Son posts Royal upset in Battaglia; The Great War bled in last
The Great War (War Front) went off as the 1-5 favorite in Saturday's $116,450 John Battaglia Memorial S. after romping in the January 31 96Rock S., but the second leg of Turfway Park's three-year-old series turned out very differently. Beaten to the early lead by WinStar Farm's homebred Royal Son (Tiznow), The Great War retreated to last and was found to have bled. Royal Son spurted clear entering the stretch and held sway by 5 1/4 lengths for the 9-1 upset.
Sporting first-time blinkers for trainer Todd Pletcher, Royal Son was also crossing the wire in front for the first time. The well-bred colt had broken his maiden via the disqualification of Tradesman (Street Sense) at Gulfstream Park January 8. He made his stakes debut in the January 31 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs, where he never factored in seventh, but the equipment change woke him up here.
The Great War, who had flashed effortless speed in the 6 1/2-furlong 96Rock, tried to gun it early from post 11 in the 1 1/16-mile Battaglia. The odds-on choice couldn't quite cut across the whole field, however, for Royal Son stood his ground from his inside post 3 and held the lead into the first turn. After an opening quarter in :24 4/5 on the Polytrack, Royal Son received more pressure from The Great War through a half in :49 2/5.
Although they still matched strides at the six-furlong mark in 1:13 3/5, Royal Son was going easily, while The Great War was already under a ride. The race was essentially over rounding the far turn, as The Great War could not keep up, and Royal Son began to open up. He negotiated 1 1/16 miles in 1:46 4/5 and rewarded his loyalists with a $20.60 win mutuel.
Pepper Roani (Broken Vow), a recent maiden winner over the track, closed for best of the rest by 12 3/4 lengths. Milwaukee Mist (Milwaukee Brew) checked in third. Firespike (Flower Alley), the 6-1 second choice, wound up fifth.
The Great War was treated considerately by jockey Albin Jimenez, who took care of him as he faded through the field. He was the last of 10 to finish, and the reason was soon forthcoming: according to the chart, he bled. His poor loss has ramifications for Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which opened Friday and runs through Sunday. As of 10 p.m. (EST) Saturday, a little more than an hour after the race, The Great War's odds were 52-1.
Royal Son improved his record to 5-2-2-0, $133,825. The bay had finished second in a pair of Saratoga maidens last summer, yielding by a length to Pride of Stride (Candy Ride) on August 2, and no match for El Kabeir (Scat Daddy) on August 30. He was not seen again until his promoted maiden score at Gulfstream.
The Battaglia was not a points race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby scoring system. But with this victory, Royal Son stamps himself as a prime contender for the March 21 Spiral (G3) back at Turfway, a race worth 50 Derby points to the winner.
The Kentucky-bred is out of stakes winner Mama Nadine (A.P. Indy), who is herself a daughter of 1997 champion two-year-old filly Countess Diana (Deerhound). This is the further family of ill-fated multiple Grade 1 heroine Exogenous (Unbridled), multiple Japanese Grade 2 veteran Win Variation (Heart's Cry), and Hall of Famer Curlin (Smart Strike).
Royal Son's pedigree sports 4x3 inbreeding to 1977 Triple Crown legend Seattle Slew, and his dam, Mama Nadine, is inbred 3x3 to noted matron Lassie Dear (Buckpasser).
Stellar Wind flies to Santa Ysabel victory
"I want to thank David Ingordo; he found her for me. He was the agent on the deal, and the previous trainer (Donald Barr) did a nice job. She won easily when she broke her maiden back there with a pretty good number. She trained really well here so I was looking forward to this race today."
Enchanting Lady (Tale of the Cat) headed straight for the front from her inside post once the gates opened, but soon found company in the form of Light the City (Street Sense) to her outside. Rattataptap (Tapit) and Glory (Tapit) took up tracking positions just in behind those two, a move that almost proved disastrous for Rattataptap as she was forced to take up sharply off Enchanting Lady's heels rounding the first turn.
Those positions didn't change much on the backstretch through fractions of :23 4/5 and :48 3/5, but heading into the final turn Rattataptap began fading and Stellar Wind was winding up from her stalking spot near the rear of the field. It was four across the track -- Enchanting Lady, Light the City, Glory and Stellar Wind -- circling the turn and heading into the lane, but the eventual winner soon began drawing off from her rivals despite being widest of all.
Stellar Wind continued motoring under jockey Victor Espinoza to cross under the wire in 1:43 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track. Sent off the 7-1 fifth choice, she returned $16 for the win.
"I wanted to break and let her do whatever she wanted to do; I didn't want to irritate her, just make her happy," Espinoza explained. "They slowed the pace down so I had to move out a bit. They were walking up front so I had to press the pace by the three-eighths pole.
"She was just waiting for me to command her. I knew I could just shake the reins a little bit and she would go. I think farther for her would be better."
Light the City took second as the 2-1 favorite, easily holding Glory to third by 1 1/2 lengths, while Achiever's Legacy (City Zip) rallied late from her trailing position to get fourth another three parts of a length back.
"We were similar in placement to the Las Virgenes (G1) but it was a completely different race," remarked Light the City's pilot, Kent Desormeaux. "We were crawling today and really sprinted to the wire. It turned into a typical turf-style race where it's slow early but you sprint late. She was full of run under the wire but she had one that out-sprinted her. She's obviously very good."
Stellar Wind improved her record to read 3-2-0-1 and has accumulated $87,200 in lifetime earnings thus far in her short career. She not only earned a spot on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard for the first time, but jumped all the way into fourth with the Santa Ysabel win. Next up for the chestnut miss is the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) on April 4 at the same 1 1/16-mile distance as the Santa Ysabel.
"That would a logical spot at this point," Sadler confirmed. "I think she's going to be better at a a mile and an eighth, a mile and a quarter."
Bred in Virginia by Keswick Stables and Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC, Stellar Wind was purchased for $40,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected yearling before bringing $86,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Fall yearling.
She is the first registered foal out of the winning Evening Star (Malibu Moon), who is a half-sister to Grade 3-placed stakes heroines Im Out First (Allen's Prospect) and Zenith (Roy). The latter mare would go on to produce Grade 1 victor Great Hunter (Aptitude), and this female family also boasts multiple Grade 1 queen Love Sign (Spanish Riddle), dual European classic victress Melodist (The Minstrel).
Devine Aida sloshes to Herecomesthebride win
"I was sitting third when the three-horse on the lead drifted out," Rios explained. "At the three-quarter pole, I made the move to the lead. She ran a good race."
"I've trained many winners in Puerto Rico, but to come to America and win a race like this is a great feeling," said Morales, who trained more than 1,200 winners in Puerto Rico before coming to Gulfstream last year to train about a dozen young horses for Frank Stronach. "I am so grateful to Mr. Stronach for the opportunity."
"Once she went to the lead, I knew the race was over," the horseman added.
Devine Aida earned her fourth win in a row in this one and her second straight stakes score. The gray lass finished second in her career debut on the main track at Gulfstream before heading to Gulfstream Park West and getting her initial victory by five lengths on the dirt.
The filly recorded a nose triumph to close out her juvenile campaign when switched to the turf next out, and returned on January 3 for a 3 1/2-length win in her stakes bow, the Ginger Brew S., back at Gulfstream Park. With the Herecomesthebride added to her resume, Devine Aida now sports a 4-1-0 line from five starts and has banked $201,390 in career earnings.
Devine Aida will remain on dirt for her next start on March 28 in the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), which is run at the same 1 1/16-mile distance as the Herecomesthebride.
"We knew she'd be better the farther she went," Morales stated.
Bred in Kentucky by Alpha Delta Stables LLC, Devine Aida was purchased for $200,000 as a Keeneland September yearling prior to bringing $120,000 as an OBS June two-year-old from her current connections. She is the first registered stakes winner out of Grade 3 heroine Passion (Came Home), who is a half-sister to Grade 2 victress Kumari Continent (Kris S.).
Devine Aida's third dam, the unraced Begum (Alydar), produced such notables as Grade 2-placed multiple stakes winning sire Binalong (Known Fact) and her descendents include the likes of Grade 1 scorers Hymn Book (Arch) and Data Link (War Front).
Almoonqith takes Nad al Sheba Trophy marred by breakdown of Cavalryman
Almoonqith was completing a banner night for owner Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum and his retained rider Paul Hanagan, who won four races with horses from four different yards. The Musabah al Muhairi-trained Nolohay (Dubawi) and Jeeraan (Distorted Humor) from the Doug Watson yard captured the first two races, both on dirt, and Ertijaal (Oasis Dream) wired a turf sprint for Ali Rashid al Raihe to make it a treble.
"It has been an amazing evening," Hanagan enthused. "To ride four winners for Sheikh Hamdan anywhere is brilliant, but to do it here at Meydan on the world stage is extra special.
"We were pretty sure Almoonqith was going to stay the distance it was just a case whether or not he was good enough. As it transpired I was always happy and that was a big performance."
Until Saturday's renewal, Godolphin had a stranglehold on the Nad al Sheba Trophy, sending out all four past winners. The team's other two chances, Excellent Result and 2013 winner Ahzeemah (Dubawi), wound up seventh and eighth, respectively.
Bred in Kentucky by Padua Stables, Almoonqith sold for $725,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. He is out of Grade 3 heroine Bohemian Lady (Carson City), a half-sister to Grade 1-winning millionaire and sire Any Given Saturday (Distorted Humor).
Almoonqith began his career in France with Jean-Claude Rouget, winning once from seven tries. The dark bay joined de Kock for a 2014 campaign in Dubai, where he garnered a turf handicap and was unplaced in two outings on Tapeta. The five-year-old had won once this season, on a non-Carnival card January 17. After a fifth and fourth, respectively, in Carnival handicaps at about 1 1/4 miles, he was ready for more ground. This first stakes score advanced his resume to 15-4-3-1, $207,191.
In the opener, the aforementioned Nolohay led throughout to prevail by 3 1/4 lengths, finishing the metric mile in 1:38 in his dirt debut.
"We were drawn widest of all, but I was keen to get to the front and I was able to get across to the rail," Hanagan recapped. "I wanted to be positive as we know he stays further.
"Obviously we were out of any kickback and he has handled the surface really well and skipped over it."
The four-year-old Nolohay now sports a mark of 10-4-1-1, $204,834, including a third in last year's Prix Greffulhe (Fr-G2) for Carlos Laffon-Parias.
Jeeraan, who had outgamed stablemate Layl (Street Cry) February 12, has compiled a record of 8-3-0-1, $82,941.
Watson later sent out Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed al Maktoum's Henry Clay (Dubawi) to wire an about 1 1/4-mile dirt handicap. Under stable jockey Pat Dobbs, the six-year-old clocked 2:05 1/5 and upped his scorecard to 28-9-6-4, $253,675.
"Pat has given him a great ride," Watson said. "He is a very tough horse as he has shown throughout the season and once in front he is not easy to get past."
Godolphin's Footbridge (Street Cry), who placed in last year's San Diego (G2) and Awesome Again (G1) and was 10th in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), checked in fourth in his Dubai bow for Charlie Appleby.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed's colors were also carried to victory by Heavy Metal (Exceed and Excel), who readily handled the switch to dirt in his premiere for trainer Salem bin Ghadayer. Mickael Barzalona guided the five-year-old through about seven furlongs in 1:25 1/5.
"They went very quick," Barzalona said. "He responded well when I asked and stayed on strongly."
Previously with Mark Johnston, Heavy Metal is best known for his productive juvenile season of 2012, when he scored in the Richmond (Eng-G2) and placed in the Woodcote and Gimcrack (Eng-G2). He has since plied his trade in handicaps, and his resume reads 37-8-4-0, $477,033.
One race after Cavalryman was stricken, fellow bin Suroor pupils Haafaguinea (Haafhd) and Silent Bullet (Exceed and Excel) ran one-two in the nightcap. Ridden by William Buick, who was also aboard Cavalryman, Haafaguinea pounced in the stretch and fended off his stablemate. The five-year-old, who covered about 1 1/4 grassy miles in 2:03, had won over this course and distance two back on January 15. He has bankrolled $399,957 from his 12-5-2-1 record.
Pride of Dubai showcases big potential in Blue Diamond victory
Trainer Peter Snowden and jockey Damian Browne posted back-to-back successes in the A$1 million Blue Diamond S. (Aus-G1) as Pride of Dubai (Street Cry) overcame serious interference in the Caulfield straight to win by a head from Shadwell's 100-1 shot Reemah (Redoute's Choice).
The imposing colt missed the break and was pushed along to keep up with the early pace yet managed to secure a midfield position on the rail, stalking the short-priced favorite, Robert Smerdon's unbeaten Fontiton (Turffontein). Prompt Return (Beneteau) ensured that there was plenty of speed early on and the leaders began to weaken turning for home.
When Fontiton pulled off the front runners' heels to deliver her challenge, she and Pride of Dubai bumped on numerous occasions as Mark Zahra tried to hold his main rival in a pocket. However, the strongly-built colt fought his way through the narrow gap, picked himself up and rallied home to score impressively, resisting the storming late challenge of David Hayes and Tom Dabernig's Reemah.
"It was a bit hairy trying to get the gap," winning hoop Browne commented. "On straightening, Mark (Zahra) tried to shut the gate on me, but lucky I'm on a big, strong, good horse," he added. "He was able to do that just on pure ability."
Zahra subsequently earned a 10-meeting suspension from the stewards for careless riding.
Pride of Dubai became the first maiden in two decades to win Victoria's richest two-year-old event. Not only that, but the first three home were among four maiden horses going into the race as Coolmore's A$1 million yearling purchase Lake Geneva (Fastnet Rock), an eye-catching second in the Widden S. (Aus-G3) on debut January 31, finished strongly in third. The impressive second-placed Reemah had two previous runs under her belt, including a second in a 1000-meter plate at Moonee Valley last time out.
Market favorite Fontiton traveled well but failed to deliver her customary change of gear and will now be rested until the spring.
"She did have a hell of a hard run here in the (Blue Diamond) Prelude (Aus-G2) and she seemed to be back on deck, but that was probably her grand finale and she might have been over the top today," Smerdon said.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa's homebred Pride of Dubai was third behind Godolphin's Ottoman (Exceed and Excel) on his Rosehill debut December 20 before running a fast-finishing second to Of The Brave (Starspangledbanner) in the Blue Diamond Prelude (Aus-G3). That Mark Riley-trained colt raced prominently Saturday, but showed signs of tiredness entering the stretch and only beat two home.
Pride of Dubai provided Peter Snowden with his third Blue Diamond winner in five years, the first for the partnership he has been operating with son Paul since last May. Snowden Sr. was previously head trainer for another Sheikh Mohammed -- bin Rashid al Maktoum -- under the Darley banner, with his son acting as Melbourne foreman.
The team scored in last year's Blue Diamond courtesy of Earthquake (Exceed and Excel) -- who could only achieve 10th in the Oakleigh Plate (Aus-G1) Saturday -- and in 2011 with Sepoy.
"It's always great to win these races, especially for Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa," Paul Snowden said. "This is the first group of horses he's given us, so it's a big result. We picked this bloke out as a yearling. Out of a group of about 10 or 12 yearlings, he was the number one pick out of that bunch, so it was good of him to give him to us."
Reflecting on the race, the co-trainer commented, "If he didn't win today, he would have been a certainty beaten. To his credit he's picked himself up off the canvas and has proven himself a worthy winner."
Snowden Jr. kept all options open regarding the colt's future, identifying the Sires' Produce S. (Aus-G1) over 1400 meters and Champagne S. (Aus-G1) over a mile as ideal targets, although not ruling out a tilt at the 1200-meter Golden Slipper (Aus-G1).
Pride of Dubai is the fifth foal out of Al Anood (Danehill), a A$500,000 yearling purchase for Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa and half-sister to Prix de Diane (Fr-G1) heroine Rafha (Kris), who went on to produce seven black-type performers including the leading sires Invincible Spirit and Kodiac.
Smerdon had better luck in the Oakleigh Plate, where Shamal Wind (Dubawi) and Under the Louvre (Excellent Art) served up an exacta for the conditioner.
Out of the money in the Caulfield feature twice before, Shamal Wind was away alertly but raced near the back of the pack well off the rail from her outside draw. Going well into the turn, pilot Dwayne Dunn steered the five-year-old to the center of the track with 300 meters left to travel before setting her loose. The response was immediate, as Shamal Wind produced a sharp turn of foot to reach contention inside the final furlong and found the front in the shadow of the wire to win by a comfortable margin over Under the Louvre, who out-bobbed Fast n' Rockin (Fastnet Rock) in third.
Shamal Wind, first in a barrier trial last August, was third in the Sportingbet Sprint S. two starts later, before placing fourth in an 800 meter barrier trial at Cranbourne October 6. She earned a trio of thirds in the Sportingbet Series Final (Aus-G3) here October 11, the Perri Cutten Caulfield Sprint (Aus-G2) over 100 meters shorter later that month and in Flemington's G.H. Mumm S. (Aus-G3) November 6. Back in the winner's circle after being spelled in the listed W.J. Adams S. over 1000 meters at Sandown January 26, she was overlooked behind last year's Blue Diamond winner and Golden Slipper second Earthquake (Exceed and Excel).
"To be honest I'd lost sight of her and I was watching the other horse," Smerdon told racenet.com.au. "He was in front of her in the right spot and getting the cheap runs and I though we had it -- then she arrived on the outside. Obviously, it's a really good outcome, I've got to see the replay to appreciate it. The owners wanted to give her another try, keep her fresh and have a crack at a Group 1, so all credit to them."
Also at Caulfield, the Futurity S. (Aus-G1) was supposed to be heavy favorite Dissident's (Sebring) stomping ground, however the pint-sized Suavito (Thorn Park) finished with a late burst to lift her first top-level victory and deny that rival his fifth Group 1 win. The bay tracked an eager Dissident in fifth perched two deep through the early stages before keeping closer contact with the leaders leaving the bend. Shifted to the extreme outside with 200 meters left, Suavito put away Smokin' Joey (Encosta de Lago) to her inside and kicked away to win in style. Dissident stayed gamely on to be third.
Suavito, a consistent campaigner at the group level, started off her season with a win in a plate race here August 30, but, although never out of the top three, wouldn't return to the winner's circle until four starts later in the Eliza Park International S. (Aus-G3) October 25. She annexed the 2000-meter Momentum Energy S. (Aus-G2) November 8 and was shortening up for the Futurity's seven-furlong distance.
Originally targeting the Mannerism S. (Aus-G3) earlier on the card, winning trainer Nigel Blackiston opted for the weight-for-age Futurity instead.
"She was first-up and I though she'd end up carrying 59 (kilograms) against the mares," said Blackiston to racenet.com.au. "I thought the tempo would be a little more forgiving in the Futurity and it worked out perfectly. (Jockey) Damien (Oliver) knows her so well and he gave her a beautiful ride. The Blamey was the race we were looking at next for her, but now we have the pleasant task of a Group 1 penalty, so I will see how she comes out of this before making a decision."
Contributer, Exosphere star for Godolphin at Warwick Farm
Contributer (High Chaparral) led home an exacta of Godolphin-owned European imports in Saturday's Chipping Norton S. (Aus-G1) at Warwick Farm and presented trainer John O'Shea with his first top-level trophy for the "Boys in Blue," an hour and a half after Exosphere (Lonhro) saluted the judge in the Skyline S. (Aus-G2).
The five-year-old was sent off the odds-on favorite on the back of his relaxed victory in the Apollo S. (Aus-G2) a fortnight ago. Jumping out well under regular partner James McDonald, he was able to secure an ideal position, getting cover two-wide from Epsom H. (Aus-G1) winner He's Your Man (Cape Cross), one of eight Chris Waller trainees in the 15-strong field.
He's Your Man started closing on the pace-setting Weary (Astronomer Royal) around the home turn and Contributer followed suit before hitting the front four wide with 200 meters to go and stretching out to the line. He's Your Man hung on gamely, but couldn't hold off the late-rallying Hartnell (Authorized), who came from second-last with a jaw-dropping turn of foot.
Bred by Lady O'Reilly's Petra Bloodstock Agency, Contributer carried the silks of George Bolton to four victories in the United Kingdom, including a pair of listed events over 2000 meters, from only nine starts. A private purchase for Godolphin on the back of his comfortable win in the listed Wolferton H. at Royal Ascot last June, the five-year-old opened his Australian account at first asking with an impressive display in the 2000-meter David Jones Cup (Aus-G3) at Caulfield, before being well beaten in the Emirates S. (Aus-G1) over a mile on firm ground. He was quick to make amends when cruising to the easiest of victories in the Apollo S. and looks a horse going places.
The runner-up, four-year-old Hartnell, was a smart stayer for Mark Johnston and Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum in Great Britain, winning five of his 15 starts including the 1 5/8-mile Bahrain Trophy (Eng-G3) as well as a two-mile listed event at Royal Ascot.
"It was a great team effort more than anything," O'Shea commented. "It is good because all of the team are here today and they have worked hard to get this result. It is only the start."
Explaining how the pair had arrived in his care, he said, "Fergy (John Ferguson) turned up one day and said there is a couple coming down. He was very relaxed about it. When they gave us the names, we had a look at their form and we were all very excited. Who would have thought it would turn out like this."
Contributer is now likely to head towards the Ranvet S. (Aus-G1) at Rosehill on Golden Slipper Day, March 21.
An hour and a half before Contributer, Exosphere earned a ballot exemption for the Golden Slipper when losing his rivals en route to a four-length victory in the Skyline. The dark bay has followed an usual path to the top of his generation as after finishing last of seven on debut at Rosehill, he was directed to the less prestigious Kembla Grange for his second outing February 14. He showed a different attitude altogether that day, powering 4 1/2 lengths clear of his stablemate Mogador (Lonhro), who re-opposed Saturday.
Off to a steady start, Exosphere traveled at the rear of the seven-runner field before starting to pick off runners around the bend and entering the straight widest of all. In a matter of strides, James McDonald had his mount in a clear lead, which only widened in the closing stages. Mogador finished third, about the same margin adrift of the winner as on their previous encounter, but was demoted to fourth for causing interference. O'Shea was not surprised with Exosphere's performance.
"He was always a very nice horse early on," the trainer said. "He trialed the same day as (fellow Golden Slipper contender) Furnaces (Exceed and Excel) and they both won by six lengths. Furnaces won his debut race and this fellow just didn't have a good day at the races. It is nice for Sheikh Mohammed to have a couple of nice Lonhro's coming through the grades."
The trainer said Exosphere would now head straight for the Golden Slipper.
O'Shea also sent out Godolphin's It's Somewhat (Dynaformer) to a victorious Australian debut in the Liverpool City Cup H. (Aus-G3). Like Hartnell, he was formerly with Johnston and was last seen finishing unplaced in the September 13 St Leger (Eng-G1) under his former name of Somewhat.
Rain shortens Gulfstream card, stakes rescheduled
Gulfstream Park cancelled its live program after the 5TH race Saturday afternoon due to torrential rainstorms and thunderstorms in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Racing will resume Sunday with a 12:30 p.m. (EST) first race post.
"The rain just didn’t stop and, for the safety of our customers, jockeys, horsemen and employees, we felt it best to cancel the races for the remainder of the day," said Gulfstream Park General Manager P.J. Campo.
Campo said both the $200,000 Swale (G2) and the $150,000 Palm Beach (G3), scheduled to be run Saturday as races 10 and 11, will now be run March 7 along with the $300,000 Gulfstream Park H. (G2).
Oaklawn cancels, makeup dates added
Oaklawn canceled their Saturday program because of below-freezing temperatures. Temperatures were lingering around 25 degrees at 10 a.m. (CST) and not supposed to get above freezing until later in afternoon.
Meanwhile, the Arkansas Racing Commission unanimously approved a request by Oaklawn to add two Wednesdays to its 2015 racing season -- March 18 and March 25 -- to compensate for days lost to weather.
"We are simply trying to make the best of a bad situation," Oaklawn General Manager Eric Jackson said. "The last two weeks have been hard on everyone -- racing fans, horsemen, jockeys, employees, Oaklawn itself -- as well as local businesses. The two additional days means we will essentially be racing five days a week for the last month of our season. That is not ideal, but under these stressful circumstances, we believe it is the best option."
Oaklawn management presented the additional dates idea to horsemen Saturday morning, and after their receiving full support, made the request to the Racing Commission at an already scheduled meeting. Management and horsemen also agreed to bring back the $75,000 Downthedustyroad on March 6 and the $75,000 Nodouble on March 8. The two Arkansas-bred stakes were scheduled to be run Saturday.
Steve Hobby, a top trainer at Oaklawn who has been meeting with track officials daily this past week, said the horsemen recognize what Oaklawn is trying to do.
"They've been on the track night and day for almost two weeks now, trying to save racing," Hobby said. "Offering to come up with two additional race days is really appreciated, and reflects on the great working relationship horsemen have with Oaklawn management."
The two additional days will result in a 53-day race season if there are no additional cancellations.
Mutuel field 3-1 favorite in third Kentucky Derby Future Wager
While the latter has run off four wins since his November 2 racing debut that include the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) and the recent Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita, American Pharoah is one of the wagering interests with some questions to answer. He has not raced since September 27, when he rolled to victory in the FrontRunner (G1) at Santa Anita. American Pharoah missed a planned start in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita because of injury, and is now training toward a planned return to competition in the $750,000 Rebel (G2) on March 14 at Oaklawn Park.
The other major player in KDFW Pool 3 that is surrounded by a bit of mystery is Texas Red (Afleet Alex), who romped to an easy victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and was the 9-1 favored individual horse in early February's second Derby Futures pool. He made his three-year-old debut in a strong runner-up finish to Lord Nelson (Pulpit) in the seven-furlong San Vicente (G2) on February 1 at Santa Anita, but Texas Red suffered a foot abscess following that race. Trainer and co-owner Keith Desormeaux still has the May 2 Kentucky Derby as the colt's target, but Texas Red has not worked since the ailment was discovered. Battaglia placed his Pool 3 odds at 12-1.
The Kentucky Derby Future Wager enables fans to wager on the Kentucky Derby well in advance of the race at odds that could be much more attractive than those offered on the day of the race. Winning payouts in all KDFW pools are determined by the odds that are in place at the end of each 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 May 2.
Pool 3 of the Derby Future Wager will run concurrent to the only Kentucky Oaks Future Wager pool of 2015. Wagering on both pools is set to open at noon (EST) on Friday. Betting on the Kentucky Derby pool will close at 6 p.m. on Sunday, while the Kentucky Oaks pool will remain open for an addition 30 minutes before closing at 6:30 p.m.
Wagering on Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager will be offered at Churchill Downs and racetracks throughout North America; on the web via TwinSpires.com, the official online wagering site of the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs Inc., and other advance deposit wagering sites; and at other simulcast centers and off-track wagering sites. No scratches or betting refunds are permitted in the Kentucky Derby Future wager, but betting will be suspended immediately on a wagering interest in any KDFW pool if Churchill Downs determines that injury, illness or other circumstance revealed during a pool would prevent a horse from competing in the race.
Wagering was brisk in the second KDFW pool that ran from February 6-8. A total of $448,598 in win and exacta wagers was placed during the three days of betting, which was an 18 percent increase in betting from the same pool in 2014. The "All Others" interest was the odds-on 3-5 favorite in November 28-30 opening KDFW pool, which attracted total wagering of $234,574.
Another horse expected to attract strong support in the upcoming pool is Ralph M. Evans' Upstart (Flatter), the winner of Gulfstream Park's Holy Bull (G2) who was disqualified from first to second in last week's Fountain of Youth. Trainer Rick Violette's New York-bred has a record of 3-2-1 in six career races. Another New York-bred star likely to garner increased support in the pool is International Star (Fusaichi Pegasus), who won last week's Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds after winning the Lecomte (G3) over the New Orleans track in his previous outing.
Other prominent players heading into Pool 3 include Ocean Knight (Curlin), the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained winner of Tampa Bay Downs' Sam F. Davis (G3) and a 15-1 risk in Battaglia's morning line odds; Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense), winner of the $1 million Delta Jackpot (G3) and listed at 20-1 as the James Cassidy trainee prepares for his 2015 debut; and Far Right (Notional), winner of the Southwest (G3) and Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park for trainer Ron Moquett.
KDFW Pool 3 wagering interests that were not a part of Pool 2 include Bolo (Temple City), winner of the Eddie Logan on turf at Santa Anita; recent maiden winner Danzig Moon (Malibu Moon), Far From Over, Keen Ice (Curlin), third in the Risen Star; and War Story (War Front), runner-up to Far Right in both the Southwest and Smarty Jones.
Wagering interests for the Kentucky Derby Future Wager were chosen by Churchill Downs committee that included Racing Secretary Ben Huffman, Senior Director of Communications and Media Services Darren Rogers, Director of Programming and Senior Racing Analyst Jill Byrne, Player Services Manager Gary Palmisano and Vice President, Racing Communications John Asher.
After the closing of KDFW Pool 3, one Derby Futures pool will remain on the schedule prior to Kentucky Derby 141. The fourth and final KDFW pool is set for five weeks before the Derby and will run from March 27-29.
Real-time odds during the three-day run of KDFW Pool 3 and other information the wager and the Kentucky Derby are available at the official event Web site at http://www.kentuckyderby.com/racing-wagering/future-wager/pool-3-final-odds.
Free Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances for wagering interests in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager are available at http://www.brisnet.com/brisnet_promos/KDFW2.pdf. Brisnet also has complimentary past performances for all Triple Crown nominees at http://www.brisnet.com/brisnet_promos/TC15noms.pdf.
Take Charge Brandi the early individual choice in Oaks Future Wager
Streaking juvenile filly champion filly Take Charge Brandi (Giant's Causeway) is a narrow choice as the favored individual horse, but the ever-popular Mutuel Field (#24), or "All Other Three-Year-Old Fillies," will again be a solid favorite in the morning line odds for Churchill Downs Racetrack's Kentucky Oaks Future Wager (KOFW), which opens a three-day run on Friday and concludes on Sunday.
Bettors were on target in 2014 when they tabbed Winchell Thoroughbreds' Untapable as the 5-1 KOFW favorite to win the Kentucky Oaks (G1), America's premier race for three-year-old fillies. The Steve Asmussen-trained star rolled to a dominant Oaks win and became just the third Oaks winner to also take the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) during a campaign in which she was unbeaten against her gender and suffered her only loss in a fourth-place finish against males in the Haskell Invitational (GI) at Monmouth Park. Untapable earned the 2014 Eclipse Award for America's outstanding three-year-old filly.
The pre-race picture is murkier heading into this year's 141st running of the Kentucky Oaks on May 1 at Churchill Downs, and handicapper Mike Battaglia has installed the Mutuel Field, or "All Others," as the 5-2 favorite in the Oaks Future pool. "All Others" includes all three-year-old fillies other than the 23 individual horses listed among the KOFW's 24 wagering interests.
Willis D. Horton's Take Charge Brandi, riding a streak of four consecutive stakes triumphs that began with her 61-1 upset in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita, is the 6-1 favored individual in lone Kentucky Oaks Future Wager Pool of 2015. The string of stakes wins by the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Take Charge Brandi also includes the Starlet (G1) at Los Alamitos, Delta Downs' Delta Princess (G3) and the Martha Washington at Oaklawn Park. Her career record stands at 5-1-0 in nine races with earnings of $1,680,125.
Despite her successful run, Take Charge Brandi is far from an overwhelming choice among the individual Oaks contenders in the pool. Close behind are 8-1 co-third choices Condo Commando (Tiz Wonderful), a romping winner of Saratoga's Spinaway (G1) and Aqueduct's Demoiselle (G2) at two; and I'm A Chatterbox (Munnings), who earned back-to-back wins in the Rachel Alexandra (G3) and Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds since she joined the stable of two-time Kentucky Oaks-winning trainer Larry Jones.
The Kentucky Oaks Future Wager enables racing fans to wager on contenders for the Kentucky Oaks weeks in advance of the 2015 renewal of the 1 1/8-mile race for three-year-old fillies at odds that could be more attractive than those available on Oaks Day.
The wager permits $2 minimum win bets and $2 exactas, which are available in $1 minimum increments in boxes and other multiple number configurations. The KOFW pool runs concurrent to the third of four pools of the 2015 Kentucky Derby Future Wager. Wagering in both the Oaks and Derby pools is scheduled to open at noon (ET) on Friday. Betting in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool will conclude at 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 1 and Kentucky Oaks Future betting will continue for 30 minutes before the pool closes at 6:30 p.m.
No scratches or betting refunds are permitted in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager. Betting on any individual filly in the pool will be suspended immediately should Churchill Downs determine during the pool that injury, illness or some other circumstance would prevent that horse from competing in the Oaks.
Total wagering on the 2014 Kentucky Oaks Future Wager (including win and exacta betting) was $81,234. The betting total for the three-day pool in 2013 totaled $126,039.
Other fillies expected to attract solid support in the KOFW pool include Callback (Street Sense), who is listed at 12-1 following a win in the Las Virgenes (G1) at Santa Anita; Davona Dale (G2) heroine Ekati's Phaeton (Tale of Ekati); Forward Gal (G2) winner and Davona Dale runner-up Birdathewire (Summer Bird); Davona Dale third-placer Eskenformoney (Eskendreya); Starlet runner-up Feathered (Indian Charlie); and Puca (Big Brown), who exits a late-running fourth in the Davona Dale.
Two-time Kentucky Oaks winners Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher each train three of the Oaks Future Wager betting interests. Baffert conditions Callback, Fantastic Style (Harlan's Holiday) and Luminance (Tale of the Cat), while Pletcher trains Angela Renee (Bernardini), Eskenformoney and Feathered.
The wagering interests for the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager are selected by a committee that consists of Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman, Senior Director of Communications and Media Services Darren Rogers, Director of Programming and Senior Racing Analyst Jill Byrne, Player Services Manager Gary Palmisano and Vice President of Communications John Asher.
Real time odds and other information on the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager is available at http://www.kentuckyderby.com/racing-wagering/future-wager/pool-3-oaks-odds.
Saturday's $60,000 Black Gold S. at Fair Grounds was supposed to be Another Lemon Drop's (Lemon Drop Kid) time to shine, but the even-money favorite just could not get to runaway leader Tuba (Magna Graduate) before that 63-1 longshot hit the wire. Jockey Jose Riquelme sent his mount right from the start, and Tuba opened a 3 1/2 length on the backstretch. The Anne Smith-trained sophomore maintained his advantage in the lane, but Another Lemon Drop was closing fast down the center of the track. It wasn't fast enough, though, as Tuba crossed under the wire a half-length clear of that rival while stopping the clock in 1:30 3/5 for about 7 1/2 furlongs on the firm turf. Campaigned by Windy Hill Farm, the dark bay gelding was making his stakes bow in this spot off a well-beaten last of eight effort against allowance rivals in an off-the-turf contest on February 5. The Black Gold boosted his career earnings to $49,250 and Tuba shows a 7-2-0-0 record...
Earlier on Fair Grounds' Saturday program, McGehee's Mercy (Afleet Alex) rallied from the back of the $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace S. to post a 2 1/2 length victory under the hot-riding Florent Geroux, who sported the silks of owner Steve Stumpf. The duo swung five wide into upper stretch and grabbed command to finish about a mile on the firm turf in 1:36 1/5. It was the first stakes win for the Corale Richards-trained gelding, whose only other stakes try resulted in a close fourth in the December 13 Louisiana Champions Day Turf S. Now boasting a career mark of 21-6-4-3, McGehee's Mercy has banked $146,862...
Mongolian Khan (Holy Roman Emperor) defeated Volkstok'n'barrell (Tavistock) in Saturday's New Zealand Derby (NZ-G1) at Ellerselie. Winner of the listed Pies Three-Year-Old Salver at this track December 14, Mongolian Khan was runner-up in a Cambridge handicap January 13, but bounced back to land the Waikato Guineas (NZ-G2)18 days later. He proved a very game winner of the Avondale Guineas (NZ-G2) February 14 in his most recent start, besting Prima (Sir Percy) and Volkstok'n'barrell by an ultimately comfortable margin and was the only one in the market to hold a candle to that third-place finisher in this prestigious event. Driven along from his wide gate, Mongolian Khan worked his way all the way up into the top four and managed to gain a spot one out and one back, a couple of lengths off the pace, as Volkstok'n'barrell was poised from sixth just in his wake. Opie Bosson gave Mongolian Khan a bit of rein and the duo slid up to contend for the lead nearing the stretch, but the chalk was shadowing that move and was able to outfoot his chief rival into the lane. Volkstok'n'barrell got maybe as much as a half-length in front in the final 300 meters, but Mongolian Khan proved resolute down on the inside and won the sprint to the line. "It feels good and you saw two very good horses and they pulled away from the rest, it was a great race," said winning trainer Murray Baker to nztm.co.nz. "My bloke is a terrific stayer and the further he goes the better. He can be a little bit volatile, but he relaxes in his races. He'll be going to Randwick for the ATC Derby (Aus-G1). He's right up there with the Derby winners I've had in Australia."...
Reigning Horse of the Year Designs on Rome (Holy Roman Emperor) and Military Attack (Oratorio), who carried that title in the previous season, square off again in Sunday's Hong Kong Gold Cup (HK-G1), elevated to international Group 1 status for the first time. Designs on Rome has slowly worked his way into peak fitness for trainer John Moore and earned his second win at the highest level two starts back, defeating Military Attack in the final jump of the Hong Kong Cup (HK-G1) over this course and distance December 14. The duo was supposed to line up together in the 1800-meter Centenary Vase H. February 7, but Military Attack was forced to miss the race after a period of what trainer Caspar Fownes labeled "inappetence" and weight loss. That left Designs on Rome as the starting highweight on 131 pounds and he drifted late in the wagering to be off as "only" the 6-5 favorite. He left it until very late, but Joao Moreira coaxed one final late lunge out of the five-year-old and scored by a short head. Designs on Rome is prepping here for the March 28 Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-G1). Military Attack is ready to use this as a stepping stone to the Dubai Turf (UAE-G1), also on World Cup night. The seven-year-old gets blinkers for the first time. "He'll have the blinkers on to help him concentrate a bit more," explained Fownes. "You can see in a couple of his races, the last part, he just shies away from the winning post and runs out a little bit and that has cost him. Hopefully, with the blinkers on, he'll just run through to the line strongly...
Mike Smith will be trying to win next Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita H. (G1) for an unprecedented third straight year when he gets a leg up on champion Shared Belief (Candy Ride). Johnny Longden, Corey Nakatani, Bill Shoemaker and Gary Stevens have won the race twice in a row, Shoe on two separate occasions, but no one has achieved the elusive triple. "I'm excited about it," Smith said of the Big 'Cap. "I'm not sure who's running in it yet, but Shared Belief has proved he can definitely go the mile and a quarter, and given the opportunity, he's going to be tough to beat. He's a good horse and he's proved that, and I think his last race (beating Horse of the Year California Chrome [Lucky Pulpit] in the San Antonio S. [G2] on February 7) really proved it." That endorsement aside, the Hall of Fame rider feels we haven't yet seen the best of Shared Belief. "I think there's room for him to step up even a little bit more than he's shown, so we'll see what happens," Smith said. "He's been training really well since, from what I hear, so all systems are go. We're excited about it."...
In other Big 'Cap news, Chilean-bred Bronzo (Fusaichi Pegasus) worked seven furlongs in company with the Irish-bred Circling (Galileo) for Neil Drysdale on an unexpectedly rain-free Saturday morning at Santa Anita Park. The Chilean Group 1 victor, who was fourth in last November's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and the February 7 San Antonio S. (G2), was caught in 1:27 1/5 over the fast track as he prepares for next Saturday's Santa Anita H. Irish Group 3-placed Circling recorded a time of 1:28 2/5. East Coast invader Hard Aces (Hard Spun), recently acquired by Hronis Racing for trainer John Sadler, worked six furlongs for the Big 'Cap under Victor Espinoza in 1:14 2/5 on Saturday as well. Espinoza has the Big 'Cap mount on the Kentucky-bred five-year-old, who romped in the Louisiana H. last out at Fair Grounds on January 17...
With Martin Garcia in the saddle, Grade 3 winner Chitu (Henny Hughes), prepping for the $250,000 San Carlos S. (G2) next Saturday, worked five furlongs at Santa Anita in company for Bob Baffert in a bullet :58 2/5, fastest of 69 works at the distance on the day. Stablemate Pimpernel (Elusive Quality) was timed in :58 4/5. Grade 3 hero Sky Kingdom (Empire Maker) also fired a bullet for Baffert, clocking a half-mile in :47 while barnmate Opsec (Pioneerof the Nile) was timed in :47 1/5...
Next Saturday's Santa Anita Handicap will mark a personal milestone for dedicated racing fan Ray Ware, as the Glendora resident will be on hand for his 50th consecutive edition of America's longest continually run "Hundred Grander." Ware's first Big 'Cap was in 1966, when Lucky Debonair, ridden by Bill Shoemaker, cruised to a one-length victory as the 3-1 favorite...
Trainer Bob Hess Jr. has the $200,000 Echo Eddie S. going 6 1/2 furlongs on April 4 at Santa Anita Park penciled in for California Cup Derby winner Mischief Clem (Papa Clem)...
The Racetrack Chaplaincy of So Cal, which supports the backstretch workers' children's ministry, will hold its charity golf event, "Tee Up Fore Kids Charity Golf Tournament" on April 6 at Glendora Country Club. To register, contact Sharla Sanders at 626-733-3815 or via email at email@example.com for a donation form.
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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