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THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 2014

Triple Crown News & Notes

Candy Boy gallops; Pletcher to keep tabs on Vinceremos before making a final decision

Candy Boy has won or placed in all three stakes attempts (Benoit Photo)

Candy Boy, winner of the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis two starts back, visited the main track at Churchill Downs early Thursday morning, galloping 1 1/2 miles at 6:30 a.m. (EDT). Exercise rider Jelani Grant was up for trainer John Sadler.

"It was an easy first day, just letting him get his feet wet," Sadler said of Candy Boy, who arrived at Churchill Downs on Monday, walked Tuesday and jogged Wednesday.

Sadler said Candy Boy would gallop again Friday morning and is scheduled to work Saturday with three-time Kentucky Derby-winning rider Gary Stevens slated to be aboard. Owned by C R K Stable, Candy Boy came back from a two-month freshening to finish third in arguably the toughest prep race this year, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. Stevens has the return call on May 3.

Trainer Todd Pletcher's quartet of Kentucky Derby hopefuls galloped after the morning renovation break.

Pletcher, who will remain at Churchill Downs through the Derby, said the four colts would work Sunday, "if the weather cooperates" and that a decision on Vinceremos' Derby participation would not come until early next week after he watches the colt train and work.

Vinceremos, who finished 14th when making his first start on Polytrack in the Grade 1 Blue Grass, is owned by WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables. He was sent to WinStar after the Blue Grass and arrived back in Pletcher's Churchill barn Wednesday afternoon. Ovel Merida was aboard Vinceremos on Thursday morning.

Grade 1 Arkansas Derby winner Danza was partnered by Ezequiel Perez Thursday morning; Grade 2 Risen Star winner Intense Holiday had Isabelle Bourez aboard; and Grade 3 Spiral winner We Miss Artie was ridden by Nick Bush.

In other Kentucky Derby news:

Hoppertunity has already accumulated five starts this season and Baffert isn't too worried about the "Derby jinx" surrounding unraced two-year-olds (Rickelle Nelson/Horsephotos.com)

Probable Derby favorite California Chrome is scheduled to work at his Los Alamitos base in Southern California Saturday and will ship to Churchill Downs on Monday. Trained by Art Sherman, California Chrome will be ridden in Kentucky Derby 140 by Victor Espinoza.

Blue Grass winner Dance With Fate is scheduled to work Saturday morning on the turf at Santa Anita for trainer Peter Eurton. The colt will be on the same flight to Louisville, Kentucky Monday with California Chrome.

Grade 2 Rebel winner Hoppertunity, runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby, walked the shedrow a day after working five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 at Churchill Downs. Trained by Bob Baffert, Hoppertunity will be attempting to become the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby without a start as a two-year-old since Apollo in 1882.

"Hey, I had him entered in a race at two and scratched him because I had another one there," Baffert said. "He was ready to run, so that should count."

Arkansas Derby runner-up Ride On Curlin galloped after the renovation break for trainer Billy Gowan under exercise rider Bryan Beccia.

"He's doing just as good as we had him in Arkansas," Gowan said. "He's held his weight well, stayed sound and is galloping around with his ears up. He likes this track."

Ride On Curlin is scheduled to work Saturday, weather-permitting.

Uncle Sigh is scheduled to work Friday morning on the Belmont Park Training Track around 9:30 a.m., according to Gary Contessa. The trainer said Uncle Sigh would leave New York by van early Saturday morning with a Saturday evening arrival at Churchill Downs anticipated. Contessa will fly to Louisville on Sunday.

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Social Inclusion blazes three-eighths at Gulfstream

Social Inclusion appears headed to the Preakness (Beth Arkin/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Although a run for Social Inclusion in the May 3 Kentucky Derby is still a possibility, the connections of the late-developing colt have decided to focus on the Preakness Stakes, the middle leg of the Triple Crown on May 17 at Pimlico, as their goal.

The son of Pioneerof the Nile breezed three furlongs in a swift :34 2/5 before galloping out four furlongs in :45 3/5 Thursday morning over Gulfstream Park's fast main track.

Following the "great" work, Ron Sanchez of owner Rontos Racing Stable Corp. expressed doubt that Social Inclusion, currently ranked 24th on the points list that decides the 20-horse Derby field, would draw into the first leg of the Triple Crown.

"At this moment, I don't think we'll ship to Kentucky. It doesn't make sense to pay a $25,000 entry fee, plus all the other expenses, when you're 24th and also-eligible," Sanchez said. "He's going to train here and then we hope to get a prep for the Preakness. We'll make a final decision on Monday."

The Manny Azpurua-trained Social Inclusion is scheduled to breeze again at Gulfstream on Monday morning.

The Kentucky-bred colt created a buzz at Gulfstream on February 22 when he debuted with a 7 1/2-length romp in a six-furlong maiden race in 1:09 1/5. He came right back to break Gulfstream's track record for 1 1/16 miles on March 12, scoring by 10 lengths in 1:40.97.

In Social Inclusion's third lifetime start, he set the pace into midstretch in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 5 before faltering to third, nosed out of second-place and an automatic berth in the Kentucky Derby.

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Racing Headlines

Cairo Prince to undergo surgery for ankle chip

Cairo Prince should be ready to race again by late summer (Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos)
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin took to Twitter Thursday to update fans on Cairo Prince, who was knocked off the Triple Crown trail by injury last weekend. Sent to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital near Lexington, Kentucky, for additional diagnostic testing on his left ankle, the colt will undergo surgery for a bone chip on Friday.

"Thanks for all the kind words and support for Cairo Prince and my team during this difficult time. Thankfully it is a minor injury," McLaughlin said.

"Cairo Price is scheduled for surgery tomorrow at Rood & Riddle to remove a small but very painful chip from his ankle.

"If all goes well Cairo Prince should be back for a successful late summer/fall campaign."

Cairo Prince had ranked among the leading Kentucky Derby contenders. From the first crop of Pioneerof the Nile, the gray burst onto the scene in New York last fall. He dominated the Nashua before suffering a tough photo-finish loss to Honor Code in the Remsen, both at Aqueduct. Wintering in South Florida, Cairo Prince opened 2014 with a smashing, 5 3/4-length victory in the January 25 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.

Darley then acquired a majority interest in the classic hopeful, who made his debut in Godolphin's royal blue silks in the March 29 Florida Derby. But Cairo Prince didn't run up to his best that day, checking in fourth as the 6-5 favorite. He returned to the worktab at Palm Meadows April 13, covering a half-mile in a sharp :48 3/5, only to meet with this setback.

Cairo Prince sports a mark of 5-3-1-0, $562,000.

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Breeders' Cup unveils 2014 Challenge series

The Breeders' Cup announced Thursday that the 2014 Breeders' Cup Challenge series will consist of 73 automatic qualifying races into the Breeders' Cup World Championships with 46 Challenge races to be held in the United States and Canada.

Breeders' Cup will pay entry fees and provide travel allowances for the connections of the Challenge winners outside of California to compete in the Championships.

Horses from around the globe will be qualifying for the 31st Breeders' Cup World Championships, which will be held at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, on October 31-November 1, and will be televised live in the United States by the NBC Sports Group. The $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic will be shown live in primetime on NBC from 8-9 p.m. (ET) on November 1.

On April 21, Breeders' Cup and NBC Sports announced an expanded partnership to televise "Breeders' Cup Challenge Series: Win and You're In," a series of 18 Challenge races across 11 shows on NBC and NBCSN from top tracks in the United States from June until the World Championships.

The Breeders' Cup Challenge series, now in its eighth year, will be held at many of the world's premier racetracks in 13 countries: the United States, Canada, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Peru and South Africa.

As part of the enhanced benefits to horsemen in the Breeders' Cup Challenge series, Breeders' Cup will pay the entry fees and guarantee a starting position in a corresponding Championships race for winners of all Challenge races.

Breeders' Cup will provide travel allowances to all starters outside of California for this year's Championships including Challenge race winners. Breeders' Cup will provide a $40,000 travel stipend to the connections of each Challenge winner from outside of North America and in North America, a $10,000 travel allowance for winners stabled outside of California. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders' Cup program by the Championships' pre-entry deadline of October 20 to receive the rewards.

Last year, 36 participants in the Breeders' Cup World Championships earned automatic starting positions through the Breeders' Cup Challenge series. Mucho Macho Man (Classic); Beholder (Distaff); Dank (Filly & Mare Turf) and Wise Dan (Mile) were Challenge qualifiers who won World Championships races.

"The Breeders' Cup Challenge series continues to be an excellent path for horsemen to secure an automatic starting berth, with fees paid, for their runners to qualify into the Championships," said Craig Fravel, president and CEO of Breeders' Cup Ltd. "We were very proud of the large number of Challenge starters that competed in last year's event, and are looking forward to attracting more horses this year as we welcome our new racetrack partners who have joined the series for the 2014 season."

Some of the highlights of this year's Challenge series are as follows:

  • There will be a record seven automatic berths awarded for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, all Grade 1 races: Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 14; Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 28; Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on July 27; Whitney from Saratoga on August 2; Pacific Classic from Del Mar on August 24; and Jockey Club Gold Cup from Belmont Park and Awesome Again from Santa Anita Park, both on September 28. Defending Classic champion Mucho Macho Man earned an automatic berth by winning last year's Awesome Again.
  • The series will include 11 new races: Maine Chance Farms Paddock Stakes (SAf-G1) run January 11 at Kenilworth in South Africa (Filly & Mare Turf); Queen Elizabeth (Aus-G1) at Royal Randwick in Australia run April 14 (Turf); Grande Premio Brasil (Brz-G1) at Hipodromo de Gavea in Brazil on June 8 (Turf); Clasico Cesar del Rio (Per-G3) at Hipódromo de Monterrico on June 22 in Peru (Distaff); Copa de Oro Vinas de Chile (Chi-G2) at Club Hipico de Santiago in Chile on June 27 (Dirt Mile); Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) on June 28 (Classic); Belmont Oaks at Belmont Park on July 5 (Filly & Mare Turf); Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park in New Jersey on July 27 (Classic); Matron (Ire-G1) at Leopardstown in Ireland on September 13 (Filly & Mare Turf); Juddmonte International at York on September 20 in England (Turf); and Rockfel (Eng-G2) at Newmarket in England on September 27 (Juvenile Fillies Turf).
  • For the fifth consecutive year, the Breeders' Cup will pay foal nominators of Challenge winners a $10,000 award.
  • The international portion of the series began on January 11 in South Africa at Kenilworth when the seven-year-old mare Beach Beauty won the Maine Chance Farms Paddock Stakes and qualified for an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, and the five-year-old Capetown Noir captured the Queen's Plate and gained a free start into the Breeders' Cup Mile.

    In Australia this month, three more horses earned automatic berths at Royal Randwick -- Lankan Rupee, winner of the TJ Smith (Turf); Sacred Falls, winner of the Doncaster Mile (Mile); and It's a Dundeel, who captured the Queen Elizabeth (Turf).

    The first two North American races of the series will be run on June 7 with the Metropolitan Handicap (Dirt Mile) and Ogden Phipps (Distaff) at Belmont Park, and will be televised live on NBCSN.

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    Western Hymn looms large in Sandown Classic Trial; Telescope returns

    John Gosden has hit the ground running this Flat turf season, and the unbeaten Western Hymn puts his Epsom Derby credentials on the line for Clarehaven Stables in Friday's Group 3 Sandown Classic Trial.

    Impressive over a mile on debut on Kempton's Polytrack in December and in an often-informative Newbury conditions event over 10 furlongs April 11, Robin Geffen and Rachel Hood's exciting prospect will be a warm order to provide a seventh renewal for his conditioner.

    "It's a while since a Derby winner came out of the race, but I gather it was hot in the seventies and eighties when Troy, Henbit, Shergar and Shahrastani were successful," jockey William Buick wrote in his attheraces.com blog Thursday.

    "I'm hoping that Western Hymn is the horse that's going to put the race back in the spotlight and I have no doubts he has the ability to do it. I loved everything he did at Newbury last time, when he showed himself to be very amenable then produce a good turn of pace when I asked for it. He's taken plenty from that race and has done well since. The track should be fine, a marginally stiffer mile and a quarter to the one at Newbury and it looks as though there will be some juice in the ground, too, which he likes. He's a horse with a lot of potential and all I want him to do is keep showing it."

    At the other end of the spectrum is Ron Hull, David Brown and Clive Watson's Royal Lodge third Sir Jack Layden, who has an exposed look but who could have an edge after returning from a spell in Dubai when eighth in the March 29 U.A.E. Derby on the Tapeta, while another like Western Hymn with untapped potential is Weston Brook Farm's Lingfield conditions winner Impulsive Moment, a son of Galileo and the classy Luas Line.

    Earlier on the card, onetime Derby hope Telescope opens his four-year-old campaign in the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes. Sir Michael Stoute has used this about 1 1/4-mile test as a springboard for his returning older stars in waiting and been successful a record seven times thanks to the exploits of the likes of Singspiel, Ask and Tartan Bearer.

    One of Freemason Lodge's most vaunted prospects of recent times, Telescope disappointingly missed out on the Classics in 2013 but looked ready to make up for lost time when winning the Great Voltigeur at York in August. Subsequently meeting with the latest in a series of setbacks and being put on the shelf for the remainder of the season, Highclere Thoroughbred Racing's great hope has the operation's Managing Director Harry Herbert excited as he starts on a clean slate.

    "Sir Michael is very happy with him and we're thrilled to see him back," he told PA Sport. "He's so well that there's a good chance he'll need the run, he's had proper blows after the last two pieces of work. He's had a good break and this is a race Sir Michael likes to start off in, so hopefully he's in for a good season."

    His chief rival appears to be Godolphin's Sky Hunter, whose sole defeat for Andre Fabre came when third in the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly in June. His only subsequent outing resulted in a workmanlike first black-type success in the Prix Frederic de Lagrange over 12 furlongs at Vichy the following month and he is one of the most intriguing recruits for the boys in blue.

    "Sky Hunter is doing very well," trainer Saeed bin Suroor commented. "He is a horse I like and has been working really nicely. A mile and a quarter will be fine for him, although he will improve for his first appearance since last year."

    If the unexposed pair fail to ignite, Khalid Abdullah's Noble Mission could step in, but the string of Group-race placings which include a latest second in Newbury's John Porter on April 12 are beginning to stack up and Frankel's brother may not be the most resolute in a finish.

    Former handicapper-turned-Group 1 performer Top Notch Tonto, an unlikely hero in 2013, is back for Friday's Group 2 Sandown Mile as he bids to heap further glory on the quietly-respected but internationally-insignificant Brian Ellison stable.

    Having taken care of the four-year-old halfway through last term, the Northern conditioner managed to conjure a win in Haydock's Superior Mile and a second in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Ascot's Champions' Day from the flashy chestnut.

    "It will be an interesting race and we're looking forward to getting him started," Ellison told PA Sport. "I'm sure he'll improve a lot for the run -- we're getting him ready for the Lockinge (at Newbury May 17) -- but he's plenty done and seems in good form. He looks a million dollars at the moment and we just want to see him pick up where he left off."

    Richard Hannon Sr. struck gold seven times since 2004, and his son's duo are last year's winner Trumpet Major and jockey Richard Hughes' choice, Montiridge. The latter, who races for Mitaab Abdullah, registered two listed wins and a Group 3 in the Thoroughbred Stakes over this trip at Glorious Goodwood in August and signed off with a second to Soft Falling Rain in Newmarket's Joel Stakes in September.

    "Montiridge has won at Sandown in the soft, but Top Notch Tonto, whom I consider our biggest danger, is at his element in these conditions, so I would not mind if we saw some improvement in the ground as the better it is the more it would lessen his chance," Hannon said. "In contrast, our fellow goes on any ground. He has the class -- he was beaten a head in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot and there was no disgrace in being beaten by Soft Falling Rain in the Joel Stakes at Newmarket at the back-end -- so he has to be a major player."

    Last year's Lennox winner Garswood is another with major claims for David Armstrong and Cheveley Park Stud, based on his latest third behind the established class acts Moonlight Cloud and Gordon Lord Byron in Longchamp's Prix de la Foret over seven furlongs at Longchamp, but he has stamina to prove.

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    Champagne, All Aged conclude Sydney's autumn carnival

    At the end of this month, trainer Peter Snowden will hang up his hat at Darley Australia's Crown Lodge after six years as the operation's head trainer. Before that, though, Snowden has one more chance to earn Sheikh Mohammed another Group 1, with Kumaon in the Champagne Stakes at Randwick Saturday.

    Snowden certainly has the experience to win the Champagne, having taken two of the last three renewals with Helmet in 2011 and Guelph last year, and he saddles Kumaon off a sixth-place finish in the Sires' Produce Stakes two weeks ago. The dark bay, who broke his maiden at first asking at Rosehill December 21, later finished second in the Pago Pago.

    Kumaon will have to see off the challenge of Sires' Produce winner Peggy Jean, who has been prepared by trainer Gerald Ryan with these two races in mind. A winner in her second start in the lucrative Inglis Classic January 18, Peggy Jean was earning her second lifetime victory in five starts in the Sires' Produce.

    Much attention is being paid to Veuvelicious, who broke her maiden at third asking at Sandown March 22 before taking the listed Fernhill Handicap over this track and trip last weekend. She is the only runner in the field to have tried the mile distance.

    Randwick's All Aged Stakes, programmed as the final Group 1 of the Sydney autumn carnival, should surely be a fitting finale. Won in the past by the likes of All Too Hard, Atlantic Jewel and Sunline, the All Aged this year boasts some intriguing contenders deserving to join that honor roll.

    Rebel Dane is favored on the back of a strong second place finish to the brilliant Lankan Rupee in the T.J. Smith two weeks ago. That was the four-year-old's belated first outing of 2014 coming off a spring campaign that saw him victorious in the Sir Rupert Clarke, and he should enjoy the return to a drier track.

    Steps in Time, winner of the Coolmore Classic at Rosehill March 22, will be given a chance to rebound from a 13th-place finish in the T.J. Smith after failing to handle the heavy going. Weary is another to have been placed at The Championships, having finished third in the Doncaster Mile. The progressive import, who had previously won the Doncaster Prelude, is rated highly by trainer Chris Waller. Hana's Goal found no luck in running when 14th in the Coolmore Classic in her Australian debut, but was running on a sneaky good sixth in the Doncaster, and certainly poses a threat here.

    Meanwhile, at Morphetville on Saturday, filly and mare sprinters will be given their chance to shine in the Robert Sangster Classic over 1,200 meters. Platelet is receiving attention in the betting as she looks to defend her win from 12 months ago. The bay backed that victory up with a Goodwood Stakes win two weeks later, and has displayed enough consistency since to suggest she retains her class. Making a belated start to her autumn campaign, she won a Moonee Valley handicap March 21, and finished second in the local R.N. Irwin Stakes three weeks ago.

    The five-year-old will have to see off the challenge of the favored sophomore Villa Verde. Winner of the Challenge Stakes March 15, Villa Verde was a smart third in the Galaxy at Rosehill March 29 before finishing eighth three weeks ago in a boggy T.J. Smith at Royal Randwick. Dual Group 3 winner A Time for Julia seeks a first Group 1 victory off a fourth in the Coolmore Classic, and last year's Blue Diamond heroine Miracles of Life seeks her first win since that day.

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    Triple Crown News & Notes

    Hoppertunity, General a Rod work under Twin Spires

    Hoppertunity (outside) turned in a work that pleased trainer Bob Baffert (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)

    Kentucky Derby candidate Hoppertunity worked five furlongs in company in 1:00 1/5 after the renovation break Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs with Rosie Napravnik up.

    Working in company with Drill, a five-year-old multiple graded stakes winner, Hoppertunity recorded fractions of :12 2/5, :24 2/5, :36 1/5 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 1/5, seven-eighths in 1:26 3/5 and a mile in 1:41 3/5. The five-eighths move was the second fastest of 15 at the distance.

    "I was happy with the work," trainer Bob Baffert said. "I thought it went well even though the workmate didn't put up much of a fight and lost interest."

    Hoppertunity, who arrived at Churchill Downs on Monday, enters Derby 140 off a runner-up finish in the Santa Anita Derby behind probable Derby favorite California Chrome.

    "I was happy with the way he ran (in the Santa Anita Derby) and he finished well," Baffert said. "I didn't think he was going to beat California Chrome, but he ran a good, solid race.

    "He (Hoppertunity) is a laid-back horse and he is not going to wow you. He is just a steady horse and he moves well over the track. We know he can run."

    Prior to the Santa Anita Derby, Hoppertunity finished fourth in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds and first in the Rebel at Oaklawn Park.

    General a Rod recorded his first official work at Churchill Downs, covering five furlongs in 1:03 2/5 with splits of :13, :26 1/5, 39 and out six furlongs in 1:17 3/5 with exercise rider Joel Barrientos up for trainer Mike Maker.

    General a Rod's work came after the morning renovation break and was followed by Louisiana Derby winner Vicar's In Trouble, who galloped.

    "They're all in good shape," Maker said. "General a Rod had a routine, maintenance work, so we'll work him back in six days and go from there."

    General a Rod, the Gulfstream Park Derby winner, subsequently finished second in the Fountain of Youth and third in the Florida Derby.

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    Racing Headlines

    Ria Antonia works five-eighths for Oaks

    The Kentucky Oaks will mark Ria Antonia's second start for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert (Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos)

    Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Ria Antonia worked five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 with Rosie Napravnik aboard before the Wednesday morning renovation break at Churchill Downs.

    Working on her own, Ria Antonia posted fractions of :12 4/5, :24 3/5 and :48 1/5 with a six-furlong gallop out time 1:14 4/5. The move was the third fastest of 15 at the distance.

    "I was happy with the work," trainer Bob Baffert said of Ria Antonia, who arrived in Louisville Monday from Southern California. "She went really nice and moved well over the track."

    A distant fourth behind likely Oaks favorite Untapable in the February 22 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds, Ria Antonia finished second to fellow Oaks contender Fashion Plate in the April 5 Santa Anita Oaks, her first outing since joining the Baffert barn.

    Mike Smith, who rode Princess of Sylmar to victory in the 2013 Oaks, has the mount next Friday.

    In other Oaks news, the DRF's David Grening tweeted out that trainer Leah Gyarmati has taken Grade 1 winner Sweet Reason out of Oaks consideration in favor of running in the Grade 1, $750,000 Acorn on June 7 at Belmont Park.

    With Sweet Reason's defection, Thank You Marylou is now 14th on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard.

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    Derby Trial highlights opening night at Churchill Downs

    Chitu could scratch from the Derby Trial in favor of the Kentucky Derby (Coady Photography)

    Churchill Downs kicks off its 38-day spring meet Saturday with a night racing program that features the 90th running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Derby Trial. First post is 6 p.m. (EDT), with the Derby Trial scheduled for 10:01 p.m.

    The centerpiece of the session comes the following weekend, with the 140th running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby on May 3 and the 140th running of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks the day before. Churchill Downs will offer a record six Grade 1 events among its schedule of 24 stakes races worth a total of $7.675 million during the April 26-June 29 spring meet.

    Bob Baffert has a pair of Kentucky Derby prospects, Bayern and Chitu, among the 10 entrants in the Derby Trial.

    Chitu is already in the main body of the Kentucky Derby field, ranking 12th by points following his victory in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby on March 23. A winner in three of four career starts, the lone setback coming via a runner-up in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis, the Henny Hughes colt drew post 2 with jockey Joel Rosario in the Derby Trial.

    "I am going to enter him, but I am not sure if he will run," Baffert said of Chitu. "This gives me an option. He's a lazy work horse. He needs to get one good work and I want to see how he trains."

    Bayern is ranked 23rd by points and Baffert will use the Derby Trial as a Preakness prep if it doesn't appear he can get into the main body of the Derby field (Benoit Photography)

    Bayern received the innermost post position and Rosie Napravnik is named to ride. A debut maiden special weight scorer on January 4, the Offlee Wild colt recorded a 15-length allowance victory in his second career outing but missed a planned stakes debut in the March 8 San Felipe due to a foot issue. He came back from a two-month hiatus in the Arkansas Derby, weakening to third as the favorite after establishing the early pace, and is eligible to keep improving in his second stakes attempt.

    Bayern remains under consideration for the Kentucky Derby but would need help making the field, currently ranking 23rd.

    "Bayern likes this track, so I am going to enter him in the Trial and watch for defections (from the Derby field)," Baffert said. "I think the Trial would set him up for the Preakness well."

    Spot is another top contender. A sharp 2 1/2-length winner in the Grade 2 Swale at seven furlongs, the Nick Zito-trained gelding was never a factor trying two turns in the Florida Derby, checking in seventh, but the son of Pulpit should appreciate the cutback to a one-turn mile. John Velazquez picks up the mount.

    Laddie Boy makes his first start at Churchill Downs since finishing second in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club in late November. Conditioned by Chuck Peery, the gray colt showed little in his first two outings this year on Polytrack, recording a pair of fifths in the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway and the off-the-turf Transylvania at Keeneland, but he will receive an equipment change with blinkers off and picks up the services of the hot-riding Stewart Elliott.

    Grade 2-placed Big Sugar Soda tries graded company again following a runner-up in the March 22 Gazebo at Oaklawn Park. Matador has raced exclusively in stakes in all six career starts, with a close fourth in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis being his best outcome this season, and Friendswith K Mill receives class relief after finishing seventh behind California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby.

    Embellishing Bob will be tested for class following an encouraging maiden win at Fair Grounds, registering a 102 BRIS Speed rating for the four-length decision. Recent Keeneland allowance winner Myositis Dan and expected long shot Bitters 'n Bourbon round out the field.

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    NYRA releases Saratoga stakes schedule

    The 146th Saratoga meet will feature a record $17.45 million in stakes purses, topped by the $1.25 million Travers on August 23 and the $1.5 million Whitney on August 2.

    Both the 1 1/4-mile Travers for three-year-olds and the 1 1/8-mile Whitney for three-year-olds and up received significant purse increases over their 2013 levels, having been previously worth $1 million and $750,000, respectively.

    The 145th running of the Travers is one of four stakes scheduled for August 23 and shares the card with the $500,000 King's Bishop for three-year-old sprinters, the $500,000 Ballerina for filly and mare sprinters, and the $250,000 Ballston Spa for filly and mare turf horses.

    Another blockbuster day of stakes action on the schedule is August 2, with the Whitney, one of North America's premier races for older males on the dirt, topping a card that includes five stakes. Joining the Whitney Day program this year will be the $500,000 Test for three-year-old fillies, the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap for older sprinters, and the $100,000 Lure. The $100,000 De La Rose will also once again be part of the Whitney Day festivities this year.

    August 24 will be dedicated to the best New York-breds as Saratoga will host the inaugural Saratoga Showcase Day, featuring the Albany, West Point, Yaddo, Fleet Indian, Funny Cide, and Seeking the Ante.

    In total, Saratoga will host 33 graded flat races, including 15 Grade 1 events. Opening weekend will feature the $500,000 Diana for fillies and mares on the turf on July 19 and the $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks for three-year-old fillies on July 20.

    Three-year-olds will have the spotlight on July 26 as they will compete in the $600,000 Jim Dandy at 1 1/8 miles and the $200,000 Amsterdam at 6 1/2 furlongs. In the past 10 years, seven horses have used the Jim Dandy as a springboard to a victory in the Travers.

    The $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap, won the past two years by two-time reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan, is the featured race on August 9. The Fourstardave is a one-mile turf race for three-year-olds and up.

    The 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks precedes the $600,000 Alabama, New York's top race for three-year-old fillies. The 1 1/4-mile Alabama is scheduled for August 16. $300,000 Lake Placid, also for three-year-old fillies, will be contested on the turf as part of the Alabama undercard.

    The final Saturday, August 30, will include four stakes, topped by the $600,000 Woodward for three-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles. Older males also will compete in the $500,000 Forego at seven furlongs on the main track and in the $250,000 Bernard Baruch on the turf. Sophomore fillies will sprint in the $300,000 Prioress.

    Completing the list of Grade 1 races on the flat are the $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational on August 17, the $350,000 Spinaway on August 31, and the $350,000 Hopeful on closing day, September 1.

    "This exciting stakes menu will ensure that Saratoga Race Course again hosts the finest race meeting in North America, and our enhanced Whitney Day reflects our desire to make it one of the most significant days on the national racing calendar," said Chris Kay, CEO and President of The New York Racing Association. "Our new racing personnel, led by Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Martin Panza and Racing Secretary Frank Gabriel Jr., are working every day to improve the quality of racing -- as reflected in this powerful collection of outstanding races."

    Saratoga will also host a pair of Grade 1 steeplechase races: the $100,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial on July 31, and the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup, run in memory of Thomas H. Voss, on August 21.

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    International entries abound for Royal Ascot races

    No fewer than 11 nations are represented among the entries for this year's seven Royal Ascot Group 1 races, which were released Wednesday.

    The Hong Kong-trained winners of both Group 1 sprints on Dubai World Cup night, Sterling City and Amber Sky, are expected to head the early betting markets for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes and King's Stand Stakes, respectively.

    Sterling City is set to take in the KrisFlyer Sprint in Singapore before a final decision is made on Royal Ascot but if successful there, he would be racing for the $1 million bonus at Royal Ascot, having already won Dubai's leg of the Global Sprint Challenge.

    The bonus is payable to the connections of any horse successful in three of ten legs of the Global Sprint Challenge. The next leg is the KrisFlyer Sprint in Singapore on May 18, followed by the two Royal Ascot sprints and the July Cup at Newmarket on July 12.

    The United States is represented in the initial entries for the King's Stand by Ancil, who broke the five-furlong track record when winning at Tampa Bay Downs in March. Trainer Joan Scott is expected to be the first lady trainer from the United States to saddle a runner at Royal Ascot.

    South Africa's Shea Shea was narrowly denied by fellow entry, Ireland's Sole Powerm, in last year's King's Stand and both are expected to line up again.

    Australia, successful four times in the King's Stand, is represented by last year's champion three-year-old sprinter Zoustar, although he is more likely to take up his engagement in the Diamond Jubilee where, in addition to Sterling City, international representation could include North American sprinters Occasional View and Laugh Track.

    Occasional View won the Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland on April 12 with Canadian-trained Laugh Track less than three lengths behind in third, the last named having been beaten just a neck in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita in November.

    The Queen Anne Stakes has attracted its most cosmopolitan entries ever, with eight countries represented at the closing stage.

    Australia's champion miler Sacred Falls heads the international cast having won the Doncaster Mile on April 12 at The Championships in Sydney. He went on to finish second to the retired It's a Dundeel in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, also at Randwick, the following week.

    Hong Kong has three entries headed by Able Friend, second in the Hong Kong Derby over 10 furlongs in March and a winner back over a mile at local Group 2 level on his next start. He heads next to the Champions Mile at Sha Tin on May 4 where likely opponents could include fellow Queen Anne entries Gold Fun, second in the Hong Kong Mile in December, and Blazing Speed, who is a regular in the big Hong Kong races between a mile and 10 furlongs.

    South Africa's entry is Soft Falling Rain, second in the recent Godolphin Mile in Dubai, whilst the United States could be represented by Golden Ticket, who dead-heated in the 2012 Travers and was second in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile last year.

    The United States is also represented by proxy in the Queen Anne through Verrazano, who was fourth in that Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile when trained by Todd Pletcher.

    Germany, France, Ireland, and the United Kingdom are also represented. Richard Hannon has entered Sussex Stakes winner Toronado, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner Olympic Glory and One Thousand Guineas and Coronation Stakes winner Sky Lantern, although she is likely to start her year in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes.

    The Prince of Wales's Stakes will be many people's idea of the race of the week this year with French-trained Arc winner Treve an intended runner pending her reappearance at Longchamp this weekend.

    Compatriot and Ascot regular Cirrus des Aigles and Ocovango make up a powerful French entry for the race which also includes a fascinating possible runner from Hong Kong in Akeed Mofeed.

    Akeed Mofeed, winner of Hong Kong's premier race last year, the Hong Kong Cup, has been forced to miss this weekend's Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin through injury and also been ruled out of the Singapore Cup in May, but has nevertheless been entered for Royal Ascot.

    Breeders' Cup Turf winner Magician and Epsom Derby winner Ruler of the World head Aidan O'Brien's entries while others of note include last year's Prince of Wales's runner-up Mukhadram, who was second in the Dubai World Cup in March; last year's Irish Derby winner Trading Leather, and Yorkshire Oaks winner The Fugue.

    There is no doubt that the star name amongst the entries for the Gold Cup is The Queen's reigning champion, Estimate, although the favorite for the race is likely to be last year's St Leger winner Leading Light in what could be a fascinating clash between the last two winners of the Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot.

    The United States could be represented by Frac Daddy, a recent winner at Keeneland in the Ban Ali Stakes, while entries have also been received from France, Spain and Germany for Europe's long-distance championship.

    "We are delighted to see so many continents represented and especially pleased with the depth of entries from Hong Kong after their sprinters stole the show on Dubai World Cup night," said Nick Smith, Head of Communications and International Racing at Ascot.

    "The entries from North America look high quality this year too and, in addition to a large contingent from Kenny McPeek at this stage, and the very quick Ancil and Laugh Track, we are expecting No Nay Never to try to supplement his Norfolk Stakes win of last year in the Jersey Stakes. (Trainer) Wesley (Ward) reports that he is putting together his usual string of two year olds for the trip and Todd Pletcher has also shown interest in sending juveniles this year.

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    De Kock high on QEII runners at Sha Tin

    South African trainer Mike de Kock is no stranger to success in Sha Tin's Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup, having lifted Hong Kong's 2000-meter spring feature on two occasions with Irridescence (2006) and Archipenko (2008), and the conditioner is back with two chances for Sunday's renewal. De Kock is set to saddle Jebel Hatta winner Vercingetorix and the smart Sanshaawes, both of whom appeared on the Sha Tin all-weather for the first time Wednesday.

    "Both horses traveled very well. They've arrived safe and sound and just needed a stretch of the legs this morning. It's all good at the moment. No issues. They're well used to traveling," said assistant trainer Trevor Brown, who is currently overseeing preparations.

    De Kock noted that he has been pleased with Vercingetorix's progress since the four-year-old's last out second in the March 29 Dubai Duty Free.

    "He came out of the race very well," the trainer remarked. "He didn't travel well to Dubai and it may have been a blessing in disguise because it just gave him that much more time and it probably enabled us then to be able to go on the road to Hong Kong and possibly to Singapore as well."

    De Kock compared Vercingetorix to his two previous QEII winners.

    "If one looks at the ratings, he's probably got to be in a similar league as Irridescence and Archipenko. He's rated 118 now but he'd be 118-plus. I think he's on the way up but he'd have to be on a plus rating to win -- there are horses rated 124 and thereabouts. He is on the up, it's hard to compare generations but I'd put him in that league."

    Sanshaawes captured a pair of 2000-meter handicaps at the Dubai carnival and was seventh in the Dubai World Cup

    "I think you can draw a line through (the Dubai World Cup) -- Sanshaawes is a very hot horse," de Kock added. "He got worked up on the day. He does get worked up, he sweats up, that's normal, but he reared up quite badly in the pens and got his leg over.

    "Nothing went right for him and he was a little tight in running, so he's a lot better than that and we felt he would have been in the first four if things had gone his way. If he gets a clear run he should be thereabouts on Sunday."

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    Player to deliver keynote address at inaugural Owner Conference

    Gary Player, a legend in the golfing world and a long-time Thoroughbred owner, breeder and advocate of Thoroughbred aftercare, will deliver the keynote address when OwnerView, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and The Jockey Club host the inaugural Thoroughbred Owner Conference in Lexington, Kentucky, October 13-16.

    Player has owned the 20,000-acre Gary Player Stud in South Africa since 1974 and is consistently among the leading breeders in South Africa. He has frequently implored those involved in horse racing to come up with innovative ideas that would generate interest in the sport.

    The Thoroughbred Owner Conference will take place at historic Keeneland Race Course and it will be co-presented by Del Mar, Keeneland, NYRA and The Stronach Group.

    "Our goal in hosting this conference is to showcase a unique lifestyle, whether you are an experienced owner or a potential investor in the Thoroughbred industry," said Bill Thomason, the president and chief executive officer of the Keeneland Association. "Del Mar, NYRA, The Stronach Group and Keeneland all realize and appreciate that Thoroughbred owners play a critical role in our industry, and we all want to make the ownership experience immensely enjoyable at every juncture."

    Attendees at the conference will enjoy a welcome reception at Adena Springs Farm, an evening dinner, a day of racing and numerous opportunities to network with panelists and industry personnel alike.

    "The OwnerView initiative has really grown tremendously in a short period of time, and this conference is just a natural extension of our efforts to retain and attract owners," said Gary Falter, vice president of Operations for OwnerView. "We are grateful to Keeneland for making its facility available and to all four racing organizations for their sponsorship support."

    Conference details, including the complete schedule of events, registration forms, host hotel information and other tourism tips for the Bluegrass Region, are available at ownerview.com.

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    Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame announces 2014 Legend inductees

    The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame (CHRHF) is pleased to announce its 2014 Legend inductees. Legends are people and horses whose accomplishments were achieved more than 50 years ago. They made unique contributions to horse racing in Canada and the CHRHF is pleased to recognize the special roles they played.

    The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame will celebrate the inductions of these deserving legends at the CHRHF President's Reception scheduled to take place May 23 at 5 p.m. (EDT) in the Hall of Fame at Woodbine. The reception will also feature the official unveiling of the display boards for the 2013 inductees, as well as the introduction of the 2014 inductees.

    The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame is a dual hall representing both Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds. Inductees are added annually to build an ever-growing honor roll in the category of Builders, Drivers/Trainers, Jockeys/Trainers, Communicators, Veterans and Legends.

    Standardbred Legend

  • E. King Dodds
  • In 1870, E. (Edmund) King Dodds founded The Canadian Sportsman, a horse racing magazine that would exist for the next 143 years. During his 40 years as editor ending in 1910, Thoroughbreds were the main focus of the publication with coverage of harness racing and steeplechase. Hunting, fishing, curling and other sports were featured, as well as racing on ice. The publication reveled in the gossip and yarns from the backstretch, gambling parlors and saloons.

    Dodds was the ultimate purveyor of the early years of horse racing in the province. His quaint and often acerbic style of recollections of horse racing from as early as the 1840s, was published in 1909 in a book -- "Canadian Turf Collections and Other Sketches."

    Dodds' founding of The Sportsman in 1870 provided the horse racing industry with a formidable partner. It would evolve into the premier Standardbred magazine, the Bible of the sulky world.

    Thoroughbred Legend

  • Archworth
  • The year was 1939 and for the first time in Plate history a ruling monarch was in attendance to witness the 80th running of this race when Archworth galloped to a 10-length victory at majestic Woodbine Park.

    "Royalty saluted royalty," wrote Ralph Allen, as he hailed this momentous occasion when King George VI bestowed fifty sovereigns and a gold-plated trophy to the publisher of the Globe and Mail newspaper, C. George McCullagh, owner of the mercury-footed colt he had bought for a mere $500 at a public auction of yearlings in 1937.

    Acclaimed as Canada's champion two-year-old with victories in the Mrs. Orpen's Cup and Saucer and Clarendon Stakes in 1938, Archworth dominated the racing scene in 1939 as he captured the Prince of Wales and Breeders' Stakes. It would be 1959 before this trio of races became an official event, the year of the next royal visit. The chestnut colt's King's Plate victory on a day he toyed with his 12 foes signaled an important rule change in rules -- it was now open only to three-year-olds.

    Additional details are available at canadianhorseracinghalloffame.com.

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    Bourbon Lane Stable establishes retirement pasture at Old Friends

    Bourbon Lane Stable, a national horse-racing partnership based in Lexington, Kentucky, has established a retirement pasture for its horses at Old Friends. The Bourbon Lane Stable retirement pasture will be dedicated at the 10th annual Old Friends Homecoming on May 4 at 3 p.m. (EDT).

    The pasture, approximately 15 acres in size, will be made available to any off-the-track Thoroughbred who has raced in the Bourbon Lane colors, regardless of whether the horse retired directly from the stable. The retirement pasture is for horses who can't be retrained for a second career or those not suitable for a second career.

    One Bourbon Lane horse, Johannesbourbon, has already taken up residency. A five-year-old by Johannesburg, Johannesbourbon ran 12 times. He won four times and ran second five times, winning more than $68,000 in purse money. Because of knee issues, Johannesbourbon is unable to train for a second career.

    "Bourbon Lane Stable's establishment of a retirement pasture for its horses is a tremendous example of enlightened owners taking the initiative to plan for their horses' retirements," said Michael Blowen, president of Old Friends. "A retirement pasture is like Social Security or a 401(k) plan for Thoroughbreds, and Bourbon Lane is making sure its horses are cared for once their racing days are over."

    The retirement pasture was secured with a $25,000 donation from Bourbon Lane Stable to Old Friends.

    Bourbon Lane made the decision to secure a retirement pasture for its horses, with the hope that other horse owners will consider after-care management as part of their organization.

    "At Bourbon Lane, we are careful to track where our horses go when they leave us. Having a retirement pasture at Old Friends helps us do our part," said Mike McMahon, a managing partner at Bourbon Lane Stable. "We applaud the work they do at Old Friends. They've put together an organization where retired Thoroughbreds are well cared for and celebrated, and we are pleased to be part of that mission."

    More information about Bourbon Lane Stable may be found at www.bourbonlanestable.com. For information about Old Friends, please visit oldfriendsequine.org.

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    Radiohead retired to Old Friends in New York

    Old Friends announced that Group 2 victor Radiohead has joined its band of retired racehorses.

    In late 2009, IEAH purchased Radiohead as a Breeders' Cup Juvenile contender with Kentucky Derby prospects. Bred in Great Britain by Redmyre Bloodstock and S. Hillen, the Johannesburg colt was consigned by Ballyhimikin Stud at the Tattersalls October 2008 Yearling Sale and purchased by Hugo Merry Bloodstock for $143,038.

    Radiohead had won two of six starts in England, including the 2009 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, and was multiple Group 1-placed thanks to the Middle Park and Nunthorpe.

    Racing for IEAH Stables, Pegasus Holding Group, Carmen Burrell and Jonathan Harvey in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Radiohead had to be steadied by Edgar Prado and failed to recover ground over the Santa Anita Pro-Ride surface. Transferred to trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., the colt won his first 2010 start in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park, but his Kentucky Derby bid ended in a ninth-place finish in the Florida Derby. The next year he finished fourth in the 2011 Jaipur Stakes at Belmont.

    After being gelded, Radiohead won a $20,000 start in 2012 at the Ocala Training Center for owner-trainer James K. Chapman, was later raced by Drawing Away Stable and David Jacobson, and claimed in August 2013 by Antonacci Racing and Gerald Antonacci.

    Radiohead continued to hit the board at that level, though without further wins. Trainer Danny Gargan gave him time off during the fall and winter. When he breezed the seven-year-old gelding on April 14, Gargan felt it was time to retire the old campaigner.

    Chris Antonacci and Gargan contacted Lorita Lindemann because of her role in instituting Suffolk Downs' "Zero Tolerance" policy and her longtime involvement in Thoroughbred aftercare. On behalf of Antonacci and Gargan, Lindemann worked with Old Friends president Michael Blowen to retire Radiohead to Clermont Farm near Clermont, New York.

    "Owner Chris Antonacci and trainer Danny Gargan used their astute horsemanship to recognize that Radiohead's best days were behind him and that the classy gelding deserved a dignified retirement," Blowen said. "Lorita Lindemann is extremely efficient at working out the arrangements for so many Thoroughbreds whose racing careers are over. We're grateful to all of them and to Clermont Farm for taking him in."

    Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that cares for more than 125 retired racehorses. It's Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, Kentucky, is open to tourists daily by appointment. Old Friends also has a satellite facility in Greenfield Center, New York, Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division. For more information on tours or to make a donation, contact the main farm at 502-863-1775 or see their website at oldfriendsequine.org.

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    Canadian champ Forte Dei Marmi faces tough field in Elkhorn

    Canadian champ Forte Dei Marmi will break from post 13 in the Elkhorn (WEG/Michael Burns Photography)

    Forte Dei Marmi, who rebounded from a slow start to the 2013 season to become Canada's champion turf male, will hope for better luck in this year's renewal of the Grade 2, $250,000 Elkhorn, which brings down the curtain at the Keeneland spring meet Friday.

    The Roger Attfield-trained eight-year-old gelding, fifth in a nine-furlong Keeneland allowance prep on April 5, is entering the Elkhorn in the same fashion he did last year. However, his performance in the 2013 edition of the 1 1/2-mile grass feature is best forgotten as he was pulled up and vanned off after losing contact with the field. His next try was not much better, a ninth in the Dixie at Pimlico.

    "Scared the life out of me. Nothing happened," said Attfield of the 2013 Elkhorn. "It was upsetting but a relief, too, when we realized he was OK."

    Forte Dei Marmi's fortunes took a positive turn when he remained to race at his Woodbine home base. The son of Selkirk reeled off three straight graded wins in the Singspiel, Sky Classic, and Northern Dancer, and despite a poor try in the Canadian International, won a Sovereign Award as the Dominion's top turf male.

    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.

    "He's had some rough trips in his last few races, and I tried him on the dirt one last time, which didn't go all that well, but he's a nice horse, doing good," trainer Ken McPeek said. "A mile and a half won't be an issue. He'll love it."

    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.

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    Romantica debuts for Mott in Bewitch

    BC Filly & Mare Turf runner-up Romantica figures to be a heavy favorite on the penultimate day of the Keeneland spring meet (Cecilia Gustavvson/Horsephotos.com)

    Romantica, who made a highly favorable first impression on American audiences with a close second-place finish in last November's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, kicks off her 2014 campaign in Thursday's Grade 3, $150,000 Bewitch at Keeneland over 1 1/2 miles on turf.

    Formerly with Andre Fabre in France and now with Bill Mott, Romantica couldn't quite replicate the feat of her dam, Banks Hill, who captured the 2001 Filly & Mare Turf. However, the five-year-old Galileo mare turned in a solid effort in defeat at Santa Anita, missing by a half-length to Dank, who was later named champion turf mare in the U.S.

    The Juddmonte Farms homebred, who started at 9-2 in the Breeders' Cup, compiled a strong record in France, winning three group stakes including the Prix Jean Romanet, a Group 1 event at Deauville, last August. She will race with Lasix for the first time in the Bewitch.

    A number of Bewitch candidates faced each other in recent months down at Gulfstream Park. Inimitable Romanee stalked and pounced her way to a 10-1 upset of the February 15 The Very One over 1 3/8 miles, defeating returning rivals Aigue Marine, Viva Rafaela, and Left a Message. All save Left a Message returned in the March 29 Orchid going 1 1/2 miles, but none were able to win against Anjaz, who also left Bewitch entrants Caroline Thomas and Stick to Your Guns in her wake.

    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.

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    In brief

    A continued lack of horses ready for racing has caused the second cancellation of the recently opened meet at Finger Lakes in Farmington, New York. Racing will take place on Friday, but the Saturday program has been eliminated. The extended cold this past winter that stretched well into March and early April caused significant delays in training, and consequently, less than normal entries for the initial days of the 2014 session. Horses are currently rounding into shape and additional horses are expected to arrive from their winter locales in the near future. "We've seen increased in the numbers of horses clocking official workouts in the morning over the past week, which means many are close to returning to action," Finger Lakes President and General Manager Chris Riegle said. "this has been a difficult stretch, but we should see an uptick in horse availability for racing in the near future." First post on Friday is set for 12:35 p.m. (EDT) and at 1:10 when racing is scheduled to resume on Monday and Tuesday...

    With a third-place finish in last month's Razorback H. (G3) under his belt, Taptowne (Tapit) figures to move forward in his second start of the year in Saturday's $200,000 Texas Mile (G3) at Lone Star Park. The charismatic gray gelding, a stakes winner at Mountaineer and Penn National last season, also placed in such lucrative events as the Oaklawn H. (G2), Prairie Meadows Cornhusker H. (G3), and Ack Ack H. (G3). Taptowne was only a head behind the runner-up in the Razorback, which was contested on an off track. Grand Contender (Strong Contender), a dual stakes winner at Delta Downs over the winter, demonstrated his worth against classier rivals during the Fair Grounds meet, earning the silver in both the Mineshaft H. (G3) and Louisiana H. Another with back class is Bourbon Courage (Lion Heart), who seeks his first win since the 2012 Super Derby (G2). The five-year-old was fourth in the Donn H. (G1) two back and second against allowance foes at Oaklawn most recently. Getting a class test in the Texas Mile is Forest Mouse (Teton Forest), a leading handicap star on the New Mexico circuit...

    The William Haggas-trained Our Channel (English Channel) is set to take his place in the Derby (Eng-G1) on June 7 after gaining an automatic entry in the premier classic when scoring at Epsom Downs Wednesday afternoon. The Kentucky-bred landed Wednesday's Derby Trial for owner Abdulla Al Mansoori and connections are keen to take up the opportunity to run in the Derby. "We are in the Derby now and I think the owner would love to run so that would be the plan," said Haggas's wife, Maureen. "The owner was instrumental in coming here today and, while I'm not certain Our Channel will stay a mile and a half, there's only one Derby so we'll give it a go. Maybe on better ground he might get a bit further. It's up to William and Mr. Al Mansoori but I don't think he'd run again before the Derby. He's a very nice, honest horse and I thought Ryan (Moore) gave him a lovely ride and got him relaxed and switched off in front." Our Channel will be Al Mansoori's first runner in the Derby. "It will take a lot to put off the owner from running in the Derby. He's very keen to go," added Bruce Raymond, the owner's racing manager. "Mr. Al Mansoori instructed Jono Mills to buy the horse from the Kempton breeze-up sales and then he won at Beverley very comfortably in not a bad maiden. He doesn't look as if he needs any more experience, he's seen Epsom today and got round Beverley as well." The winner of Wednesday's Derby Trial automatically received an entry for the Derby, providing they were not a gelding or already entered. The only way for a horse to now be added to the Derby is at the £75,000 supplementary entry stage on June 2...

    Twenty-seven sophomores have been left in the Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1) following the latest forfeit stage. Khalid Abdullah's Kingman (Invincible Spirit) remains the favorite for the May 3 classic following a stylish comeback victory in the April 12 Greenham (Eng-G2), and he remains engaged, along with last week's Craven (Eng-G3) victor Toormore (Arakan). Early favorite Australia (Galileo) and his Ballydoyle stablemate War Command (War Front) are other notable contenders, as is the Roger Varian-trained Racing Post Trophy (Eng-G1) winner Kingston Hill (Mastercraftsman). Varian provided an upbeat bulletin on his charge, telling PA Sport, "Kingston Hill is a clear-winded horse who has done plenty of work, so he will be ready on the day. I couldn't be more pleased with him. Good ground would be perfectly fine -- he might even be better on it -- and, although I would review his participation in the Guineas if the ground came up very quick, I think that is pretty unlikely." There are 33 fillies remaining in the One Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1) for the following day, including ante-post favorite Rizeena (Iffraaj), last week's Nell Gywn (Eng-G1) winner Sandiva (Footstepsinthesand), Fred Darling (Eng-G3) heroine J Wonder (Footstepsinthesand), Coolmore's Tapestry (Galileo), Park (Ire-G3) victress My Titania (Sea the Stars) and Oh So Sharp (Eng-G3) diva Miss France (Dansili)...

    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...

    The Emirates Racing Authority (ERA) will conduct an appeal hearing on April 28 regarding the six-month suspension issued to jockey Pat Cosgrave last month. Cosgrave was handed the six-month verdict as a result of his ride aboard eventual third-place finisher Anaerobio (Catcher in the Rye) in the March 8 Jebel Hatta (UAE-G1) at Meydan. Stewards deemed that Cosgrave, who set the pace aboard Anaerobio before moving off the rail and allowing stablemate and eventual winner Vercingetorix (Silvano) through, deliberately allowed the winner a clear passage...

    Goffs is pleased to announce the appointment of Matthias Seeber as its representative in Germany. A successful owner and breeder in Germany, Seeber has enjoyed success with homebred stakes winners Skagen and Scoville. Based near Sottrum in Germany, Seeber also has extensive corporate experience having previously held a prominent position in the pharmaceutical industry. Commenting on the appointment, Goffs Chief Executive Henry Beeby said, "We are delighted to welcome Matthias Seeber to the team at Goffs. With his experience and understanding of the Thoroughbred industry as both a breeder and an owner, Matthias is an ideal addition to our ever-strengthening team of international agents which clearly demonstrates that Goffs continue to seek out new markets and clients on an ongoing basis." Seeber added, "One of the most important goals of this new challenge will be to make accessible the full range of services provided by Goffs, which is second to none in Europe. I will be available to assist German clients with all enquiries."...

    Click here to view Tuesday evening's Night School with the weekly Night School Rewind. Read all of Tuesday night's interaction as well as listen to the complete 90-minute audio streaming lesson for the session. The audio link is the first entry when you open the Night School chat box. Fans also can register in the archives to be eligible for weekly and seasonal prizes. Week 8 of Night School was entitled "Clockers-Workouts." Listen to guests Mike Welsch of DRF.com and Gary Young of the Xpressbet Kentucky Derby Wagering Guide for what you can glean from the morning movers. The interviews are filled with nuggets about this year's Kentucky Derby contenders as well.

    Carryover Watch

    For Thursday or Next Raceday

    GULFSTREAM:   Pick 6 -- $5,448,255
    HAWTHORNE:   High 5 -- $62,010
    PIMLICO:   Pick 5 -- $48,022
    WOODBINE:   High 5 -- $22,611
    AQUEDUCT:   Pick 6 -- $20,794

    Features

    KENTUCKY DERBY REPORT

    APRIL 25, 2014

    by James Scully

    California Chrome is due to arrive at Churchill Downs Monday  (Benoit Photo)

    The field for the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby is still not set, with a trio of recent defections opening spots for Uncle Sigh, Vinceremos and Harry's Holiday. Attrition always plays a part in the build-up and more than a handful of three-year-olds remain outside the bubble waiting for a spot to materialize.

    Midnight Hawk was removed from consideration Monday and while his absence (or any other longshots that may be withdrawn) figures to have little effect upon the price of the favorite, California Chrome, the recent losses of viable win contenders Cairo Prince and Constitution dealt more of a blow to his price.

    Barring a dreadful inside post, California Chrome likely will be in the 2-1 vicinity at post time.

    Post positions will be an added element but here is an early look at some strengths (S) and weaknesses (W) for the top 22 Derby contenders (ranked by points).

    California Chrome

    Strengths -- The fastest three-year-old, the Chromester earned a field-best 106 BRIS Speed rating for his sterling 5 1/4-length win in the Santa Anita Derby and a 102 for a seemingly effortless 7 1/4-length romp in the San Felipe two back. The athletic chestnut puts himself into the race with his natural speed and displays push-button acceleration, with jockey Victor Espinoza waiting until the stretch drive to ask for run in the last two wins. California Chrome put away the Santa Anita Derby field in a matter of a few strides before being wrapped up on. Super impressive so far.

    Weaknesses -- This isn't the pedigree of a Kentucky Derby winner, with sire Lucky Pulpit (stakes-winning turf sprinter) inspiring little confidence for 10 furlongs, and California Chrome has had issues with tardy starts, breaking a step slow in the Santa Anita Derby. He probably can't afford any troubles leaving the starting gate in a 20-horse field and wouldn't be the first California sensation to falter at short odds shipping into Churchill Downs.

    Vicar's in Trouble

    S -- Excelled in the Louisiana Derby, netting a 104 Speed rating while scoring by 3 1/2 lengths, and Vicar's in Trouble has displayed a nice acceleration for home while capturing three of his last four starts. Rates as an improving colt for trainer Mike Maker and jockey Rosie Napravnik and will be forwardly placed in Derby, looking to take the lead into the stretch drive.

    W -- Legitimate questions surround his effectiveness at 1 1/4 miles. Bred to be more of a miler, the Louisiana-bred essentially had his way on the lead in all three career wins. Those circumstances appear unlikely given the other speed in the 20-horse field and Vicar's in Trouble faltered when changing tactics in the Risen Star.

    Dance with Fate

    S -- Possesses the late foot to make his presence felt in the final furlongs if he handles the track at Churchill Downs, earning century-topping BRIS Late Pace ratings in his last two outings, and the top three finishers in last year's Derby were 15th or worse after the opening six furlongs. This year's event could set up similarly. Dance with Fate closed boldly to win the Blue Grass going away last time and will attempt to carry that form forward.

    W -- Winless in two previous dirt attempts, Dance with Fate has run faster on synthetics and turf. Trainer Peter Eurton long targeted the Blue Grass on Polytrack and wasn't ready to commit to Churchill Downs immediately after the race, citing the dirt track and three-week turnaround as major concerns. Few will be surprised to see the Derby turn into a failed experiment.

    Wicked Strong

    S -- After opening the year with a pair of disappointing efforts at Gulfstream, Wicked Strong's TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial victory stamped him as a major player. He drew off impressively, netting a 103 Speed rating for the 3 1/2-length decision, and figures to receive a better set-up in the Derby. With a favorable pedigree for 10 furlongs, the Jimmy Jerkens-trained colt looms a dangerous closer.

    W -- Proven at Belmont and Aqueduct, Wicked Strong needs to prove he can transfer his form outside of New York. He waited until the stretch drive to make serious headway last time, closing dramatically in the final furlong, and the Derby is usually won on the far turn. Must avoid a regression after a huge jump in Speed ratings.

    Samraat

    S -- Hard-trying horse merits respect. After easily capturing his first three starts over New York-bred rivals, Samraat displayed grit posting commendable Grade 3 wins in the Withers and Gotham. He didn't experience the best trip stalking the pace in the Wood and Wicked Strong left him withering late in third, but Samraat never quit, battling gamely to overhaul Social Inclusion for second on the wire. Trainer Richard Violette achieved his goal getting to the bottom of the colt and is expecting a jump forward.

    W -- Samraat has never earned a triple-digit Speed rating and his ability to thrive at 1 1/4 miles rates as a major concern, with races up to nine furlongs possibly representing his ceiling. He's never been more than two lengths behind at any point of call previously and could get caught chasing a fast pace if he doesn't settle willingly in the early stages.

    Danza

    S --  New kid on the block made his two-turn debut in the Arkansas Derby, exploding from just off the pace to win going away by 4 3/4 lengths, and earned whopping Speed (104) and Late Pace numbers (106). Danza's late kick appears tailor-made for a Derby field loaded with speed and the late-blooming colt is peaking at the right time.

    W -- The Arkansas Derby came out of nowhere, with Danza showing little in his 2014 bow and possessing only a 5 1/2-furlong maiden win last July, and the 41-1 outsider received a perfect inside trip after breaking from the rail, with Bayern drifting out to open clear sailing turning for home. Lightly-raced type could be hard-pressed to reproduce that effort while facing more extreme circumstances in a 20-horse Derby field.

    Hoppertunity

    S -- Didn't race at two but Hoppertunity figures to be plenty fit after making five starts this season. Well-bred for the 1 1/4-mile distance, the improving colt broke through with a bold win in the Rebel two starts back and his non-threatening second in the Santa Anita Derby last time was simply for conditioning -- three-time Derby winner Bob Baffert will look to tighten the screws on Derby day.

    W -- Hoppertunity won't bring the best numbers into the race, managing his first triple-digit Speed rating in the Santa Anita Derby (100), and the grinder must prove that he can quicken readily enough to challenge. He raced close to the pace in both wins, and settled up close as well in the Santa Anita Derby, but the colt figures to employ different tactics from well off the pace.

    Intense Holiday

    S -- His ability to finish could prove valuable, especially if the pace collapses like it did last year, and Intense Holiday has come on in his last two outings, gamely posting his first stakes win in the Risen Star before recording a clear second in Louisiana Derby after a rough trip. Todd Pletcher charge has already raced at five different tracks, so shipping to Churchill Downs should be no problem, and he's a late runner to consider.

    W -- Quality issues still surround him -- Intense Holiday wasn't a serious factor in his first four graded attempts -- and he didn't leave a favorable impression weaving in and out through the stretch of the Louisiana Derby. Could be viewed as more of a plodder than a legitimate late-running threat.

    Wildcat Red

    S -- Speed, speed, speed. Wildcat Red posted strong wins in the Hutcheson and Fountain of Youth before a neck second in the Florida Derby, and he's never been worse than second in seven lifetime starts. Broodmare sire Miner's Mark, a Grade 1 winner at 1 1/4 miles, could potentially balance stamina with a speed-infused top of the pedigree, and the Florida-bred colt is as game as they come.

    W -- Wildcat Red caught a speed-favoring track that played to his run style and got away with slow fractions over the same oval in the Florida Derby; it's tough to say he could've reproduced those efforts elsewhere. Easy to envision him being more of a middle-distance specialist in the future, with Saratoga's Grade 1 King's Bishop at seven furlongs a viable target for the talented colt.

    We Miss Artie

    S -- Surged late to earn his way into the Derby, posting a nose win in the Spiral on Polytrack, and regains the services of Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellano. His run style could play favorably behind an expected lively pace and We Miss Artie will look to rally in the final stages.

    W -- He's been better on turf and synthetics, recording well-beaten efforts in the Fountain of Youth and Breeders' Cup Juvenile on dirt, and didn't run fast capturing the Spiral. We Miss Artie may be done with dirt racing if he doesn't fire in the Derby.

    Ride on Curlin

    S -- Got up late for second in the Arkansas Derby, ensuring the hard-trying colt a spot in the field, and Ride on Curlin picks up the services of three-time Derby winner Calvin Borel. His Speed ratings are increasing nicely and the bay colt has shown that he can overcome adversity, an admirable trait in a 20-horse field. He figures to be saving ground from the inside in midpack and owns a solid late kick.

    W -- His only two wins came sprinting (earning his career-best Speed rating when setting a 5 1/2-furlong track record at Ellis Park) and grinder type can be labeled more of an exotics contender than a win threat, placing in all six graded attempts while never seriously threatening to prevail. His propensity to find trouble is also worrisome.

    Chitu

    S -- Drew off superbly in the stretch of the Sunland Derby, earning a commendable 103 Speed rating for the 2 1/4-length decision, and Chitu has never run a bad race, sustaining his only career setback in four starts with a half-length second in the Robert Lewis. Owns good tactical speed and will look to get in the clear and settle into a comfortable position close to the pace.

    W -- A.P. Indy provides stamina on the dam side, but tough to envision a son of Henny Hughes winning the Kentucky Derby. He's also very lightly-raced, with Animal Kingdom being the only other Derby winner in modern times with only four previous starts, and Chitu has faced little adversity racing on the front end in previous outings.

    Tapiture

    S -- Churchill Downs stakes winner ran well in his first two starts this year at Oaklawn, posting a convincing win in the Southwest before a troubled second in the Rebel, and he's a candidate to rebound following a subpar fourth in the Arkansas Derby. Tapiture figures to be stalking in midpack and is eligible to get first run on the deep closers -- he's the type that could be in the mix turning for home.

    W -- By leading sire Tapit, Tapiture receives little help from his dam side for the 1 1/4-mile distance. His regression in the Arkansas Derby -- the first start at 1 1/8 miles -- is disconcerting given the distance issues surrounding the colt and he's never earned a triple-digit Speed rating. Legitimate questions surrounding his chances.

    Ring Weekend

    S -- Tampa Bay Derby winner is a gelded son of Tapit from a stamina-filled female family. Ring Weekend proved a little rank when trying to rate in the Calder Derby last time, but the Graham Motion trainee settled nicely off the pace when breaking his maiden and has finished in the money in six straight starts since making his career debut.

    W --  Seized the early initiative, opening a clear lead rounding the first turn of the Tampa Bay Derby, and stole the race on the front end at 14-1. Ring Weekend was drilled last time in a soft non-points race, finishing 9 3/4 lengths back as the 1-5 favorite, and his past performances provide little hope that he can compete against this level of horses.

    General a Rod

    S -- General a Rod came up a little short when utilizing stalking tactics in the Florida Derby, finishing 1 1/2 lengths back in third, but the race served its purpose as an educational experience. The Mike Maker-trained colt will attempt to rally from just off the pace with Joel Rosario, last year's Derby-winning jockey, and the presence of dam sire Dynaformer (sire of Barbaro) is encouraging. Honest performer has never run a bad race in five career starts and brings plenty of moxie to the equation if he handles the distance.

    W -- Despite the female side of his family, General a Rod is a speedy type with concerns at 10 furlongs. He dueled from the start of the Gulfstream Park Derby and Fountain of Youth, battling throughout with another speedball (Wildcat Red) over surfaces that favored them, and his only wins have come around one turn. He could get caught chasing the pace if he doesn't settle.

    Medal Count

    S -- He's recently developed into a quality three-year-old for Dale Romans. A non-threatening fifth in the Fountain of Youth, Medal Count rebounded from that disappointment with an eye-catching win in the Transylvania on Keeneland's Polytrack and exits a good second in the Blue Grass. The Dynaformer colt broke his maiden on dirt and is based at Churchill Downs, so he's a candidate to make the transition from synthetics, and packs a big late kick. Rates as an intriguing closer.

    W -- Medal Count opened the year with a dead-heat win on turf and preference so far for turf/synthetics is no surprise given the influences in his pedigree. He's got a lot to prove on dirt against a higher caliber of competition than he faced at Keeneland and the lack of a triple-digit Speed rating (career-best 97) does not flatter his chances.

    Candy Boy

    S -- Opened the year on a strong note, posting a comfortable victory in the Robert Lewis, but Candy Boy did not fire following a two-month freshening in the Santa Anita Derby, chasing the early pace before weakening in the stretch drive. That effort served as a useful tightener and the colt figures to enjoy a better trip at Churchill Downs, rating off an expected hot and contested pace. Three-time Derby winner Gary Stevens believes he can make an impact in the final furlongs.

    W -- His breeding is suspect for the 1 1/4-mile trip and trainer John Sadler fared poorly in his last Derby attempt, sending out Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney's Candy and Arkansas Derby victor Line of David to finish 17th and 18th, respectively, in 2010. Candy Boy's numbers are also light, with a career-best 97 Speed.

    Uncle Sigh

    S -- Will look to rebound in the Derby after losing all chance at the start of the Wood, breaking a step slowly. He performed admirably in two previous attempts, finishing a close second to Samraat in Gotham and Withers despite a seasoning disadvantage, and Uncle Sigh could have more to offer moving forward. Indian Charlie colt does his best running on the front end but appears to receive some stamina from classic-winning dam sire Pine Bluff.

    W -- Like so many in the Derby field, he must find a way to carve out a reasonable trip up close during the early stages and Uncle Sigh will probably look to show a lot more speed after breaking slowly last time. His ability to navigate 10 furlongs is in question -- it's easy to classify him as one who is probably best-suited for less ground.

    Vinceremos

    S -- Vinceremos shipped to Tampa Bay Downs off a maiden special weight win and recorded a gutsy victory in the Sam F. Davis. Runner-up in the Tampa Bay Derby next out, he didn't handle the Polytrack in the Blue Grass and will attempt to show more back on the dirt at Churchill Downs.

    W -- Didn't run fast in his Tampa races and Vinceremos' career-best BRIS Speed rating (93) probably won't get it done.

    Harry's Holiday

    S -- Churchill maiden winner captured a minor stakes sprinting on Turfway's Polytrack before posting a third in the John Battaglia Memorial and a nose second in the Spiral. Faltered in the Blue Grass, but trainer Mike Maker is optimistic that he can turn things around in the Derby.

    W -- His ability in dirt routes can be doubted and Harry's Holiday will bring a pedestrian set of Speed ratings into the race, earning a career-best 93 in a slowly run Spiral.

    Commanding Curve

    S -- Currently 21st on the points list, Commanding Curve will offer some appeal if he makes the field. A Churchill Downs maiden winner in his juvenile finale, he made his 2014 debut and first start against winners in the February 22 Risen Star, offering a decent middle move before flattening out. Figured to move forward in the Louisiana Derby but wound up being slammed at the start by a rival breaking inward, retreating to last early. Passed most of the field on the far turn and stretch for third and the late runner could continue to show more for Dallas Stewart, who recorded a second at 34-1 last year with the deep-closing Golden Soul.

    W -- The inexperienced ridgling is only a maiden winner and could be forced to navigate traffic while trying to make his presence felt from the back of the field. Commanding Curve wasn't a serious factor in both starts this year (finishing five lengths back of the winner last time) and the question remains whether he's good enough to challenge in the Derby.

    Pablo del Monte

    S -- Pablo del Monte exits his best effort of the year, finishing third in the Blue Grass, and figures to show speed if he makes the Derby field.

    W -- Both wins have come sprinting on Polytrack and he wasn't a serious factor in his first two dirt starts this year, finishing fourth in the Gulfstream Park Derby and third in the Hutcheson, both one-turn races. And with his speedy female family, Pablo del Monte could find the 1 1/4-mile trip too taxing.

    HANDICAPPING INSIGHTS

    APRIL 25, 2014

    by Dick Powell

    Remember the "Fix Six" scandal from the 2002 Breeders' Cup? Three unscrupulous individuals with access to the tote system went into the betting system and changed their Pick Six ticket so that the first four horses won and then used all the horses in the last two legs.

    When Volponi upset the Classic at 43-to-1 odds, there was only one winning ticket, which made it easier to track down what exactly happened. Eventually, the perpetrators were caught and the racing industry knew they had a perception problem on their hands.

    None of the race results were affected but the confidence in the wagering system was shaken. So what did the racing industry do?

    They paid former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani $3 million to conduct a study on what was wrong and how to fix it. Giuliani had just left being mayor and had founded a security-consulting firm. After 9/11, he was a nation-wide household name and in the white shoe world of racing "leadership," this was considered a good idea.

    They actually thought that John and Jane Bettor would suddenly have their confidence in the wagering system restored and the racing industry could dodge the bullet of the scandal. Giuliani's team came up with some obvious computer security issues and racing wound up dislocating their collective shoulders by patting themselves on the back.

    Now, we have another scandal. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had an agent infiltrate the Steve Asmussen barn and came up some amateurish video and audio proof of severely damaging practices. Racing is in another crisis and they can't play, nor afford, the Rudy card so what to do?

    It didn't take long but the answer came recently when it was proposed by The Jockey Club that a bunch of owners and trainers will now voluntarily submit veterinary records on their horses competing in graded stakes races. The records will cover the prior 14 days and will be available on the day of the race at least two hours before the race.

    All I can say is WTFWDDD, which is a combination of WTF and Derrick Coleman's famous "Whoop de Damn Do!"

    Calling Doctor Fine, calling Doctor Fine. We have more dislocated shoulders in the Trustees Room. STAT!

    So now, two hours before a graded stakes, I will somehow know what veterinary treatments have been administered to all the horses in the race. This helps me how? Do they really think we are that stupid that this is going to help anything? Based on past performances, a silly question.

    Will the records be accompanied by lie detector tests to prove their veracity? Somehow, I will bet that the people doing the cheating will not fess up voluntarily. Just saying. Somehow I will bet that this new policy won't stop PETA from firing their next salvo against the game.

    If you want to restore this handicapper's confidence in the game, just let me know which horses have had their cobalt treatments and when was the last one. I can take it from there.

    Not all the news in racing has been bad. The New York Racing Association implemented an improved high-definition of the broadcast of their races and the results are stunning. Blown up to full-screen, the live broadcast of their races on their web site is spectacular.

    They also unveiled a channel on the Roku system, which enables you to watch a high definition stream of the races from NYRA on your high definition television.

    Right now, a channel surfer sees sports being televised in beautiful high definition and then when they come across horse racing, the picture looks terrible. With NYRA, joining Keeneland, Churchill Downs and Fair Grounds in broadcasting in high definition, at least our game is trying to keep up with the technology available.

    Notebooks

    AQUEDUCT NOTEBOOK

    APRIL 24, 2014

    by John Mucciolo

    There was one graded race for fillies and mares during the week at Aqueduct.

    Distaff H. (G2): Lady Sheila Stable's LA VERDAD (Yes It's True) sprinted right to the front at the start and was never seriously challenged en route to a superb 3 3/4-length victory for trainer Linda Rice. The four-year-old clocked six panels in a fine 1:09 under the guidance of Jose Ortiz.

    Track Stats

    A total of 36 races were held at the Jamaica, New York venue, with favorites winning at a 42 percent rate and the top two betting choices combining for 64 percent of the wins during the week. From 29 races on the main oval, seven animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (24 percent). Three of the seven races on the lawn were taken all the way on the front end (43 percent).

    We didn't have a big feel for the racing this week, which leads us to believe that both ovals played mostly fairly over the last four days. The amount of winning favorites seems to back that theory.

    Six of the seven wire-to-wire winners on the dirt came in sprint races, while all three turf wire jobs occurred in route events.

    Meet Totals

    RACES:   164
    TURF:   13
    DIRT:   151
    FAVORITES:   70 (43 percent)
    2ND CHOICES:   37 (23 percent)
    TURF WIRE:   3 (23 percent)
    DIRT WIRE:   44 (39 percent)

    HORSES TO WATCH

    Wednesday (4/16)

    7TH -- CLASSIC SALSA (Two Step Salsa) pressed the pace, took command in early stretch and came home well under John Velazquez, posting a strong tally in his New York debut. The David Jacobson trainee hasn't done much wrong to date and will almost surely face better in his comeback.

    PIN AND WIN (Stevie Wonderboy) never cut into the lead much late but finished more than six lengths clear of one we like, so that has to mean something. Tab this one for another nice showing next time, though we might not get the 15-1 price he went off today.

    Thursday (4/17)

    5TH -- MY SAVANNAH BELLE (Afleet Alex) was passed in midstretch but showed a ton of heart in battling back in late stretch for this win under Rajiv Maragh. The sophomore filly had a tough trip in chasing lone speed, but we loved her finish and might tab her for a third straight score in her subsequent outing if placed properly.

    8TH -- HARRIS (A.P. Indy) was a big flop in this one for conditioner Todd Pletcher, but the four-year-old had shown a lot of ability prior to this run and we'll give him another chance in his comeback.

    Saturday (4/19)

    3RD -- HEARTY CONGRATS (Congrats) burned a ton of money when a closing third at very short odds and the gelded sophomore will go first off the claim next time after being nabbed by conditioner Chris Englehart. We thought the youngster received a poor ride from the rail and could have surely won this, and he would also benefit from being slotted off the inside next time out.

    6TH -- ELROI (Leroidesanimaux) was stuck behind a dawdling early pace in making his 2014 debut for Peter Pugh, but the four-year-old overcame it with a flying finish to graduate in style under Chris DeCarlo. The Empire State-bred earned a whopping 103 Late Pace figure for his work and could be even better with an honest pace to chase in his next turf test.

    7TH -- Conditioner Michelle Nevin had a big week and among it was a sharp claim of this race winner, QUICK MONEY (City Zip), who dominated a solid field late in coming home in a sharp :29 3/5 for his final 2 1/2 furlongs beneath Cornelio Velasquez.

    A Look Ahead

    There are no graded races this week at the Big A.

    Features

    UPCOMING STAKES

    Click here for the monthly April Calendar

    Thursday, April 24
     
    BEWITCH S. (G3), Keeneland, $150,000, 4&up, f&m, 1 1/2mT.
     
    Friday, April 25
     
    ELKHORN S. (G2), Keeneland, $250,000, 4&up, 1 1/2mT.
    LAST TYCOON S. (G3), Santa Anita Park, $100,000, 3&up, 1 1/8mT.
    Matron S., Evangeline Downs, $60,000, 3&up, f&m, 1mT.
     
    Saturday, April 26
     
    TEXAS MILE S. (G3), Lone Star Park, $200,000, 3&up, 1m.
    DERBY TRIAL S. (G3), Churchill Downs, $150,000, 3yo, 1m.
    SAN FRANCISCO MILE (G3), Golden Gate Fields, $100,000, 3&up, 1mT.
    Whimsical S. (Can-G3), Woodbine, $150,000, 4&up, f&m, 6f.
    Snow Chief S. (r), Santa Anita Park, $250,000, 3yo, 1 1/8mT.
    Melair S. (r), Santa Anita Park, $250,000, 3yo, f, 1 1/16m.
    Tiznow S. (r), Santa Anita Park, $125,000, 4&up, 1m.
    Spring Fever S. (r), Santa Anita Park, $125,000, 4&up, f&m, 6f.
    Land of Lincoln S. (r), Hawthorne, $100,000, 3yo, 6f.
    Milwaukee Avenue H. (r), Hawthorne, $100,000, 3&up, 1 1/16m.
    Peach of It H. (r), Hawthorne, $100,000, 3&up, f&m, 1 1/16m.
    Pretty Jenny S. (r), Hawthorne, $100,000, 3yo, f, 6f.
    Fran's Valentine S. (r), Santa Anita Park, $100,000, 4&up, f&m, 1mT.
    Bosselman/Gus Fonner S., Fonner Park, $75,000, 3&up, 1 1/16m.
    Best of the Rest S., Gulfstream Park, $75,000, 3&up, 1 1/16m.
    Geisha S. (r), Pimlico, $75,000, 3&up, f&m, 1 1/16m.
    Goldfinch S., Prairie Meadows, $75,000, 3yo, f, 6f.
    John Henry S., Evangeline Downs, $60,000, 3&up, 1 1/16mT.
    Gene Fleming Breeders' Derby (r), Turf Paradise, $50,000, 3yo, 1 1/16m.
     
    Sunday, April 27
     
    WILSHIRE S. (G3), Santa Anita Park, $100,000, 3&up, f&m, 1mT.
    New York Stallion S. (Park Avenue Division) (r), Aqueduct, $100,000, 3yo, f, 6 1/2f.
    New York Stallion S. (Times Square Division) (r), Aqueduct, $100,000, 3yo, c&g, 6 1/2f.
    Brighouse Belles S., Hastings Park, $50,000, 3&up, f&m, 6 1/2f.
    George Royal S., Hastings Park, $50,000, 3&up, 6 1/2f.
     
    Wednesday, April 30
     
    Tony Gatto Dream Big S., Atlantic City, $50,000, 3&up, 5fT.

    RACING DATES

    Current Meetings
         
    AQUEDUCT:   Jan. 1 - April 27
    ATLANTIC CITY:   April 24 - 30
    BEULAH PARK:   Jan. 6 - May 3
    CALDER RACE COURSE:   Jan. 3 - June 28
    CHARLES TOWN:   Jan. 2 - Dec. 31
    CHURCHILL DOWNS:   April 26 - June 29
    EMERALD DOWNS:   April 12 - Sept. 28
    EVANGELINE DOWNS:   April 9 - Aug. 30
    FINGER LAKES:   April 18 - Dec. 5
    GOLDEN GATE FIELDS:   Dec. 26 - June 15
    GULFSTREAM PARK:   Jan. 1 - June 29
    HASTINGS PARK:   April 27 - Oct. 26
    HAWTHORNE:   Feb. 21 - April 27
    KEENELAND:   April 4 - 25
    LONE STAR PARK:   April 10 - July 12
    MOUNTAINEER PARK:   March 1 - Dec. 20
    PARX RACING:   Jan. 1 - Dec. 31
    PENN NATIONAL:   Jan. 2 - Dec. 27
    PIMLICO:   April 3 - June 7
    PRAIRIE MEADOWS:   April 18 - Aug. 9
    SANTA ANITA PARK:   April 25 - June 29
    TAMPA BAY DOWNS:   Dec. 4 - May 4
    THISTLEDOWN:   April 18 - Nov. 16
    TURF PARADISE:   Oct. 5 - May 6
    WOODBINE:   April 12 - Dec. 7
         
    Upcoming Meetings
         
    ARLINGTON:   May 2 - Sept. 28
    BELMONT PARK:   May 1 - July 13
    CANTERBURY PARK:   May 16 - Sept. 13
    DELAWARE PARK:   May 17 - Oct. 22
    FORT ERIE:   May 27 - Sept. 30
    INDIANA DOWNS:   May 6 - Nov. 1
    LOUISIANA DOWNS:   May 2 - Sept. 21
    MONMOUTH PARK:   May 10 - Sept. 28
    NORTHLANDS PARK:   May 2 - Oct. 25
    PRESQUE ISLE DOWNS:   May 11 - Sept. 25
    SUFFOLK DOWNS:   May 3 - Sept. 1

    At a Glance
    AQUEDUCT AT A GLANCE
     
    Avg. Winning Odds: 4.83 - 1
    Favorite Win%: 38%, Favorite Itm%: 77%
     
    EXOTICS PAYOFF
    Quinella28.77
    Exacta74.58
    Daily Double70.36
    Trifecta485.19
    Pick 3484.99
    Superfecta3,868.31
    Pick 621,134.76
    Pick 43,197.92
    Pick 515,244.66
    Grand Slam67.15
    TRACK BIAS MEET(11/01 - 04/23)
    Distance #
    Race
    %
    Wire
    Best
    Style
    Best
    Posts
    6.0fDirt 119 28% E Outside
    6.5fDirt 40 28% E/P Outside
    1 MileDirt 109 19% E/P Outside
    Turf Routes 66 8% P Rail/Ins
    TRACK BIAS WEEK(04/17 - 04/23)
    Distance #
    Race
    %
    Wire
    Best
    Style
    Best
    Posts
    6.0fDirt 7 43% E Outside
    6.5fDirt 5 40% P Mid/Out
    1 MileDirt 6 0% E Middle
    Turf Routes 10 30% E/P Rail
    Who's HOT, Who's NOT
     
    HOT TRAINERS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
    Odds
    Winning
    Favorites
    '13-' 14
    Win%
    Jacobson David 14 6 1 3 2.59 3 23%
    Englehart Jeremiah C. 8 3 2 0 5.25 1 22%
    Barbara Robert 4 2 1 1 4.89 0 10%
    Brown Chad C. 4 2 1 1 2.34 1 26%
    Jerkens James A. 5 2 1 0 5.81 0 19%
    Violette, Jr. Richard A. 5 2 1 2 5.64 1 15%
    Hertler John O. 6 2 1 0 9.23 1 7%
     
    HOT JOCKEYS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
    Odds
    Winning
    Favorites
    '13-' 14
    Win%
    Velasquez Cornelio H. 13 4 1 7 3.90 0 18%
    Arroyo Angel S. 11 3 0 3 13.15 1 13%
    Luzzi Michael J. 8 2 1 0 19.43 1 11%
     
    COLD TRAINERS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
    Odds
    Beaten
    Favorites
    '13-' 14
    Win%
    Persaud Randi 17 0 2 2 17.99 0 8%
    Levine Bruce N. 10 0 1 2 8.34 1 16%
     
    COLD JOCKEYS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
    Odds
    Beaten
    Favorites
    '13-' 14
    Win%
                 
    KEENELAND AT A GLANCE
     
    Avg. Winning Odds: 6.63 - 1
    Favorite Win%: 23%, Favorite Itm%: 61%
     
    EXOTICS PAYOFF
    Exacta128.40
    Daily Double124.80
    Trifecta990.90
    Pick 3979.23
    Superfecta7,581.16
    Pick 47,235.54
    Pick 597,198.20
    Super High Five43,628.00
    TRACK BIAS MEET(04/04 - 04/23)
    Distance #
    Race
    %
    Wire
    Best
    Style
    Best
    Posts
    6.0fDirt 24 38% E Middle
    a7.0fDirt 5 20% E/P Inside
    1 1/16mDirt 30 20% P Rail/Ins
    1 1/8mDirt 11 18% S Mid/Out
    Turf Sprint 4 50% E Rail
    Turf Routes 22 18% E Outside
    TRACK BIAS WEEK(04/17 - 04/23)
    Distance #
    Race
    %
    Wire
    Best
    Style
    Best
    Posts
    6.0fDirt 6 67% E Middle
    a7.0fDirt 3 33% E/P Inside
    1 1/16mDirt 9 22% E Rail
    1 1/8mDirt 3 33% E Outside
    Turf Sprint 3 33% S Rail
    Turf Routes 8 0% E/P Outside
    Who's HOT, Who's NOT
     
    HOT TRAINERS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
    Odds
    Winning
    Favorites
    '13-' 14
    Win%
    Clement Christophe 13 5 2 1 5.96 2 20%
    Amoss Thomas M. 8 3 1 1 4.38 2 32%
    Brown Chad C. 8 3 2 0 4.84 1 26%
    Calhoun W. Bret 5 2 0 0 9.98 0 23%
    Pessin Neil L. 6 2 1 0 8.48 0 11%
     
    HOT JOCKEYS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
    Odds
    Winning
    Favorites
    '13-' 14
    Win%
     
    COLD TRAINERS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
    Odds
    Beaten
    Favorites
    '13-' 14
    Win%
    Arnold, II George R. 11 0 2 1 13.85 2 10%
    Sims Philip A. 11 0 3 0 19.93 0 12%
     
    COLD JOCKEYS Starts WinsPlace ShowAvg.
    Odds
    Beaten
    Favorites
    '13-' 14
    Win%
    Davis Dylan 18 0 2 1 18.23 1 13%

    AT A GLANCE SCHEDULE

    MONDAY:   Golden Gate and Tampa Bay Downs
    TUESDAY:   Hawthorne and Santa Anita
    WEDNESDAY:   Calder and Woodbine
    THURSDAY:   Gulfstream Park and Pimlico
    FRIDAY:   Aqueduct and Keeneland

    Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather

    SPOT PLAYS

    For Thursday

    TRACK   (RACE) HORSE, MORNING LINE
    Aqueduct   (2nd) Fly Solo, 8-1
        (8th) Bernardo, 3-1
    Atlantic City   (4th) Starship Windsor, 3-1
        (6th) Christmas Angel, 3-1
    Evangeline Downs   (3rd) Graynola, 7-2
        (9th) Cindy's Rebel, 9-2
    Keeneland   (3rd) Dream Softly, 7-2
        (4th) Majestic Sunset, 3-1
    Lone Star Park   (2nd) Mula Me, 10-1
        (9th) Whimsical Miss, 9-2
    Penn National   (6th) Robyns Time, 8-1
        (8th) Purple Pegasus, 4-1
    Pimlico   (3rd) Sir Travis, 5-1
        (8th) Love Heart, 4-1
    Prairie Meadows   (1st) Ready River, 9-2
        (3rd) My Lucky Rose, 5-1

    HIGHLIGHTS

    For Thursday

    AQUEDUCT (1:20): $62,000 ocl, 4&up, 1 1/16mT (7TH).
    KEENELAND (1:05): $150,000 Bewitch S. (G3), 4&up, f&m, 1 1/2mT (8TH).
    LONE STAR PARK (7:35): $21,000 alw, 3&up, f&m, 1mT (8TH).
    PENN NATIONAL (6:00): $33,300 alw, 3&up, f&m, 6f (5TH).
    PIMLICO (1:10): $47,000 ocl, 3&up, f&m, 6f (6TH).
    PRAIRIE MEADOWS (7:30): $30,500 alw, 3&up, f&m, 6f (6TH); $30,500 alw, 3&up, f&m, 1m 70yds (8TH).

    *all times Eastern

    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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