Triple Crown News & Notes
Stewart waiting on a spot for Commanding Curve
Tuesday morning was relatively calm at Churchill Downs, with no workouts from Kentucky Derby contenders. Among the runners visiting the track was Louisiana Derby third-placer Commanding Curve, who galloped after the renovation break under exercise rider Emerson Chavez.
Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and trained by Dallas Stewart, Commanding Curve stands 21st on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Presented by TwinSpires.com" with 20 points.
"We're still just waiting," Stewart said, "that's all you can do. I think he's right on par with (2013 Kentucky Derby runner-up) Golden Soul last year. I think he's every bit as good and he's been handling this track really well."
With 11 days remaining until the 140th running of the Run for the Roses, Stewart is in the same position as last year -- on the outside of the Derby bubble looking in. Golden Soul had only 14 points and didn't get into the main body of the field until Bob Baffert withdrew Code West and Govenor Charlie from consideration on April 30.
Commanding Curve is receiving help from Baffert as well. The colt moved up one spot to 21st when the trainer removed Midnight Hawk from the race Monday and the status of the Baffert-trained Chitu, who possesses sufficient points but is expected to contest Saturday's Grade 3 Derby Trial, is up in the air.
After a fourth-place effort in the Louisiana Derby, Golden Soul recorded a fast-closing second at 34-1 in the Kentucky Derby. Commanding Curve will also be a long shot if he starts, but his form is arguably better.
A smart maiden winner at Churchill Downs in his juvenile finale, the Master Command ridgling improved upon a sixth in his stakes and 2014 debut, the Grade 2 Risen Star on February 22, with a troubled third in the Louisiana Derby. Commanding Curve overcame being slammed at the start to pass most of the field in the final furlongs.
In other Kentucky Derby news:
Pletcher's fourth Derby hopeful, WinStar Farm and Twin Creek Racing Stables' Vinceremos is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs on Wednesday from WinStar, where he has been since trailing in the April 12 Blue Grass.
Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman's Hoppertunity got his first exercise over the track at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning, galloping 1 1/2 miles under Dana Barnes after the renovation break. The Rebel winner and Santa Anita Derby runner-up arrived at Churchill Downs Monday afternoon from Baffert's barn in Southern California.
Baffert's other three-year-olds, Tanma Corporation's Chitu and Kaleem Shah's Bayern, walked the shedrow a day after turning in half-mile works at Churchill Downs.
Honors Stable Corp.'s Wildcat Red was scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs early Tuesday afternoon after a flight from Florida. The two-time graded stakes winner and runner-up in the Florida Derby in his most recent start is trained by Jose Garoffalo. Wildcat Red will be housed in Barn 21.
Daniel Dougherty's Ride On Curlin, runner-up in the Arkansas Derby in his most recent start, galloped after the renovation break under exercise rider Bryan Beccia. Trained by Bill Gowan, Ride On Curlin is scheduled to breeze Saturday or Sunday, depending on weather, with jockey Calvin Borel up.
Trainer Steve Asmussen said Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC's Southwest winner Tapiture walked in the shedrow and was doing well on the morning after his first work since his return to Churchill Downs last week. The Tapit colt breezed five furlongs over a fast track in 1:02 4/5 on Monday. Ricardo Santana Jr. has the Kentucky Derby mount.
West Point Thoroughbreds tweeted that Alan Garcia will ride Ring Weekend in Kentucky Derby 140. Currently stabled at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, Ring Weekend finished second in the Calder Derby on April 5 with Garcia aboard. Trained by Graham Motion, Ring Weekend is scheduled to work Friday at Fair Hill.
Spendthrift Farm's Medal Count, runner-up in the Blue Grass last out, galloped after the renovation break under exercise rider Faustino Aguilar for trainer Dale Romans.
C R K Stable's Robert B. Lewis winner Candy Boy walked the shedrow at Barn 43 on his first full day at Churchill Downs for trainer John Sadler. Candy Boy arrived at Churchill Downs at 3:30 Monday afternoon from his base in Southern California. Cesar Aguilar, assistant to Sadler, said Candy Boy would go to the track Wednesday.
Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor and Wesley Ward's Pablo Del Monte, third in the Blue Grass, is scheduled to work Saturday or Sunday at Keeneland, according to Ward, who is also the colt's trainer.
Derby Dreamers Racing Stable's Big Bazinga galloped 1 1/2 miles under Loren Diego after the morning renovation break. Big Bazinga arrived at Churchill Downs Monday afternoon from Keeneland where he had remained since a fourth-place finish in the Blue Grass. Big Bazinga is trained by Katerina Vassilieva. According to Frank Bernis, agent for jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., the colt is scheduled to work Saturday with Hernandez up. Hernandez rode the colt in the Blue Grass.
Euphrosyne out of Oaks, Sweet Reason now qualifies
"I am going to discuss it with the owners," trainer Leah Gyarmati said of the filly who is at Belmont Park. "We will see how she's doing and what her options are."
Sweet Reason finished third behind Oaks candidates My Miss Sophia and Got Lucky in the Gazelle at Aqueduct in her most recent start April 5. She has had one work since that race, a three-furlong breeze on April 18.
"She may be better going one turn and there are races like the Acorn and Test coming up," Gyarmati said. "She has had excuses every time she has gone two turns.
"There was no pace in the last race and in the Breeders' Cup (Juvenile Fillies), she was too far back early and moved too soon and flattened out. If you are finding too many excuses for races, maybe you are not running in the right spots.
"I think (the Oaks) is a better setup and there should be no pace issues there."
Trainer Wayne Catalano liked the looks Tuesday morning of his two Kentucky Oaks hopefuls, Room Service and Aurelia's Belle.
"They both went around twice and two-minute licked the last mile," Catalano said.
Exercise rider Calamity Compton was aboard both fillies.
Aurelia's Belle won the Bourbonette Oaks in her most recent start. Room Service was a dead-heat winner in the Ashland at Keeneland.
"They are going to work Thursday and then we will make a decision on Room Service," Catalano said of the filly who never has raced on dirt. "She seems to be handling this fine and she did well on the dirt at Gulfstream."
In other Kentucky Oaks news:
Fiftyshadesofgold galloped before the morning renovation break under exercise rider Sara Escudero.
Trained by Bret Calhoun, Fiftyshadesofgold also has the $175,000 Eight Belles on May 2 as a possible target.
"We haven't named a rider because we are waiting to see if she goes in the Oaks or the Eight Belles," said Tom Morgan, assistant to Calhoun.
Fiftyshadesofgold is scheduled to work Friday.
She's a Tiger, last year's champion juvenile filly, jogged on the main track at Churchill Tuesday morning after the renovation break under Antonio Gutierrez for trainer Jeff Bonde.
The filly is being pointed to the Eight Belles.
"That has been the plan all along to run in the Eight Belles and then the Acorn," Bonde said. "She has not run for five months and I have no interest in running a mile and an eighth first out."
Canadian champ Forte Dei Marmi faces tough field in Elkhorn
The Elkhorn will be no easy task for Forte Dei Marmi, who faces a solid group of rivals and was saddled with post 13 in the 14-horse field.
Optimizer is inconsistent but capable with his best race. A multiple Grade 3 winner at Fair Grounds last year, he later went on to place in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, Dixie, and Manhattan Handicap. However, the D. Wayne Lukas charge was an ineffective eighth in the March 8 Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in his season debut.
Temeraine, most recently third in the San Luis Rey at Santa Anita, enjoyed solid form last season winning the Kentucky Turf Cup and finishing a close second in both the Arlington Handicap and Hollywood Turf Cup. Stakes veterans Eagle Poise, Tricky Hat, and Suntracer also figure in the Elkhorn having finished close together for minor awards in the $100,000 Sycamore over the Polytrack last October.
Returning to the turf after a modest dirt effort at Gulfstream is War Dancer, the 2013 Virginia Derby winner who will have to work out a trip from post 14. Another one of last year's capable sophomores, Amen Kitten, enters the Elkhorn off two solid placings in the Hollywood Derby and Mac Diarmida.
Others who might factor are the New York-bred stakes winner Hangover Kid, runner-up in his last two including the Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct, and Old Time Hockey, winner most recently of the Florida Cup Turf Classic at Tampa Bay Downs.
Wise Dan works for Woodford Reserve Turf Classic
Wise Dan, a homebred racing for Mort Fink, won the Maker's 46 Mile by three-quarters of a length over Kaigun for his Keeneland record sixth graded stakes score, ninth Grade 1 win overall and 16th graded stakes victory. The gelding has 20 wins in 28 starts and earnings of $6,473,610.
LoPresti said Wise Dan came out of the Maker's 46 Mile "very good. We're real happy with him. I think we're right where we were last year with him."
Like last year, the plan is for Wise Dan to make his next start in the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 3. He won the race last year.
In preparation for that race, LoPresti expects Wise Dan to turn in another move next week.
"Last year I just went a quarter of a mile, out in three-eighths, something like that," he said. "I'll probably do something with him like I did last year."
Safely Kept, Hall of Fame sprinter, euthanized
Safely Kept, a Hall of Fame filly who was voted champion sprinter in 1989 and captured a memorable renewal of the Breeders' Cup Sprint the following year, has died at the age of 28.
The Blood-Horse reported Tuesday that the Horatius mare was euthanized due to the infirmities of old age at Burleson Farms near Midway, Kentucky.
Compiling an impeccable record of 31-24-2-3, Safely Kept is generally considered one of the leading female sprinters of all time. Of her 23 career stakes wins, 11 were in graded company. She also tended to carry her track with her, notching added-money scores at Pimlico, Laurel, Garden State Park, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, Saratoga, Keeneland, Finger Lakes, Meadowlands, and Arlington Park.
As a three-year-old, Safely Kept entered the 1989 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Gulfstream undefeated from eight starts on the year. Despite being caught near the wire by Dancing Spree, whose biggest previous win that year occurred in the 1 1/4-mile Suburban Handicap, her second-place finish against the rest of the division's elite was enough to garner Eclipse Award honors as champion sprinter.
Safely Kept was back in the Breeders' Sprint at Belmont Park in 1990 having won seven of her nine starts that season. However, after a modest showing in her final prep, Belmont's Boojum Handicap, she was dismissed in the wagering at 12-1.
In a stretch-long duel with European superstar Dayjur, Safely Kept appeared to be headed for another narrow defeat until her male rival jumped two shadows created by the mammoth Belmont Park grandstand. Dayjur's unexpected acrobatics allowed Safely Kept to regain the lead and win by a neck.
The Breeders' Cup was the second stakes win Safely Kept achieved against males in six career attempts. She also defeated the boys in the 1990 Finger Lakes Breeders' Cup by 2 1/4 lengths.
Retired with earnings of $2,194,206, Safely Kept went on to produced the Grade 3-placed stakes winner Contrast and the Grade 2-placed stakes winner Peace Chant. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.
Safely Kept was trained at two by Carlos Garcia and thereafter by Alan Goldberg. Initially owned by Dark Hollow Farm, she was later campaigned by Barry Weisbord and Richard Santulli's Jayeff B Stable.
Bred in Maryland by Mr. and Mrs. David Hayden, Safely Kept was a daughter of the Winning Hit mare Safely Home, who also produced Grade 2 winner Partner's Hero.
Fields coming together for Derby weekend stakes
On Fire Baby is expected in the La Troienne, with Unlimited Budget, Devil's Cave, Magic Union and Don't Tell Sophia also listed as likely.
Champion She's a Tiger could begin her three-year-old campaign in the Eight Belles, where she is projected to meet Our Amazing Rose, Milam, Cash Control, Lady Paradime, Bajan, Silk Purse, and Hot and Dangerous. Empress of Midway, who is currently on the outside looking in for the Kentucky Oaks, is possible.
Centre Court is set to contest the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, as are Miz Ida, Tapicat, Effie Trinket, Coffee Clique, English Class and Every Way.
The 1 1/16-mile American Turf will feature a contentious group of sophomores -- Storming Inti, Woodfield Springs, Global View, Chief Barker, Picozza, Long on Value, Craftsman and General Jack. Pleuven, a Chad Brown trainee like Storming Inti, is possible.
Romantica debuts for Mott in Bewitch
The Jonathan Sheppard-trained Angel Terrace has fared well in two previous stakes attempts on the Keeneland turf, taking a division of the 2012 Valley View and finishing third in the Dowager last October after making a brief lead in the stretch.
The Bewitch field is completed by Always Kitten, I Dazzle, Street of Gold, and Freedom Reigns.
Fairplex dates shifted to Los Alamitos
For more than 70 years, Fairplex has been the home of horse racing at the Los Angeles County Fair. Today it was announced following several weeks of discussions with California horse racing industry leaders they have decided, contingent upon California Horse Racing Board approval, their future racing dates starting this fall will be conducted at Los Alamitos in nearby Cypress.
Jim Henwood, CEO of Fairplex, announced the decision along with representatives of Los Alamitos and the Thoroughbred Owners of California.
"The only constant in life is change," said Henwood in announcing the organization's decision. "We have enjoyed a long and proud history of horse racing here at Fairplex, but with the limitations of our facility we made a strategic decision for the continued growth of the industry to reach out to Los Alamitos and seek to move our dates to their facility. By moving our dates to a new market on a one-mile track we think we can grow on the past success of our race meet."
Joe Morris, President of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, echoed Henwood's sentiments concerning the move to Los Alamitos.
"With the marketplace challenges horse racing faces it is more important than ever that we connect our sport with a new audience," Morris stated. "Los Alamitos has made a tremendous investment in the past year to build a first class one-mile track, and they are located right in the middle of an exciting new market in Orange County. It is with great appreciation to Fairplex and their 70-plus years of racing tradition that we have worked in conjunction with them to facilitate this move."
If this move to Orange County is approved by the California Horse Racing Board it will mean that Los Alamitos will now conduct a fall meeting to go along with their previously approved summer and winter Thoroughbred dates. The first Thoroughbred meet at Los Alamitos is set to open on July 3 with the $500,000 Los Alamitos Derby on July 5 highlighting the two-week stand.
"Naturally we are excited about the prospect of adding additional dates to our 2014 Thoroughbred racing calendar, and we are very appreciative to Fairplex for the opportunity to conduct their race meet here at Los Alamitos," said Los Alamitos Racing Association Vice-President, Brad McKinzie. "We plan to immediately work with the CHRB and other industry stakeholders to make sure these racing dates are used to add value to the California Thoroughbred racing calendar."
While Fairplex may be leaving the live racing world, the southern California facility will still play a major role in the sport's future. Fairplex is home to the Finish Line Sports Grill, one of the state's most successful satellite betting facilities. Henwood indicated that Fairplex has plans to greatly expand and upgrade that facility in the very near future.
The 2014 Fairplex racing dates currently call for an 11-day meeting opening on September 5 and running through September 21.
Trainer Larry Jones has been discharged from the hospital and is resting at home in Newark, Delaware. Conditioner of 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, the 57-year-old Jones sustained bleeding on the brain, two fractured ribs and a bruised lung when thrown by a horse Saturday morning at Delaware Park. Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farm posted on their Facebook page that the doctor asked Jones not to return to work for four weeks. "I'm not sure if he will obey that one," the post said...
The Hancock family's Claiborne Farm has become the signature sponsor of Keeneland's Breeders' Futurity (G1), to be held October 4. The purse for the Breeders' Futurity will increase from $400,000 to $500,000 in 2014. The stakes, for two-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, is a part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series in which the winner automatically qualifies for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on November 1. Claiborne has recorded more wins in the Breeders' Futurity than any other owner -- with Round Table (1956), Duel (1963), Dike (1968), Swale (1983) and champion Forty Niner (1987). "The story of Keeneland and the Breeders' Futurity is intertwined with Claiborne," Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. "It is so fitting that they be associated with the Breeders' Futurity given the Claiborne champions who have graced its history."...
A shadow box including a shoe worn by 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb will be offered on eBay from April 24 through May 4. Sale of the shadow box will benefit Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. The horseshoe is presented encircling one of the blossoms from the Kentucky Derby winner's blanket of roses. Hair strands cut from Orb's mane are tied with the winning colors of co-owner Stuart Janney's silks. Skip Dickstein's photo of the Derby finish is mounted on a raised mat and below the photo is a brass plate with "ORB Kentucky Derby 2013." All have been framed by Cross Gate Gallery in Lexington, Kentucky, with a linen fabric mat liner. The glass is protected with Tru Vue Conservation Grade 99 percent UV protection. The wooden shadow box is stained in dark brown with a lightly distressed look and trimmed in gold. The box measures 2 1/2 inches deep, 15 1/2 inches wide and 19 inches high. The Orb shoe is the first in a series to be offered by Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. Similar presentations including shoes worn by 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow and 2013 Belmont winner Palace Malice will be auctioned in coming weeks. The auction will begin on April 24 at 9 p.m. (EDT) and will end on May 4 at 9 p.m. To bid please visit eBay and type in horse racing memorabilia under the search engine. If you do not have an eBay account, please follow their instructions to set up an account in order to bid. PayPal is the preferred method of payment...
Santa Anita kicks off its Spring Meet with a Friday card highlighted by the $100,000 Last Tycoon (G3), the successor to the Inglewood H. that would have been run around this time at old Hollywood Park. Rookie Sensation (Unbridled's Song) looked like the next big thing when taking the November 1 Twilight Derby (G2) over this turf course and 1 1/8-mile distance. Winless since then, he tired to fifth after uncharacteristically setting the pace in the 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Derby (G1), trailed throughout in a dirt experiment in the January 18 Strub (G2), and was a near-miss, troubled second in an allowance here March 15. Trainer John Shirreffs has Rookie Sensation well spotted to regain the winning thread, and he gets a rider switch to Hall of Famer Mike Smith. Smart turf sprinter Lakerville (Unusual Heat) wheels back only 12 days after his fast-finishing second in the San Simeon (G3) on the downhill turf, and tests his stamina for the first time over 1 1/8 miles. In his only prior two-turn attempt, the Barry Abrams charge was sixth in the March 8 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1). Fire With Fire (Distorted Humor), on the other hand, takes a dramatic step down in trip after his front-running victory in the 1 1/2-mile San Luis Rey (G2) March 22. Joelito (Rock Hard Ten) comes off a runner-up effort to course record-tying Tom's Tribute (Lion Heart) in the April 6 Thunder Road, while Spring Up (Spring at Last) exits a rallying allowance score over the course. Rounding out the field is former Chilean Horse of the Year Quick Casablanca (Until Sundown), who placed twice from five starts for Christophe Clement last year and begins afresh for new trainer Ron McAnally.
For Wednesday or Next Raceday
SANTA ANITA NOTEBOOK
APRIL 23, 2014
by John Mucciolo
No graded stakes took place this week at Santa Anita.
From a total of 18 races held at the Arcadia, California racetrack during the past Holiday Weekend, favorites won at a 33 percent clip and the top two betting choices combined for 50 percent of the wins. From 10 frays contested on the dirt oval, two animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (20 percent), while three of the eight grassy tilts were taken all the way on the front end (38 percent).
The turf course, as we stated last week, is carrying speed quite well. Three of the four runs on the lawn on Saturday were taken all the way on the front end, two of those fairly big-priced winners.
Both main track wire jobs came in sprint runs, and with just 10 races on the dirt, we couldn't make out any trends.
HORSES TO WATCH
2ND -- BACK TO BAKO (Aragorn) dueled early, went clear, got a stern test from the odd-on favorite, and dispatched that one as well in earning a superb 1 1/2-length tally under Rafael Bejarano. The four-year-old gelding from the barn of Blake Heap should be tough right back with runs like this one.
BOOZER (Unusual Heat) ran big in defeat and might have "bounced" a bit after such a fine tally two big. The Mark Glatt trainee has surely found his niche on this downhill course and is always a major factor in with this kind.
6TH -- HEAT FLASH (Unusual Heat) returns to this list after another strong late run to be second on a turf oval that is carrying speed over the past few weeks. The four-year-old gelding is in a nice form cycle and he would be a major contender if he drops back in with state-bred foes for conditioner Barry Abrams.
7TH -- We loved the way DOCTOR DEMPSEY (Harlan's Holiday) looked in a debut win for conditioner Bob Baffert, and will tab this one as a potential future stakes type. The four-year-old colt was always well placed, took command in the lane and then fought off the hard-charging favorite where it looked like he had a lot more in the tank.
CRUX (Congrats) was in with a big shot turning for home but finished mostly evenly to finish fourth, while more than six lengths clear of his nearest foe. The Ron Ellis trainee exits a live heat and might graduate in his subsequent outing for a conditioner that rarely wins with first timers.
4TH -- In a superb debut run, the Doug O'Neill-trained SUZY MALIBU (Malibu Moon) showed little early foot in sitting last at the top of the lane, but the filly let it out a notch and buried this field en route to a 5 1/4-length romp. We have no idea what she beat, but the sophomore lass clearly has a fine turn of foot and could be any kind going forward. Note that the Kentucky-bred is cut out to excel at a longer trip and possibly on the lawn.
8TH -- BEHOLDER (Henny Hughes) is pretty good.
A Look Ahead
Sunday will play host to the Grade 3, $100,000 Wilshire Handicap.
APRIL 22, 2014
Wise Dan's Talent in Eye of Beholder
by Ed DeRosa
In case you have ever questioned the fickle nature of horse racing fans, witness the reactions this month to the returns of Grade 1 winners Beholder, Princess of Sylmar, and Wise Dan.
None had raced since the Breeders' Cup World Championships in early November, and only two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan returned in a Grade 1 race, but it was that seasonal debut that seemed to curry the least favor with people questioning "who did he beat" and "when will his connections challenge him."
Two-time champion Beholder and four-time Grade 1 winner Princess of Sylmar both made their four-year-old debuts in listed stakes, and each win was "just what she needed" and "a testament to the horsemanship of her connections."
To be fair, both races were preps for a much bigger prize: the $1 million Ogden Phipps Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard, but Grade 1 winner Close Hatches is pointing to that race too, and had no problem preparing for it with a pair of graded stakes wins this spring at Oaklawn Park.
All of this is not to question why Beholder and Princess of Sylmar ran where they did but to question a Thoroughbred racing fan base that applies different rules to different horses. Can you imagine the uproar if Wise Dan had returned in a Grade 3 race?
Reading the social media reaction, a casual observer would have thought Beholder's 5 1/4-length destruction of the Santa Lucia Stakes on April 20 at Santa Anita was the best of the returns, but both her Brisnet.com Speed Rating (97) and Class Rating (120.7) were the lowest of the trio.
Wise Dan received a 99 Speed, 121.3 Class, making Princess of Sylmar the top performer based solely on numbers with a 103 Speed and 121.4 Class.
All three are superior athletes and ranked in my top 10 of the weekly America's Best Racing Poll (Wise Dan 1st, Beholder 6th, and Princess of Sylmar 10th), and both Wise Dan and Beholder are certain future Racing Hall of Fame inductees with Princess of Sylmar knocking on the door.
But if you're going to celebrate Beholder's and Princess of Sylmar's returns, then neither can you pooh-pooh Wise Dan's eighth consecutive Grade 1 win on turf. And the same question directed at Wise Dan's connections regarding the Met Mile could apply to the Beholder camp as well.
Top Speed/Class ratings
TOP BRIS CLASS RATINGS
(through April 21, 2014)
Note: Figures are for North American-based racing
At a Glance
AT A GLANCE SCHEDULE
*all times Eastern
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