and was second in the Prix Morny (Fr-G1) at Deauville. "I really wanted to run at Keeneland," trainer Wesley Ward said about his decision to start Hootenanny in the race. "This was one of the spots to go unless we went over to Churchill and run him against horses that have already been running. I think it's a good starting point. We'll have to see where he's at this year, if his speed comes back from where we stretched him out or if he wants to go long. I think we'll answer those questions on Saturday." Ward also entered Mrs. John Magnier's Lookin At Lucky filly, Asia, in the same race. A half-sister to Grade 1-placed winner Pablo Del Monte (Giant's Causeway), Asia has won both her career races and is a "very talented filly," Ward said. "More likely only one will start because they're an entry," he said. "We'll decide on the day, but at this point, we're going to lean towards Hootenanny."...

Grade 3 winner Home Run Kitten (Kitten's Joy) has placed in his last three against graded rivals and on Saturday will attempt to return to the winner's circle in the $100,000 San Simeon S. (G3) at Santa Anita Park against seven rivals. The David Hofmans-trained four-year-old closed out 2014 with a close neck second in the Mathis Brothers Mile S. (G2) and has been third in his two starts this season, the Frank E. Kilroe Mile S. (G1) and Arcadia S. (G2), both at a mile. Home Run Kitten cuts back to 6 1/2 furlongs on Santa Anita's downhill turf for the first time since an 11th-placing in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1) and a nose victory in the Eddie D S. (G3) last fall. Gary Stevens took the mount for the Kilroe last out and retains the call in this spot. Joe Talamo had been Home Run Kitten's regular rider but will stick with downhill specialist Sweet Swap (Candy Ride) as he goes for a title defense in the San Simeon. Also entered is Pure Tactics (Pure Prize), hero of the Clocker's Corner S. and third in the Thunder Road S. thus far this year...

Executive Allure (Bold Executive) will look to add a graded stakes win to her resume in Saturday's C$150,000 Whimsical S. (Can-G3) at Woodbine. Trained by Darwin Banach, the four-year-old enjoyed a remarkable sophomore season in 2014, winning four of seven starts including scores in the Passing Mood S. and Jammed Lovely S. The dark bay miss finished second in Sovereign Award voting to Hillaby (Distorted Humor), who earned top honors as the nation's champion female sprinter. "I thought Executive Allure had a fantastic season," Banach said. "I expected Mark (Casse)'s filly (Lexie Lou) to win all the female categories, but I thought our filly would be tough in the sprint division. She won the most races, the most money, the most stakes, but they gave it to Hillaby." Executive Allure took two shots at a graded win last season finishing second in the grassy Ontario Colleen S. (Can-G3) and fifth in the Charles Town Oaks (G3). She makes her seasonal debut on Saturday in a tough field, but the placing has nothing do with winning awards. "The goal is to win races, that's all," Banach stated. "The awards are just the added bonus if you do very well. It's never our goal at the start of the year to win a Sovereign, we just want to be ready to win each and every race." Executive Allure wintered at Nelson Jones Training Center in Ocala, Florida. "She was in Florida all winter enjoying the sunshine. We got a few works registered for her," Banach noted. "She's a four-year-old now and the way the stakes schedule is set up, you have to be ready to go in the spring." The eight-horse field for Saturday's six-furlong Polytrack sprint includes a number of speedy stakes-winning fillies including Wild Catomine (Milwaukee Brew), Unspurned (Lemon Drop Kid) and Goldstryke Glory (Second in Command)...

Last-out Tropical Turf H. (G3) hero Lubash (Freud) faces seven rivals on Sunday while making his eight-year-old debut in the $100,000 Danger's Hour S. at Aqueduct. The one-mile turf contest will be the Christophe Clement pupils first start since taking the Tropical Turf in late November more than four months ago. Regular rider Junior Alvarado wasn't aboard that day but takes back the mount in the Danger's Hour as Lubash takes on Grade 2-placed dual stakes scorer Chamois (Smart Strike) and multiple stakes victor Awesome Vision (Awesome Again)...

Iowa-bred Net Gain (Include) has traveled north of the border for trainer Bill Mott in an attempt to earn his first stakes victory in Saturday's C$100,000 Wando S. at Woodbine. The bay sophomore took five tries to break his maiden, finally getting the job done going a mile on Aqueduct's inner track February 22, before shipping to Laurel Park for a rallying third in the Private Terms S. at 1 1/8 miles over a muddy, sealed track. Net Gain will be trying Polytrack for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile Wando, which also features last year's Coronation Futurity hero Decision Day (Macho Uno) and Grade 2-placed U S Marshal (Badge of Silver)...

Only four were entered in Saturday's $200,000 Distaff H. (G2) at Aqueduct, and defending champion La Verdad (Yes It's True) is the likely favorite as she squares off against multiple stakes winners Aireofdistinction (Songandaprayer) and Madooha (Daaher) as well as graded debuter Frivolity (Corinthian). La Verdad will break from the 4 post under jockey Jose Ortiz, who piloted the Linda Rice trainee during a four-race win skein that included the Distaff last year. The New York-bred bay was unable to factor when fifth in both the Honorable Miss H. (G2) and Ballerina S. (G1) at Saratoga, but bounced back to just miss by a head in the Gallant Bloom H. (G2) at Belmont Park. She captured her penultimate start of the year against state-bred rivals and returns to competition off a near five-month break. Mamdooha could challenge La Verdad as she is currently riding a five-race win streak that began with a maiden score at Aqueduct. The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained four-year-old has gone on to take the Gin Talking S., Ruthless S., Cicada S. and Correction S., and brings jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. along for the journey. Later on Saturday, six sophomores will line up in the $100,000 Woodhaven S. at 1 1/16 miles on the turf including last-out Palm Beach S. (G3) victor Eh Cumpari (Elusive Quality)...

Three Hearts (Hat Trick), caught late in the March 15 Santa Ana (G2) after taking a one-length lead in mid-stretch, will seek to make amends Saturday when she faces eight rivals in the $150,000 Santa Barbara H. (G3) at Santa Anita over 1 1/4 miles on the turf. Heroine of the Red Carpet H. (G3) at Del Mar in November, Three Hearts has narrowly missed in the Robert J. Frankel (G3) and Santa Ana in her two subsequent outings for owner Team Valor and trainer Neil Drysdale. Diversy Harbor (Curlin) will also attract significant support despite running sixth in the Santa Ana as the 5-2 favorite. The four-year-old previously missed by a nose in the Frankel and then captured the one-mile Buena Vista (G2). Also exiting the Santa Ana is Queen of the Sand (Footstepsinthesand), a disappointing eighth after finishing second in the Matriarch (G1) in her previous start. Others of note are the New Zealand Group 2 winner Habibi (Ekraar), third in a March 22 allowance in her first race since last June, and stakes winner Fanticola (Silent Name), who stretches out for trainer Phil D'Amato and was previously trained by the late Mike Mitchell. Earlier Saturday, eight three-year-olds will line up for the $75,000 La Puente over nine furlongs on the turf. Papacoolpapacool (Temple City) and Anytime Anyplace (Any Given Saturday), one-two in the $80,000 Pasadena on March 21, are the probable favorites...

Santa Anita will offer mandatory payouts for the Pick 5 and the Pick 6 on Sunday, closing day of the winter meet.



APRIL 18, 2015

Ivanhoe latest Aussie import

by Michael Sharkie

As dawn broke over Flemington Friday, trainer Lee Freedman unveiled perhaps the most anticipated European import to arrive in Australia since Hardwicke S. (Eng-G2) winner Sea Moon (Beat Hollow) stepped onto the same track in September 2013. Sea Moon has since been returned to Ireland by owner Lloyd Williams after a disappointing run, but Ivanhowe's (Soldier Hollow) connections are hoping their dual Group 1-winning German entire will enjoy a far more successful career Down Under.

Purchased by London-based agent and ex-pat Aussie David Baker on behalf of Australian clients in December, Ivanhowe will be prepared for the Cox Plate (Aus-G1) and Melbourne Cup (Aus-G1) later this year before embarking on an international campaign. Showing no signs of a brief bout of travel sickness acquired during transit to Melbourne, the Grosser Preis von Baden (Ger-G1) winner and conqueror of German Horse of the Year Sea the Moon looked in rude health when breezing down the Flemington straight, cuddled through the 800-meter heat by champion jockey Damien Oliver.

"We were thrilled to get a horse of his quality and despite a little bit of a rocky start he's been really well for the last 11 or 12 weeks," Freedman said. "I'm more than happy with his trial this morning, as was Damien and we may give him a little look around in a mile race in Adelaide in a few weeks."

Ivanhowe joins an ever-growing list of horses relocated from Europe to Australia in the last five years, with import rates doubling during that time. The Australian Stud Book shows that European imports represented 27 percent of total imports in 2014, up from just 12 percent in 2010. That number is expected to exceed 30 percent by the end of 2015 in a market that seemingly cannot be sated.

And this comes as Britain's Thoroughbred Breeder's Association hopes to plug the leak of its quality staying stock to Australia with the release of a study into the future of British stayers and staying races, which found that 50 individual stakes winners bred in Europe were able to win under Australian tutelage since 2011.

Although the TBA release roused interest among patriotic Brits, it barely caused a stir in Australia with a number of prominent buyers unfettered  by the news when speaking on industry radio station RSN  on Monday; they concurred the demand for tried stock is too great and sales prices too lucrative for  any call to curb trade to be taken seriously in either hemisphere any time soon.


APRIL 17, 2015

by Dick Powell


How else can you describe American Pharoah's (Pioneerof The Nile) win in Saturday's Arkansas Derby (G1)? If any Kentucky Derby (G1) contender wanted a perfect prep race to get ready, this was it.

Winner of the Rebel Stakes (G2) on a sloppy track in his first start in almost six months, American Pharoah still needed to show that he was going in the right direction with time running out. The gate-to-wire win in the Rebel showed that he can settle into a slow pace and then kick for home. But, the extremely wet conditions raised questions on how strong the effort was.

But on Saturday, the multiple Grade 1 stakes winner showed all sorts of new dimensions and answered every question about his ability to handle 19 rivals on the first Saturday of May.

Unlike in the Rebel, when he gunned to the front and never looked back, Victor Espinoza was able to get American Pharaoh to relax off a strong pace and resist the urge to challenge the leader until Espinoza asked him to. His stride was effortless and what you saw was a cruising speed that will help him enormously in the Derby.

After six furlongs in 1:10.54, Espinoza let it out a small notch around the far turn as stablemate Mr. Z (Malibu Moon) was making a strong move on the far outside and Bridget's Big Luvy (Tiz Wonderful) was not backing up. It might have been sooner than Espinoza wanted to move but move he did. He quickly drew away from the chasing pack at the top of the stretch and cruised to an eight-length win.

American Pharoah covered the nine furlongs of the Arkansas Derby in 1:48.52 seconds and earned a BRIS Speed rating of 102. It was his best two-turn effort and he is now three for three making two lefts. 

His win was the perfect combination of doing enough to gain conditioning from it without making it too hard to recover from. If he won too easily, you could question how much he got out of the race. If he won a really hard race, you could question does the effort set him back. I thought it was exactly what he needed and Bob Baffert has to be thrilled that he got through this last stage of the prep season with flying colors.

I know the timer doesn't lie and our eyes sometimes deceive us into thinking that a horse is doing something easily, but American Pharoah looked like the Arkansas Derby was being run at 9 a.m. with an exercise rider aboard instead of a $1 million Derby prep race. Visually, it was stupendous and done the right way. 

Unlike Bodemeister (Empire Maker), who romped by a wide margin in the Arkansas Derby for Baffert but might have paid for that herculean effort in the deep stretch of the Derby when run down by I'll Have Another, American Pharoah romped by a wide margin in a measured, controlled fashion and should be ready to move forward again. 

American Pharoah showed that he can break well, switch over to cruising speed and still finish with authority. He joins stablemate Dortmund (Big Brown) and Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway) as major Derby contenders with similar characteristics. It just seems that American Pharoah is coming up to the race better than anyone and without an extreme post position draw, I would make him the morning line favorite for the Derby. 

The Derby is in two weeks and most of the entrants will work this weekend and next weekend. The final workout gets a lot of scrutiny since many observers are on hand but pay attention to this week's workouts. Last year, Commanding Curve (Master Command) had a huge workout two weeks out and then had a more maintenance-like work the week before the race. 

He was no threat to California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) in the stretch but when Commanding Curve rallied for second at long odds, he blew up a lot of tickets that did not include him since his last workout was underrated. Don't make the same mistake.

Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather


For Saturday

Aqueduct   (4th) King Kongrats, 6-1
    (9th) Private Relations, 7-2
Charles Town   (2nd) Awesome Maddi C, 9-2
    (3rd) Gold for Cash, 3-1
Emerald Downs   (6th) Silly Streak, 9-2
    (10th) Bid for Pride, 7-2
Evangeline Downs   (3rd) Stinnett's Love, 7-2
    (5th) Ben's Juliette, 4-1
Golden Gate Fields   (3rd) Mambo Rock, 3-1
    (5th) Lucky Oracle, 9-2
Gulfstream Park   (2nd) Phil's Comprise, 7-2
    (7th) Dangerous Trick, 7-2
Hawthorne   (7th) Bold Annie, 4-1
    (8th) Call Me West, 5-1
Keeneland   (5th) Whiskey Shiner, 5-1
    (7th) Animal Kracker, 4-1
Lone Star Park   (7th) Valid Message, 4-1
    (8th) Nex Hal Comin, 3-1
Mahoning Valley   (2nd) Glorioso, 7-2
    (7th) Pure Gold Liner, 6-1
Mountaineer   (1st) Zephyrous, 3-1
    (9th) Destind to Pay, 5-1
Parx Racing   (2nd) Sense of Peace, 7-2
    (9th) Minnekin, 9-2
Penn National   (4th) Sharon Gunther, 9-2
    (5th) As Noted, 7-2
Pimlico   (1st) Emelina, 4-1
    (10th) Talk Show Man, 4-1
Santa Anita   (5th) Domingo Cat, 9-2
    (9th) Miltee, 6-1
Tampa Bay Downs   (2nd) Chrishi, 3-1
    (5th) Moonlite Matinee, 3-1
Woodbine   (7th) Escape Shaft, 6-1
    (9th) San Nicola Thunder, 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.


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