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FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2015

Triple Crown News & Notes

American Pharaoh jogs at Churchill Downs

American Pharoah took a spin under the Twin Spires when returning to the track following his Preakness triumph (Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)
Dual classic winner American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) returned to the track Thursday for the first time since last Saturday's seven-length romp in the sloppy Preakness S. (G1) at Pimlico. The three-year-old flew from Baltimore, Maryland, to Louisville, Kentucky, on Monday to begin preparations for the 147th running of the $1.5 million Belmont S. (G1) on Saturday, June 6, from his base at Churchill Downs Barn 33.

Following four days of rest, Zayat Stables' American Pharoah, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, went to the track with regular morning partner Jorge Alvarez at 6:45 a.m. (EDT) and jogged once around Churchill's one-mile oval.

"He looked very good, I couldn't be happier," said Jimmy Barnes, Baffert's chief assistant. "His energy level is good.

Barnes said the Kentucky homebred would return to the Churchill main track Friday after the renovation break around 8:30 a.m., but was unsure as to whether American Pharoah would jog or gallop.

"We'll go to the track tomorrow and Bob (Baffert) will tell me what he wants to do," Barnes said. "If he says jog him another day, we'll jog him another day. If he says gallop, then we'll gallop. Bottom line, he is in charge; I'm just the caretaker of the horse."

American Pharoah is following a similar post-Preakness training pattern that all three of Baffert's previous Triple Crown hopefuls -- Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002) -- went through. Each of Baffert's Derby and Preakness winners trained at Churchill Downs before shipping to New York for the Belmont. Barnes stated that it is much easier to train in this manner because they are stabled at Churchill.

"We come back here with all of our Derby horses and we usually come back this way," explained Barnes, a Santa Rosa, California, native who has teamed with Baffert since 1999. "I'd prefer to train here, we're set up here and our barn is here. I mean New York is all right. It's a big track and a sandy track. You get a lot of weather that you get here, but we're comfortable here.

"We had some disappointing years. Point Given...I really thought we could have won the Triple Crown that year and we didn't win the first one. But he (American Pharoah) fits right in with the best of them. He's a pleasure to train, he does everything with ease and he's a big mover. I think probably one of his best assets is how he moves. His action and everything is forward and big."

American Pharoah's pursuit for racing immortality will mark the 14th time -- and third in the last four years -- since Affirmed swept all three races in 1978 that a horse has had a chance to join the 11 Triple Crown champions. According to reports, his challengers in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont could include (with known jockeys) Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway), Conquest Curlinate (Curlin) (Shaun Bridgmohan), Frammento (Midshipman) (Mike Smith), Frosted (Tapit) (Joel Rosario), Keen Ice (Curlin), Madefromlucky (Lookin at Lucky), Materiality (Afleet Alex), Mubtaahij (Dubawi), Tale of Verve (Tale of Ekati) and War Story (Northern Afleet) (Colby Hernandez).

In other American Pharoah news, it was announced Wednesday that he will stand at Coolmore's Ashford Stud near Versailles, Kentucky, when his racing career is concluded. Zayat, his owner and breeder, retains management of American Pharoah through the end of the year.

In other Belmont Stakes news:

Charles Fipke's Tale of Verve, the longshot late-closing second to American Pharoah in the Preakness, shipped to New York after the race to prepare for a rematch in the Belmont. Trainer Dallas Stewart was pleased with the bay colt's performance and how he handled the off track.

"He did well," Stewart said. "It was a crazy day with the rain and everything but they all handled the rain. It was pretty amazing to see."

Calumet Farm's Mr. Z (Malibu Moon) who finished fifth in the Preakness, will receive a 30-to-40-day break, according to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who said that the chestnut came out of the race well.

"He wears blinkers and he got in behind that horse (American Pharoah) and caught a lot of mud and everything in those blinkers," Lukas said. "That was not a true indication on how he runs, that mud and wearing full cup blinkers really compromised him."

John C. Oxley's Danzig Moon (Malibu Moon), fifth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and sixth in the Preakness, is on target for the first leg of Canada's Triple Crown, the C$1 million Queen's Plate at Woodbine on Sunday, July 5.

"He was coughing all the way home, but I think more importantly he didn't want to run into (the mud)," said Norman Casse, assistant to his father, trainer Mark Casse. "You couldn't even tell he had blinkers on. I want to let him have two easy weeks before we do anything like (a breeze)."

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Desormeaux praises Espinoza's decision to send American Pharoah

Desormeaux said Espinoza did the right thing 'to establish the lead and annihilate the field' (Benoit Photo)
Kent Desormeaux has never won the Belmont Stakes (G1), but the 45-year-old Hall of Fame rider certainly knows his way around the massive 1 1/2-mile oval, even though he has some bittersweet memories.

In perhaps the toughest beat ever, Desormeaux and Real Quiet were nosed out of the Triple Crown by Victory Gallop in 1998, and in 2008, Big Brown failed to complete the course as the odds-on favorite after winning the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1).

Desormeaux is expected to pick up the mount on Keen Ice (Curlin) in the final jewel of racing's Triple Crown, which will be decided June 6 with American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) seeking to become the first winner of Thoroughbred racing's most elusive prize since Affirmed in 1978.

If the three-year-old colt ridden by Victor Espinoza and trained by Bob Baffert runs as he did in the Preakness last Saturday, taking the lead from the start and winning by seven widening lengths on Pimlico's sloppy track, Desormeaux likes Espinoza's chances.

"He did the right thing, doing what he did," Desormeaux said of Espinoza's take-it-to-'em tactics. "He sent him like they were going across the street and that was the right strategy, to establish the lead and annihilate the field.

"Two hundred yards from the gate, when he was squeezed to the fence, you could tell he was swimming. He was in six inches of water before he was getting into the race track. There was a pool down on the fence, but he splashed through that, got to higher ground, and won like the very good horse that he is."

Is he good enough to win the Triple Crown?

"He's definitely the fastest horse out there, but the true test of a champion is whether they can recover and hold their form in three weeks going a mile and a half," Desormeaux said. "For him to put in an effort like that, he's going to be tired.

"But Bob knows what to do. He's only failed by a lip and a neck and then some of winning the Triple Crown."

Baffert will be making a fourth attempt at Triple Crown glory, missing by three-quarters of a length with runner-up Silver Charm in 1997 and by a nose with Real Quiet a year later. His third horse to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, War Emblem, lost all chance when he missed the break and finished eighth in the 2002 Belmont.

"Baffert knows how to get 'em ready," Desormeaux added.

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Racing Headlines

Court to be honored with 2015 Mike Venezia Memorial Award

Jon Court (Coady Photography)
Kentucky-based jockey Jon Court was announced as the 2015 recipient of the Mike Venezia Memorial Award, which will be presented on Memorial Day at Belmont Park.

Established in 1989, the Mike Venezia Memorial Award is awarded to jockeys who exemplify extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship. It is named in honor of Mike Venezia, who died as a result of injuries he suffered in a spill in 1988 at Belmont Park. Previous winners include Bill Shoemaker, Angel Cordero Jr., Jerry Bailey, Mike Smith, Gary Stevens, Richard Migliore and Ramon Dominguez.

Court, 54, received the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 2007. At the age of 50, he captured the Arkansas Derby (G1) aboard Archarcharch for the second straight year after piloting Line of David to victory in 2010. He has twice finished among the top 25 jockeys in terms of earnings, first in 2005 and again in 2006.

Monday at Belmont will also host Big Apple Showcase Day, featuring six stakes races restricted to New York-breds.

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Gleneagles trying for Guineas double, Sole Power in Greenlands, at The Curragh

There were no surprises as the draw was made for Saturday's Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-G1), with the English Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-G1) hero Gleneagles (Galileo) set to race from stall 2 under Ryan Moore as he bids to become the eighth to complete the Guineas double.

One who is poised to upset the script is Godolphin and Prince Faisal's Belardo (Lope de Vega), who is looking to rebound from a disappointing effort when eighth in the April 18 Greenham S. (Eng-G3) at Newbury. On ground contrasting with the easy surface he encountered when winning the Dewhurst S. (Eng-G1) at Newmarket in October, last year's champion two-year-old never threatened in that seven-furlong prep for the Guineas but is re-fitted with the hood in which he excelled on Future Champions Day.

Trainer Roger Varian is full of hope Belardo can get back on track.

"He did some very nice work on Sunday morning, so the plan is to run him on Saturday," he said. "You have to keep faith in these horses and you can't write them off after one run, especially as the ground was very quick at Newbury and he just never let himself down. He didn't have a hard race, so he's a fresh horse.

"His work had been excellent leading up to that race and has been excellent since. He doesn't want it too quick and ground easier than good is favorable, so we just hope it doesn't dry out too much. We'd be very confident that, provided the ground isn't too quick, we've still got a very good horse on our hands."

The going at the Kildare venue is currently good-to-yielding, with the forecast leading up to the race mainly dry. That will play further into the hands of Gleneagles and make life even more difficult for the remainder, although faster ground than is currently the case will also suit Khalid Abdullah's Tombelaine (First Defence).

Just three-quarters of a length behind Gleneagles and a head in front of Convergence (Cape Cross) when second in Leopardstown's Tyros S. (Ire-G3) going seven furlongs in July, the Dermot Weld trainee returned to win the listed Tetrarch S. over that trip in testing conditions at the Curragh on May 4.

Also on Saturday at the Curragh, Sabena Power's Irish highweight and multiple Group 1-winning millionaire Sole Power (Kyllachy) will have his first run on home soil since August 2011 in the Greenlands S. (Ire-G2).

Eddie Lynam's globetrotting star last ran in Ireland when placing second in the Flying Five S. (Ire-G3) at The Curragh. He also had the option of the Temple S. (Eng-G2) at Haydock, a race he won in 2011, on Saturday, but Irish fans will now get the chance to see one of their great performers. What also worked in The Curragh's favor is that regular rider Richard Hughes is in Ireland this weekend to ride Ivawood (Zebedee) in the Guineas.

"We want to run this weekend," Lynam told the Irish Herald. "The ground at The Curragh is good to yielding and I am happy with that. (We're also) keen to run in Ireland after so long."

Sole Power has taken his connections all around the world.

"We decided this weekend the best option was to run at The Curragh," added Paddy Power, spokesman for the bookmakers of the same name whose parents own the sprinter. "We'd spoken to somebody who walked the track at Haydock and the ground is just a bit softer there so it's going to be more suitable at The Curragh. Richard Hughes will be at the Curragh, too."

Kevin Ryan believes the ground is turning in dual Group 1 winner The Grey Gatsby's (Mastercraftsman) favor for Sunday's Tattersalls Gold Cup (Ire-G1) at The Curragh.

"I think the ground is coming in his favor now and it could be good on Sunday, which would be ideal," Ryan stated. "I wouldn't even worry about good to soft. What he doesn't want is very soft ground. Hopefully the ground will come for him."

Ryan is convinced what helps make The Grey Gatsby stand out is that he thrives on traveling.

"He's a very simple horse to deal with and always has been. He does exactly what you want him to do," the North Yorkshire trainer told At The Races. "He's great in the mornings and he's a good traveler as well. He seems to enjoy going away from home and he relaxes when he goes to the racecourse."

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Doomben 10,000 attracts overflow field; Racing NSW suspends trainer Kavanagh

A full field of 16 plus one also-eligible line up for the Doomben 10,000 (Aus-G1) in Queensland, Australia, on Saturday led by current favorite -- the 5-1 Ciaron Maher-trained Srikandi (Dubawi).

The chestnut filly displaced one-time market leader Our Boy Malachi (Top Echelon), trained by Team Hawkes, in the betting after drawing an ideal position in barrier 5, while the latter has been hung out to dry in post 12. Third in last year's Stradbroke H. (Aus-G1) in June, Srikandi landed the Victory S. (Aus-G2) at the Gold Cost on April 25, but enters the Doomben 10,000 on the back of an eighth-place performance when slowly away in the 1200-meter BTC Cup (Aus-G1), with Our Boy Malachi third and Bring Me the Maid (Sebring) fourth at this venue on May 9.

"She's come through the BTC Cup OK, she just had an easy week and had a strong gallop yesterday and she was nice and bright today," Ciaron Maher told "She worked over 1000 meters and came up a strong 600 and her times were good. Hopefully she can get away cleanly and get back to her best form."

Our Boy Malachi ended 2014 with a win in the Razor Sharp S. this past December prior to a three-month spell and returned to take the Hall Mark S. (Aus-G3) at Randwick on April 18 over this distance one start before the BTC Cup.

"Statistics don't win big races, barriers do," co-trainer Michael Hawkes said to "The horse is flying. It's just unfortunate he's drawn badly (but) he's quite adaptable and doesn't have to lead. His last run when third in the BTC Cup was quite good but he had to do too much work in the first 400 meters. If you swap barriers with the winner it's a different result."

Peter Moody's Golden Slipper (Aus-G1) third and Group 2 heroine Bring Me the Maid will try to buck history and become the first three-year-old filly to win since Sea Siren in 2012, who was the first such winner in 80 years. Bring Me the Maid faces a tall task, however, despite carrying the lightest impost of 121 pounds, leaving from stall 16. Any moisture Doomben receives in advance of the race will only increase her chances.

Temple of Boom (Piccolo), runner-up in this race in 2014, could also factor and was most recently seventh in the BTC Cup against several of these.

In other Australian racing news, Sam Kavanagh, a trainer at Rosehill in Australia, has had his training license suspended by the Racing NSW stewards Wednesday and will face an inquiry concerning eight charges involving cobalt and caffeine in three of his horses reported Racing and Sports. His license status depends on the outcome of the hearing June 4.

Midsummer Sun (Monsun) tested positive for both substances after winning the listed Gosford Gold Cup in January. Additionally, Kavanagh was charged for breeches of a racing rule dealing with race-day medication administration. The other two Kavanagh horses involved are Ceda Miss (Encosta de Lago) and Palazzo Pubblico (Conatus), who raced at Warwick two days prior to Midsummer Sun's win.

The stewards released a statement which says that Kavanagh admitted giving misleading evidence during the investigation. Further incriminating evidence has surfaced in relation to the race-day administration and supply of medications to Kavanagh.

"In suspending his trainers' license...stewards formed the opinion that Mr. Kavanagh's continued participation in racing might pose an unacceptable risk to prejudice the image, interests or integrity of racing," the stewards' statement read.

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Epicuris passes gate test; Treve readies for next week's return

Juddmonte Farms' Criterium de Saint-Cloud (Fr-G1) hero Epicuris (Rail Link) came through a stalls test at Chantilly Thursday morning, but trainer Criquette Head-Maarek cannot rest on her laurels ahead of the May 31 Prix du Jockey Club (Fr-G1).

While the bay successfully passed through the gates, he did so only accompanied by Nicolas Blondeau, the man renowned for helping Goldikova at the start of races.

With the rules different in France to England, Head-Maarek will now apply for special dispensation for Blondeau to be with the bay colt at the start of the French Derby. Epicuris needed to pass a stalls test after refusing to enter them before his scheduled run in the Prix Greffulhe (Fr-G2).

"He went in so they have agreed to let him run," Head-Maarek said. "The only problem is, he only goes in with the same man each time, Nicolas Blondeau, so we are asking if he can come when he races. In England it wouldn't be a problem but the rules are different here.

"We tried him without (Blondeau), first time he went in fine, but the second time he wouldn't. He obviously trusts him, but horses are like women -- they can be a bit funny!

"So, I'm smiling that he's passed the test, but I'm not pleased. We need to write to the stewards so I'm not sure when we'll find out if they will let Blondeau come."

Head-Maarek also reported on the star of her shedrow -- Al Shaqab Racing's dual Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1) queen Treve (Motivator).

The five-year-old mare is "spot on" ahead of her return to action next week in the Prix Corrida (Fr-G3) at Saint-Cloud. Treve will attempt to win a third Arc at the end of the season, something no horse in history has ever done.

"Treve will run next Friday in the Prix Corrida," Head-Maarek stated. "She galloped on Tuesday at Chantilly under Thierry Jarnet and went very nicely. I think she's spot on. If she wins or runs very well then the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (Fr-G1) at the end of July is her first major aim."

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California Gold Rush Day on tap at Santa Anita Park

Grazen Sky will face some familiar foes in the Show Chief (Vassar Photography)
Santa Anita Park will host California Gold Rush Day on Saturday, featuring five stakes worth a total $825,000 in purses. Cal-bred sophomores will take center stage on the card in the highest-valued contests, the Snow Chief S. and Melair S., offering $200,000 each.

The Snow Chief has attracted a field of 11 three-year-olds to go 1 1/8 miles on Santa Anita's turf, including the top three from the Silky Sullivan S. and the winner of the Desert Code S.

Richard's Boy (Idiot Proof) captured that latter May 2 event going about 6 1/2 furlongs on Santa Anita's downhill turf course. The gray gelding was making his second start for new trainer Peter Miller in that contest, and is now 5-4-0-1 in his short career.

Grazen Sky (Grazen) got the best of Pulmarack (Lucky Pulpit) by 1 1/4 lengths in Golden Gate Fields' one-mile Silky Sullivan on April 26, with Cardiac (Papa Clem) finishing another three parts of a length back in third. Grazen Sky preceded the Silky Sullivan with a stakes debut second in the Echo Eddie going 6 1/2 furlongs on Santa Anita's main track.

Seven fillies will take to the main track track for the 1 1/16-mile Melair one race before the Snow Chief. Jerry Hollendorfer took over training duties on La Fiera (Comic Stripe) after the dark bay miss posted a two-length decision in the grassy Campanile S. last out at Golden Gate Fields over the re-opposing Ashley's Sassy (Decarchy) and sends her out in the Melair against Evening Jewel S. victress Sheer Pleasure (Birdonthewire).

Harlington's Rose is seeking her second straight stakes win on Saturday in the Spring Fever (Benoit Photos)
One of the more exciting match-ups comes in the $150,000 Spring Fever S., which kicks off the stakes action for the day by sending a half-dozen distaffers six furlongs on the dirt. Sunday Rules (Tribal Rule) will put her perfect four-for-four mark on the line while facing last-out Las Flores S. (G3) heroine Harlington's Rose (Harlington). Meinertzhageni (Stormin Fever), a close second in the Las Flores, is also entered.

The $150,000 Tiznow S., scheduled for a mile on the main track, boasts 10 in its line-up, including last year's runner-up Rousing Sermon (Lucky Pulpit) and recent Precisionist S. (G3) third Motown Men (Decarchy). The $125,000 Fran's Valentine S. sends out eight fillies and mares to contest a mile on the turf, with Go West Marie (Western Fame) seeking a return to the winner's circle after having a three-race win streak snapped when runner-up in the Las Cienegas S. (G3) on April 11.

California Gold Rush Day will also feature a beer festival, with unique craft brews from throughout Southern California, and food trucks.

In addition to the racing action, the Santa Anita Carnival Memorial Day weekend will take place Saturday through Monday, featuring carnival rides, games and prizes with unlimited rides for children for only $10. Admission and parking to the infield is free through Gate 6 off Colorado Place.

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In brief

Bayern (Offlee Wild), the reigning Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner, returned to the Churchill Downs worktab Wednesday morning with a six-furlong gate breeze in 1:11 4/5 -- his first move since a subpar sixth of six finish in the Churchill Downs S. (G2) on Kentucky Derby Day. The four-year-old, with Miguel Mena aboard, clicked off fractions of :23 4/5, :35 3/5, :47 3/5 and :59 3/5. He galloped out seven furlongs in 1:25 1/5. Meanwhile, another Bob Baffert-trained runner, Hoppertunity (Any Given Saturday), last year's Clark H. (G1) victor who captured the San Pasqual S. (G2) and was third in the San Antonio Invitational S. (G2) in his two starts thus far this season, breezed a half-mile in :49 3/5 on Tuesday. Baffert had previously said that Bayern's next target could be the $1.25 million Metropolitan H. (G1) going a mile on the June 6 Belmont Stakes undercard. "Bob will come in and make his mind up where we're going," assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said. "We haven't quite decided yet."...

On a fast Santa Anita main track Thursday morning, Beholder (Henny Hughes) had her first work back since missing the May 9 Vanity (G1) with a temperature, going five furlongs under David Neusch in 1:01. "It was a very nice work," trainer Richard Mandella said of the two-time Eclipse Award winner. "She wanted to do more. We're still looking at the Adoration Stakes (G3) for her on June 13." Mandella also sent Precisionist winner Catch a Flight (Giant's Causeway) six furlongs in 1:12 4/5 in preparation for the Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita on June 27...

Champion jockey Kieren Fallon will be out of action "for at least 10 days", said the jockey's agent Simon Dodds Thursday. Fallon reportedly hurt a foot at Newmarket Saturday, but rode at Southwell Monday. He was booked to ride First Party (Royal Applause) at Nottingham Thursday evening but will now be replaced by Andrew Mullen. "He won't be riding for a few days," Dodds stated. "It's disappointing as he had a ride in the Irish One Thousand (Guineas [Ire-G1]) and was supposed to ride Gathering Power (Kyllachy) at Haydock but Jamie Spencer rides her now. I think he'll be out for at least 10 days."...

Grade 2-winning millionaire Gone Astray (Dixie Union) was represented by his first winner as a sire on Thursday when his juvenile daughter It's High Time wired the 2ND race at Gulfstream Park. Making her first start in the 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight, the dark bay filly drew off by 7 1/4 lengths while stopping the clock in :52 4/5 over the fast main track. The Tracy Pinchin homebred lass, trained by Jose Pinchin and ridden by Jonathan Gonzales, is out of My Rolex (Proud Accolade), who is a half-sister to Grade 1 scorer Black Seventeen (Is It True). Gone Astray is himself a half-brother to Group 3-placed Contentious (Giant's Causeway) and counts as his second dam multiple Grade 1-winning champion and millionaire Inside Information (Private Account). The stallion -- whose female family also includes Inside Information's champion daughter Smuggler (Unbridled), multiple Grade 1-scoring millionaire and black-type producer Educated Risk (Mr. Prospector) and, farther back, blue-hen mare Misty Morn (*Princequillo) -- captured a trio of stakes in his time on track, including the Ohio Derby (G2), and placed in seven others while racking up $1,125,162 in career earnings. He retired to stud with a 21-5-5-4 line and resides at Northwest Stud near Ocala, Florida, for a $4,500 live foal fee...

Friday's Epsom Derby (Eng-G1) trial -- the £40,000 Cocked Hat S. which was previously known as the Predominate -- sees Godolphin's Best of Times (Dubawi) try and book a late ticket to the blue riband on the first Saturday in June. Overcoming unsuitably fast ground to win the listed Newmarket S. on May 2, the bay faces the respective second and third from the May 7 Chester Vase (Eng-G3) in Storm the Stars (Sea the Stars) and Medrano (Archipenko), who will give a guide to the merit of that race's winner and Ballydoyle's potential Derby first-string Hans Holbein (Montjeu). "He won well at Newmarket last time and he has pleased me since," trainer Saeed bin Suroor said of Best of Times. "He worked very nicely five days ago and he is ready to go. We would like some cut in the ground for him. If he runs well, then the Derby is on the cards." John Gosden holds a strong hand for the June 6 classic and saddles April 18 Newbury maiden scorer Mr Singh (High Chaparral), who beat subsequent winner Scottish (Teofilo) with the promise of more to come...

Grade 1 victor Majestic Harbor (Rockport Harbor) is the 116-pound highweight and was made the 7-2 morning-line favorite against a competitive field of nine older horses for Saturday's 78th running of the $100,000 Louisville H. (G3) at Churchill Downs, but it remains unclear if the seven-year-old will start in the 1 1/2-mile marathon on the Matt Winn Turf Course. The $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational (G2), a 1 1/2-mile dirt race on the June 6 Belmont Stakes undercard, is also under consideration for Majestic Harbor. "I'm still not 100-percent sure that we'll run, but we entered him," trainer Paul McGee said. "I've got to get with the owners. We may still opt to run in the Brooklyn. I just haven't consulted with the owners just yet, so that's how it stands." Last year, Majestic Harbor sprang a 14-1 upset in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita S. (G1) when under the care of West Coast trainer Sean McCarthy. He is coming into his next start off a pair of April victories in off-the-turf allowance races at Keeneland and Churchill Downs...

While Majestic Harbor is yet to confirmed for the Louisville 'Cap, Golden Soul (Perfect Soul) has shown up in a dozen graded races throughout his career but has yet to find success at such a level. Two years ago the five-year-old chestnut was runner-up to Orb in the Kentucky Derby (G1), but has yet to place against stakes rivals in nine tries since. Golden Soul is two-for-two on Churchill's Matt Winn Turf Course and trainer Dallas Stewart, who won the Louisville Handicap three years in a row with Silverfoot (2004-06), says that his affinity for the Churchill turf gives the horse a good advantage. "He likes the track, and the race is at a mile-and-a-half distance," Stewart said. "We think he's going to like it." Stewart went on to say that Golden Soul was a horse who he had to be patient with -- much like he was with Saturday's longshot Preakness (G1) runner-up Tale of Verve (Tale of Ekati). "He was second here going a mile first time out and then he won at Fair Grounds so he got with it a little earlier than Tale of Verve, but they're all different," Stewart explained. "You just have to take your time with him. He's doing real well, I'm happy with him. His works have been good."...

Perfect from four starts, Sunday Rules (Tribal Rule) will be favored to capture her fifth straight when she runs in Saturday's $150,000 Spring Fever S. at Santa Anita. The speedy four-year-old filly has won her starts by a combined margin of nearly 24 lengths. "She couldn't be doing any better," said trainer Phil D'Amato, who knows another committed front runner, Tribal Gal (Tribal Rule), drew outside of Sunday Rules in a field of six. "It is what it is; if they want to :21, :44 or whatever, we'll keep going. She breezed (five furlongs in) :59 the other day and it looked like she was going 1:02, she was doing it so easy. She's just so talented. Good horses do that." Sunday Rules won her first two starts at Del Mar in 2013 and captured her lone 2014 outing last June at Santa Anita. The bay California-bred opened this year with a 2 1/2-length score over allowance/optional claiming rivals on April 30. "She's had a little of this, a little of that," D'Amato said in explaining her limited campaign. "She had some issues at two, then she got sick at three, but she's never been as good as she is right now and I look forward to giving her a more substantial campaign this year."...

After making her first three starts this year in turf sprints at Santa Anita, the consistent and versatile Go West Marie (Western Fame) stretches back out to a mile in Saturday's $125,000 Fran's Valentine for red-hot trainer Eddie Truman, who won four races last weekend, two on Saturday and two on Sunday. "I, Gary (Stevens), Mr. Redekop (owner Peter Redekop) and Brian (Anderson), his agent, are all on board with running her two turns instead of off the hill, actually," Truman said. "She's run super down the hill (at about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf), but we just love her at two turns. Brian is the one who talked Mr. Redekop into giving me a chance to train for him. He's been a friend for years and there's a great partnership there. We won four races down the hill last weekend and I think we've won seven of 11 over that course." Go West Marie opened the year with victories in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint and Irish O'Brien, and exits a runner-up in the April 11 Las Cienegas (G3)...

A field of five has been drawn for Sunday's $200,000 Charles Whittingham S. (G2) going 1 1/2 miles over Santa Anita Park's turf, but multiple Grade 3 hero Divine Oath (Broken Vow) will be facing off against last-out San Luis Rey S. (G2) victor Ashleyluvssugar (Game Plan). Trained by Todd Pletcher, Divine Oath has been unable to place in three starts thus far this season after closing out his sophomore campaign with a half-length score in the W.L. McKnight H. (G3). The bay colt ran fifth in his season opener, the Mac Diarmida S. (G2), before finishing fourth in both the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. H. (G2) and Fort Marcy S. (G3). Rafael Bejarano has the call. Ashleyluvssugar was making just his second start against stakes rivals, and first against non-restricted stakes foes, in the San Luis Rey but prevailed by 2 1/4 lengths for trainer Peter Eurton. The four-year-old gelding will attempt to duplicate that performance in the Whittingham with Gary Stevens retaining the mount. Crucero (Admiral's Cruise) just broke his maiden in his 11th attempt, which came against $20,000 maiden claimers, but has been unable to defeat winners in three races since. Kent Desormeaux will be aboard for his brother and trainer Keith Desormeaux. Ganesh (Sulamani) and Going Somewhere (Sulamani) are both Group 1-winning Brazilian-breds. The former ran second most recently in the April 25 Last Tycoon S. (G3) while Going Somewhere is making his U.S. debut after competing in France last season...

Last seen winning the Bourbonette Oaks (G3) on March 21, Don't Leave Me (Lemon Drop Kid) heads a field of nine sophomore fillies in Sunday's $150,000 Selene (G3) at Woodbine. Two for three as a juvenile, the Malcolm Pierce-trained gray lass was making her first start of 2015 in the Bourbonette. Don't Leave Me can improve to three for three on Polytrack with a victory in the 1 1/16-mile Selene and will be reunited with jockey Eurico Da Silva. Mark Casse will be represented by Grade 3 heroine Ol' Fashion Gal (Sky Mesa), and restricted stakes winners Starless Night (Grand Slam) and Green Doctor (The Green Monkey) are also entered...

Patrioticandproud (Proud Citizen) has finished behind Majestic Harbor (Rockport Harbor) in their last two starts, both allowances on dirt at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, but the roles could easily reverse Saturday when the pair meet up again in the $100,000 Louisville H. (G3) at Churchill. The 1 1/2-mile turf event seems more ready-made for Patrioticandproud, who was a narrowly beaten second in both the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) and San Gabriel (G2) last winter to Finnegans Wake (Powerscourt), recent winner of the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) over the Matt Winn turf. Both veterans were up the track in the San Marcos (G2) at Santa Anita in February, which was Majestic Harbor's latest turf outing. The latter has excelled much more on dirt, taking the Gold Cup (G1) and Tokyo City Cup (G3) over Santa Anita's main strip last season. Also lining up in the Louisville are Cozy Kitten (Kitten's Joy), recently second in a Gulfstream starter allowance in his first turf outing of the year, and Calvados (Snipewalk), unplaced four times since missing by a neck in last September's Laurel Turf Cup. Golden Soul (Perfect Soul), notably second in the Kentucky Derby (G1) two years ago, is two-for-two on the Churchill lawn, and is joined here by Xtra Luck (Exchange Rate) and For Greater Glory (Afleet Alex), rivals he beat in a nine-furlong turf allowance at Churchill in late November...

Trainer Malcolm Pierce sends out Grade 2 winners Deceptive Vision (A.P. Indy) and Overheard (Macho Uno) in Saturday's C$200,000 Nassau S. (Can-G2) at Woodbine. Deceptive Vision has gone 5-2-2 from nine career starts thus far, including a win in the Canadian S. (Can-G2) prior to concluding her 2014 season with a third in the E.P. Taylor S. (Can-G1). The bay mare opened her five-year-old season with a gutsy head win in the Doubledogdare S. (G3) at Keeneland on April 17. Overheard, also a five-year-old, posted a record of 1-2-1 from four starts in 2014. Last year's Dance Smartly S. (Can-G2) victress made her seasonal debut a fourth-place run over soft going in a loaded Keeneland allowance tilt. Pierce wasn't too concerned with Overheard's off-the-board result at Keeneland. "She likes that Keeneland course," he said. "I don't know if it was the soft turf, but it was a pretty solid race. I know she's a graded stakes winner, but there were other graded stakes winners in the race. She'd been off awhile and maybe needed a race." That April 9 contest was Overheard's first start since October 12 when she rallied for third in the Athenia S. (G3) at Belmont Park. "It was a fairly long break, but we did that on purpose as it's probably going to be her last year of racing," Pierce explained. "She had a good break and got back to training at Palm Meadows and that was the first spot we found for her. We tried to find an easy spot, but it didn't turn out to be that easy." Overheard has since put in four breezes at Woodbine, including a recent four-panel move in :47 4/5 over the Polytrack. "She's doing well," Pierece said. "Her last breeze was very quick, which is unusual for her. She's usually a filly that works in :49 and her last breeze was in :47.4, maybe the track was fast that day, but she's coming into the race in good order." Last year, Overheard and Deceptive Vision squared off in the nine-furlong Dance Smartly, with Overheard rallying wide down the lane to collar Deceptive Vision in the final jump. Pierce believes both of his entrants may find the one-mile Nassau distance challenging. "It's probably not her best distance. We always thought she was a mile and a sixteenth horse. Last year, she was so relaxed early in her races that a mile and an eighth, maybe even a mile and a quarter might now be her better distance. It's a little on the short side probably for both fillies," he remarked...

The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) announced that the 30th annual National Awards Dinner will be held Friday, September 11, at Hill 'n' Dale Farms in Lexington, Kentucky. The National Awards Dinner honors owners and breeders from 24 states and Canada. Also honored are four Regional Owners of the Year, National Owner of the Year, two National Breeders of the Year, Broodmare of the Year, Rood & Riddle Sport Horse of the Year, and recipient of the Robert N. Clay Award (recognizing a member of the Thoroughbred racing community who has made an outstanding contribution to preserving land for equine use). Tickets for the National Awards Dinner may be purchased at

Four two-year-olds and one four-year-old have been supplemented to the 2015 Barretts May Sale at Del Mar of Two-Year-Old in Training and Horses of Racing Age. The supplemental horses will be sold directly after the end of the main catalog on Thursday, May 28. Hard copies of the supplemental catalog can found both in the Santa Anita Park racing office in Arcadia, California, and on the sales grounds located on the Del Mar racetrack in Del Mar, California. The entire sale catalog can be viewed at Several horses in the sales catalog have already run. The official training preview is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, May 26, on the Del Mar racetrack beginning at 10 a.m. (PDT). The preview will be streamed live at Video clips for each preview can be viewed online by the following morning at

Feeling a bit under the weather, Corey Nakatani took off the two horses he was scheduled to ride Thursday at Santa Anita...

Churchill Downs has a special five-day racing schedule this week: Thursday (5 p.m. [EDT], 8 races), Friday (12:45 p.m., 9 races), Saturday (12:45 p.m., 10 races), Sunday (12:45 p.m., 10 races) and Memorial Day Monday (12:45 p.m., 11 races). General admission for all active and retired members of the United States armed forces is free on Monday, and there's a special $28 Memorial Day dining package in Millionaires Row 4 available for military as well. Track bugler Steve Buttleman will entertain Memorial Day attendees with patriotic songs following the "Call to the Post" for each race on Monday. He's also sure to decorate the Kentucky Derby winner's circle with an abundance of U.S. flags. The Memorial Day feature is the 12th running of the $100,000 Winning Colors S. (G3), a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares...

The Great Race Place presents its Santa Anita Carnival Memorial Day weekend, this Saturday through Monday. The entire family is invited for three days of live racing, carnival rides, games and prizes, with unlimited rides for children for only $10. Admission and parking to the Infield is free through Gate 6 off Colorado Place.



MAY 22, 2015

by Dick Powell

Preakness (G1) 140 is in the books and American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) is on the verge of immortality. With his convincing seven-length win, American Pharoah now goes to the Belmont Stakes (G1) with the best shot of becoming American Thoroughbred racing's 12th winner of the Triple Crown. He is head and shoulders above his competition.

With about 10 minutes to go before post time, a line of thunderstorms swept through the Pimlico area of Maryland. Many of us have apps on our smartphones that show Doppler radar and you could see that that there was no avoiding the bad weather that was coming. And it wasn't just rain but severe thunderstorms with lightning.

I was at the Kentucky Oaks (G1) years ago when in response to a severe weather alert, the horses for the Oaks were sent back to their barns from the paddock and the infield was evacuated. On Saturday, nothing of the sort happened. Despite every indication that severe was weather was about to hit, Pimlico management did little. They tried to get people in the infield under cover but the race went on like nothing happened.

All but two of the horses saddled inside with only two out on the turf course. The jockeys were not prepared so none wore rain pants or had the right rainy weather equipment with them. They mounted their horses under torrential rainfall. It looked like the inside part of the track might wash away and you couldn't help but wonder how American Pharoah was going to negotiate the wettest part of the track.

Thunder, lightning, torrential rain and high wind pelted Pimlico but the show went on in a reckless, dangerous decision. Seeing that the line of storms would pass through the area with nothing behind them, how could you not send the horses to the indoor saddling area, wait out the bad weather, and then send the tractors once around the track to make sure the surface was safe?

Luckily for American Pharoah, he raced over a sloppy track in the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park so this was not a new surface for him. Victor Espinoza gunned him from post 1 and he was able to maintain his position going into the clubhouse turn. Firing Line (Line of David), overbet at 3-to-1, stumbled in his second stride out of the gate and was effectively out of the race. Mr. Z (Malibu Moon) gunned from the gate with Corey Nakatani but to his credit, he never tightened things up for American Pharoah. 

Espinoza kept the pedal down through a first quarter in 22.90 seconds and only after putting some distance between himself and Mr. Z, did he ease up a bit and settle. There was no telling how the track inundated with rain would play but you could see that American Pharoah was having no trouble grabbing a hold of it.

After a half-mile in 46.49 seconds, Espinoza looked like he gave American Pharoah a breather going into the far turn and his pursuers closed the gap. Dortmund (Big Brown) moved up outside of Mr. Z on the far turn and Divining Rod (Tapit) made a move on the inside of those two and looked like he might put some pressure on American Pharoah.

As they neared the top of the stretch, Espinoza let it out a notch and the race was over. American Pharoah, even though the pace was slowing down, was pulling away effortlessly. Divining Rod, who I needed for second in a big, cold exacta underneath the winner, could not hang on for second as Tale of Verve (Tale of Ekati) rallied from last to get up for second and complete a $124.40 exacta.

Typical of races conducted under weather conditions like this, many in the race finished up the track. There is nothing you can do when it rains like it did. But, the race could have easily been postponed for 20 to 30 minutes to make sure that it was run under the safest conditions.

After the race, Gary Stevens said that he weighed 135 pounds without his helmet. Victor Espinoza poured water out of his riding boots up on the podium for the trophy presentation. Had they had rain pants on that go over the boot down to their feet, they would not be riding with boots full of rain in lightning.

And as dangerous as it was for the jockeys, can you imagine poor Donna Brothers on her pony out on the track with all that electronic equipment on her?

Now we go on to Belmont for another run at the Triple Crown. The question that needs to be answered is how well American Pharoah came out of the race and what will he have left three weeks from now? For a horse that has some physical issues that were serious enough for him to miss last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) and forced him into a late start to his three-year-old campaign, can he recover quick enough to go 1 1/2 miles on a track that is often tiring if dry, against a field with many fresh horses?

All that will work itself out in time but after the Derby and Preakness, there is no doubt who the best three-year-old is at this point. 

A random act of journalism broke out during the NBC Preakness coverage. During the walkover from the barn area to be saddled, Carolyn Manno was interviewing Dortmund's owner Kaleem Shah. When Shah talked about how Dortmund was doing and how good horses tend to beat each other, Shah said, "This one would be for my dad."

Manno, instead of going on to the next question, actually listened to Shah and said, "Tell us why." Shah then explained how his father was a top trainer in India, won the Triple Crown there and that lately he has not been doing well and he hoped that Dortmund would come through for him.

True story: two of my four grandchildren live next door to me and I see them every day. On Preakness Day, I was busy with betting and watching the races and did not see them. The next day, I asked my grandson did you watch the horse race yesterday. The eight-year-old responded, "No. What am I 90 years old?"

Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather


For Friday

Arlington Park   (1st) Keeker, 3-1
    (2nd) Go Bonnie Go, 3-1
Belmont Park   (1st) Darnley Bay, 7-2
    (6th) Sleeping Giant, 3-1
Belterra Park   (6th) Pay the Lady, 6-1
    (8th) Spring Blossom, 3-1
Canterbury Park   (1st) Gracie Jean, 4-1
    (2nd) Meloveda, 8-1
Charles Town   (1st) Debutante Ball, 8-1
    (9th) Helena Hurry, 3-1
Churchill Downs   (4th) Salvation Show, 4-1
    (6th) Lovethislife, 7-2
Evangeline Downs   (1st) Mystic Smile, 6-1
    (9th) Radiate, 5-1
Finger Lakes   (6th) Notta Ring, 6-1
    (9th) Golden Fire, 6-1
Golden Gate Fields   (2nd) Be You, 9-2
    (6th) Downtown C. T., 4-1
Gulfstream Park   (2nd) Roman's Chance, 7-2
    (5th) Galardonado, 3-1
Indiana Grand   (1st) Kate's Forest, 4-1
    (7th) Dreaminofthewin, 4-1
Lone Star Park   (6th) Stylo, 3-1
    (8th) Belle of Infinity, 7-2
Louisiana Downs   (3rd) Lemonsgonemad, 9-2
    (4th) Tent of Livingston, 3-1
Penn National   (1st) Don's Honour, 3-1
    (6th) Miss Rockport, 7-2
Pimlico   (6th) Hero's Notion, 7-2
    (8th) Wicked Heat, 7-2
Prairie Meadows   (3rd) Soaring Native, 5-1
    (6th) Dixie Surge, 7-2
Santa Anita   (5th) Prospector's Trick, 9-2
    (6th) Afleet in Time, 4-1
Thistledown   (6th) Rock N Heart, 7-2
    (7th) License to Bling, 9-2
Woodbine   (4th) Onmywaytothetop, 4-1
    (7th) Ultimate Desitny, 8-1

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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