Wicked Strong breezes half-mile at Belmont
Wood runner-up Samraat, winner of the Gotham and Withers at Aqueduct Racetrack, is fifth with 100 points and Uncle Sigh, who was fifth in the Wood after finishing second to Samraat in the Gotham and Withers, is No. 20 with 24 points. Both Samraat and Uncle Sigh are scheduled to work Friday morning at Belmont Park.
Wicked Strong, who was 1-1-1 in three starts as a juvenile at Belmont and Aqueduct, did not fare well in two starts in Florida during the winter, finishing ninth in the Holy Bull and fourth in an optional claimer. Returned to New York for the 1 1/8-mile Wood, he came charging from sixth on the outside and went on to a 3 1/2-length win over previously undefeated Samraat and favored Social Inclusion.
"He's a little bit on the light side, but I don't see him any lighter after running that hard and that tough a race," Jerkens said. "I didn't think he lost a pound and I'm really happy about that."
The trainer said Wicked Strong -- named in honor of the victims and heroes of last year's Boston Marathon bombing -- would have one more work at Belmont, most likely at six or seven furlongs next Thursday or Friday, before being vanned to Louisville.
"He's never been on a plane, and he's been up and down to Florida twice (on a van)," Jerkens said. "I'm not sure if he'll go the day after he works, or two days after. We'll have to see."
Wicked Strong, whose sire Hard Spun was runner-up in the 2007 Derby, probably will blow out over the Churchill Downs strip two days before the Derby, Jerkens added.
Dancer makes Daring inside bid to stay unbeaten in Appalachian
Daring Dancer had to be steadied in a pocket at the top of stretch, but regrouped in short order. Steered between the weakening Lacarolina and the one-paced Kitten Kaboodle, she burst through with alacrity, and quickened in grand style to take command. Daring Dancer drew 2 1/2 lengths clear and completed the firm-turf mile in 1:36.
"The focus was to get her to finish well," Garcia said. "She broke great; she saved all the ground. We were waiting at the top of the stretch for a hole to open, and it did. She finished very strong."
Sweet Acclaim also mounted a good-looking rally from last, but could not match the winner's turn of foot and settled for runner-up honors.
"My filly didn't break real sharp, but she settled in really nicely," jockey Rosie Napravnik said of Sweet Acclaim. "I was a little bit farther back than I thought I would be, but she was settled and comfortable. I knew I had a lot of horse; it was just a matter of finding a way through. They were all bottled up on the inside so we just took the outside path. She was clear to run and she really kicked hard."
The Maryland-bred is a half-sister to the stakes-placed Hamp. Their dam, the Red Ransom mare Vienna Affair, is a half-sister to Group 1 winner Crowded House; French stakes scorer On Reflection; the multiple stakes-placed Forest Crown; and stakes-placed Riotous Applause, the dam of English stakes victor Invincible Warrior. Vienna Affair is also a half-sister to Argent du Bois, the dam of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Ticker Tape and stakes-placed Sant Elena, who has in turn produced French co-highweight juvenile Reckless Abandon.
Daring Dancer's third dam, multiple Grade 2 queen Chapel of Dreams, is the ancestress of Grade 2 winners Tale of a Champion, Postponed and Juniper Pass. As a daughter of Northern Dancer and Terlingua, Chapel of Dreams is a three-quarter sister to world-renowned sire Storm Cat, from the immediate family of Royal Academy.
Quality Road's first winner romps at Keeneland
Quality Road was a brilliant performer for his late owner/breeder. Initially trained by Jimmy Jerkens, the son of Elusive Quality romped in the 2009 Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, blitzing 1 1/8 miles in a track-record 1:47.72 in the latter. Those efforts propelled him into early favoritism for the Kentucky Derby, but he was unfortunately sidelined by a quarter-crack.
Transferred to Todd Pletcher, Quality Road resurfaced from a four-month layoff to take the 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam at Saratoga, again setting a new track record of 1:13.74. He raced twice more at three, placing third in the Travers and runner-up in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Quality Road opened his four-year-old campaign with three dynamic victories. After warming up with a 2 3/4-length wire job in the Hal's Hope at Gulfstream, he crushed the 2010 Donn Handicap by a record 12 3/4 lengths. In the process, he lowered his own Gulfstream mark by zipping nine furlongs in 1:47.49.
Next contesting the prestigious Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park, Quality Road extended his winning streak by surviving fierce pace pressure to prevail handily. His skein was snapped in the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga, where he was collared by Blame, but he rebounded with a vengeance in the Woodward. The only poor effort of his entire career came in his finale in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, and he retired with a record of 13-8-3-1, $2,232,830.
Quality Road is out of the Strawberry Road mare Kobla, a full sister to champion Ajina. Kobla also factors as the second dam of multiple Irish Group 2-placed King Ledley.
Quality Road's second dam, Grade 2 vixen Winglet, is responsible for Grade 3-winning sire Rob's Spirit in addition to Ajina. Kobla and Winglet were produced by Irish champion two-year-old filly Highest Trump, who is also the dam of Group 3 scorers Dance Bid and Northern Plain. Multiple Group 1-winning highweight Bahri is another notable in the family.
The eight-year-old Quality Road stands at Lane's End near Versailles, Kentucky, for $25,000, stands and nurses.
Game On Dude poised to surpass John Henry's earnings mark
All-Time North American Money Leaders Among Geldings:
Like Game On Dude, two-time reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan is also still active and sure to keep adding to his bankroll.
Post time for the Charles Town Classic remains set for 10:30 p.m. on Saturday night.
In other Charles Town Classic news:
Right before he ventures off to Louisville to call the Kentucky Derby as well as the rest of the Triple Crown, announcer Larry Collmus has another job to reprise -- calling the Charles Town Classic for the third time.
Collmus, who was named the full time announcer at Churchill Downs after calling the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes for NBC Sports since 2011, has also added the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships to his resume since his first Charles Town Classic call in 2012, calling both Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man's Breeders' Cup Classic triumphs.
However, in returning to Charles Town, the Maryland native comes back to his roots where he first began following horse racing. One of Collmus' early inspirations was Charles Town's longtime announcer Costy Caras. Each year he's come back to Charles Town, the announcer who also calls the Gulfstream Park booth home during the winter, has paid tribute to Caras by calling the race following the Charles Town Classic using his distinctive vernacular and tone -- a tradition he plans on reprising on Saturday night.
"I grew up coming to Charles Town and got to know Costy well," Collmus said. "After honoring Costy for the first time a couple years ago, I got so much positive feedback that it's become a bit of a tradition. I'm looking forward to it."
Kid Cruz, Oliver Zip highlight Federico Tesio
Saturday's $100,000 Federico Tesio serves as a local prep for the May 17 Preakness at Pimlico. Deputed Testamony was the last winner to capture the second leg of the Triple Crown in 1983, but five runners have placed since then -- Icabad Crane (2008), Magic Weisner (2002), Oliver's Twist (1995), Rock Point (1989) and Broad Brush (1986) -- and 2011 Tesio runner-up Ruler on Ice came back to win the Belmont Stakes.
Kid Cruz, who posted a last-to-first victory in the March 8 Private Terms at Laurel Park, is a prime Preakness candidate with a strong showing Saturday. Haltered for $50,000 from a maiden claiming victory in his second career start, the son of Lemon Drop Kid recorded a fast-closing second in an Aqueduct allowance in late January prior to the Private Terms. Trainer Linda Rice entered the improving colt in the April 5 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial but Kid Cruz wound up scratching due to a shoulder strain.
Listed as the 2-1 morning line favorite among nine rivals, Kid Cruz will return from a 42-day freshening with jockey Julian Pimenthal.
The connections of Oliver Zip may not have any Preakness aspirations -- the City Zip colt will be making his first start around two turns in the 1 1/16-mile race -- but the Kelly Breen charge merits serious respect following a nose second in the Grade 3 Bay Shore at seven furlongs. The hard-trying chestnut has recorded three wins and three seconds from six career outings, including a convincing score in the Fred "Cappy" Capossela two back, and Oliver Zip is listed as the 5-2 second choice with new rider Sheldon Russell.
Undertaker, who defeated Kid Cruz in the aforementioned allowance at Aqueduct, will make his stakes debut for trainer John Servis. Kendrick Carmouche will take over the reins on the 5-1 early third choice. Multiple stakes victor Joint Custody, runner-up in the Private Terms and Miracle Wood in his last two outings, is listed at 6-1 with regular rider Wesley Ho.
Pimlico will offer a total of four $100,000 stakes.
The Stormy Blues kicks off the stakes action with a field of eight sophomore fillies at five furlongs on turf. Sweet Emma Rose and Tizgale, who both exit optional claiming scores at Gulfstream Park, are top contenders. The Primonetta features eight fillies and mares at six furlongs on the main track. Stakes winner She's Ordained is a slight 5-2 favorite on the morning line, but Do Somethin owns a three-race win streak and figures to attract plenty of support in her stakes debut. The Henry Clark matches a field of 11 older horses at a mile on turf. Nutello, who competed in a pair of Grade 1s and a Grade 3 event after shipping to the United States last summer, will receive some class relief in his 2014 debut for Graham Motion, and two-time Maryland Million Turf hero Roadhog can't be dismissed following a nose second in the Japan Racing Association last out.
Prominent owners, trainers pledge to make veterinary records public
A large and growing number of prominent Thoroughbred owners and trainers have voluntarily pledged to make available to the public veterinary records of their horses competing in graded stakes races in the United States and Canada, The Jockey Club announced Thursday.
Such records will cover the 14-day period preceding and including the day of each race and will be available on the day of the race at least two hours prior to post time. The pledges take effect immediately.
The decision by the owners and trainers follows closely on the heels of an April 14 public proposal by Ogden Mills Phipps, the chairman of The Jockey Club, suggesting that the veterinary records for every horse entered in this year¹s Triple Crown races be made available as a means to bring greater credibility and integrity to Thoroughbred racing at a time when millions are watching.
"The outpouring of support for this initiative has been dramatic and this is just a preliminary list of those who have stepped forward in the past few days," Phipps said. "I commend each of the owners and trainers for taking a bold step to enhance the image of our sport, and it is our sincere hope that other owners and trainers will soon adopt this voluntary practice as well."
The current list of owners and trainers includes Adena Springs (Frank Stronach), John Amerman, Roger Attfield (trainer), Antony Beck, Gary Biszantz, , Bill Casner, Mark Casse, Claiborne Farm, Christophe Clement (trainer), Darley and Godolphin (HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum), Adele Dilschneider, Dogwood Stable (Cot Campbell), Neil Drysdale (trainer), Will Farish, Glen Hill Farm, Harris Farms (John Harris), Stuart S. Janney III, Live Oak Stud (Charlotte Weber), D. Wayne Lukas (trainer), Earle Mack, Richard Mandella (trainer), Michael Matz (trainer), Shug McGaughey (trainer), Kenny McPeek (trainer), Bill Mott (trainer), Phipps Stable (Ogden Mills Phipps), Pin Oak Stud (Josephine Abercrombie), Dr. Hiram Polk Jr., Dr. J. David Richardson, John Shirreffs (trainer), Al Stall Jr. (trainer), Dallas Stewart (trainer), Stella Thayer, Stonestreet Stables (Barbara Banke), Three Chimneys Farm (Robert Clay and Borges Torrealba), Tic Stable (Ian Highet), West Point Thoroughbreds (Terry Finley), Peter Willmott, Ian Wilkes (trainer), WinStar Farm (Kenny Troutt), and Woodford Racing (Bill Farish).
Owners and trainers who would like to add their names to the list of participants may do so by visiting The Jockey Club website at jockeyclub.com.
As an industry service, The Jockey Club will provide on its website a list of owners and trainers who pledge to make veterinary records available and the list will be updated on a regular basis.
Additional details regarding this initiative will be announced in the near future.
Also, as an extension of its On Call media assistance program that is designed to provide accurate veterinary information, the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) will provide to media, upon request, general information about medications and treatments described in those records. AAEP will not, however, provide information or perspective on any specific horse, treatment or procedure because an On Call veterinarian will not have examined the horse in question.
Wise Dan, Take Charge Lady win KTOB awards
Wise Dan was named the winner of three 2013 KTOB Kentucky-bred Champion awards for the second consecutive year, including Horse of the Year, at Thursday's annual Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders (KTOB) Kentucky-bred Champions Awards Luncheon hosted at Keeneland Racecourse.
In addition, Wise Dan was voted Kentucky-bred champion older male and male turf horse. Wise Dan is owned by his breeder Morton Fink and trained by Kentucky Trainers Association (KTA)/KTOB board member Charles LoPresti. KTOB Broodmare of the Year honors went to Take Charge Lady, owned by Eaton Sales who also took home honors as the breeder of champion three-year-old colt, Will Take Charge.
2013 KTOB Broodmare of the Year and owner and 2013 Kentucky-bred champions and their breeders:
Four merit awards were presented to individuals for their contributions to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Industry.
2013 Merit awards presented at the KTOB Luncheon:
Also receiving awards were the top Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF) money earners in 2013 in five separate categories.
2013 Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF) Leaders:
The recipients of 2013 KTOB KY-bred Champion awards were voted on by the full membership of KTA/KTOB while the KTDF category leaders were tabulated using purse money won at KY racetracks in 2013. KTOB merit award recipients were voted on by the KTA/KTOB Board of Directors.
Carlton House seeks win in Queen Elizabeth's namesake race at Royal Randwick
Every great racing event deserves an equally great story, and Carlton House would provide just that if he is to emerge victorious in the A$4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the richest Group 1 of Royal Randwick's The Championships and the curtain drawer on the inaugural event.
The six-year-old son of Street Cry, gifted to The Queen by Sheikh Mohammed as a yearling, seeks a belated first Group 1 victory in the race named for his owner. Since relocating Down Under in December 2012, Carlton House has been trained by the Queen of Australian racing, Gai Waterhouse. He made just one start in 2013, finishing off the board in the Group 2 Ajax Stakes before being shelved through injury, and he returned February 8 to finish ninth in the Group 2 Expressway Stakes at Randwick.
The big bay showed signs of life when second in the listed Parramatta Cup at Rosehill on March 1, and ran a stormer when pipped on the wire by the re-opposing Silent Achiever in the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes on March 22.
Carlton House will be ridden by the 23-year-old Tommy Berry, who seeks his first Group 1 victory since the death of his twin brother and fellow jockey Nathan on April 3. Carlton House has drawn ideally in barrier 8 , with Silent Achiever, who seeks her fourth straight Group 1, just to his inside.
That five-year-old O'Reilly mare, who had previously campaigned in Australia with little success, won the Group 1 New Zealand Stakes on March 8 two weeks before the Ranvet, and franked that victory with a stirring win in the Group 1 The BMW at Rosehill on April 5.
That pair will have to contend with a five-pronged attack from Sydney's champion trainer Chris Waller, who last week saddled the same number in the featured Group 1 Doncaster Mile and watched his runners will the top four slots.
Four of his five Doncaster runners wheel back here with dual Group 1 winner Boban the new shooter headed by the victorious Sacred Falls, who was defending his title in the Doncaster. The four-year-old had failed to win between Doncasters, losing eight straight races, but he appears to have been nursed back to peak form by his savvy conditioner for what could be his last race before beginning a stud career at Waikato Stud in his native country.
His stablemate Royal Descent, winner of the Group 1 Australian Oaks on this card last year, ran a blinder to be second in the Doncaster, navigating her way from barrier 20. The Gerry Harvey colorbearer, who seeks her first victory since this day 12 months ago, has done all her best work over wet ground, and the Randwick course is currently listed as heavy.
Hawkspur filled fourth for Waller in the Doncaster, and last year's Group 1 Queensland Derby victor is another who will relish the soft ground. He was finishing fast here a week ago and therefore should enjoy the step back up in distance.
It's a Dundeel, winner of four Group 1s last year, has been less sensational thus far this campaign, failing to win in three outings, but his last-out second to Silent Achiever in The BMW was far from discouraging.
Green Moon could be the forgotten Group 1 Melbourne Cup hero, as he has yet to win since that day 17 months ago, but after finishing a bleak 21 of 24 in last year's renewal, he has put in a pair of sneaky good efforts this year, and was most recently second to last year's Cup winner Fiorente in the Group 1 Australian Cup on March 8.
Prior to the Queen Elizabeth, last year's Group 1 Irish St. Leger victress Voleuse de Coeurs seeks her second Group 1 in the 3200-meter, A$1 million Sydney Cup.
The five-year-old Teofilo mare was a solid performer in Ireland, finishing off the board just three times in 12 starts in her native country. Purchased privately by Eliza Park International following her Leger win, Voleuse de Coeurs ran a sneaky good 10th in the November 5 Melbourne Cup before being given a spell. Fifth when returning in the Australian Cup, the Michael Moroney charge filled the same position four weeks later in the The BMW when working home well.
Voleuse de Coeurs will enjoy this added distance, although she will have to tote highweight of 128 pounds.
She will also face stiff competition from the Waterhouse import The Offer, who seeks his third straight win and first Group 1 victory. The Montjeu five-year-old gelding turned heads when taking the Group 3 Manion Cup by more than three lengths at Rosehill on March 29, and followed up in the Group 2 Chairman's Handicap here last weekend.
Sertorius rarely puts in a dull effort, and the six-year-old gelding backs up for the third straight Saturday, all on heavy tracks. He finished fourth in the The BMW, and filled the same position behind The Offer in the Chairman's last weekend. He should relish a wet track, and seeks his first win since the Group 2 Zipping Classic in November.
Who Shot Thebarman is an intriguing contender from across the Tasman. Off the board just once in nine starts in New Zealand, the five-year-old gelding is unbeaten for the year with victories in the Group 2 Avondale Gold Cup on February 15 and Group 1 Auckland Cup over this trip on March 5.
It is no secret that New Zealand-breds often excel in Australia's longer distance Group 1s, and that point was reaffirmed on day one of The Championships last weekend when New Zealand-breds took two of the four Group 1s.
The Kiwis could have another opportunity to celebrate in Saturday's A$1 million Australian Oaks with the likes of Lucia Valentina and Rising Romance carrying their suffix.
Lucia Valentina staked claims to this race when a clear winner of the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes two weeks ago. The Kris Lees charge flashed promise when third in her Australian debut in the Group 2 Surround Stakes, but disappointed when 12th of 16 in the Group 1 Coolmore Classic prior to her Vinery romp.
Back in fourth in the Vinery was Rising Romance. The bay, second in both the Group 2 Avondale Guineas and Group 1 New Zealand Derby prior to crossing the Tasman, found some traffic troubles while making her Australian debut in the Vinery. A solid racecourse gallop where she worked 2000 meters in 2:18.50 suggests she is right on target for Saturday.
Zanbagh became an early favorite for this contest after a rousing second in the Group 1 Crown Oaks going 2500 meters in November, and she appears primed to upset the Kiwi applecart. Ninth when resuming in the much too short 1200-meter, Group 2 Light Fingers Stakes on February 22, she was fifth over 1400 meters in the March 8 Surround before scoring the Group 3 Keith F. Nolan Classic going a mile three weeks later.
Zanbagh worked home in the Vinery after traveling wide all the way from barrier 16, and enjoys a much more favorable draw here.
The Group 1, A$1 million Queen of the Turf S., as its name suggests, has historically crowned some of Australia's greatest fillies and mares, including dual winner More Joyous, Horse of the Year Typhoon Tracy and Group 1 Golden Slipper winner Forensics.
This year's lineup is a compact and competitive one, with Catkins receiving plenty of support. The progressive four-year-old daughter of Dubawi just missed out in her first Group 1 when second to stablemate Red Tracer in the Myer Classic in November, and opened her 2014 campaign with back-to-back group victories. Third in the Coolmore Classic, the Chris Waller charge notched her third victory of the year in the Group 2 Emancipation Stakes two weeks ago.
Red Tracer was a first-up winner of the Group 2 Millie Fox Stakes after her Myer Classic win, and after finishing third in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes behind last year's Queen of the Turf winner Appearance, disappointed when an unexplained 10th in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes on March 29.
Three intriguing sophomores face their elders here -- Recite, the Group 1 Levin Classic winner who makes her first start on Australian soil; Solicit, a dual group winner this year and last season's Crown Oaks third who finished second in the Vinery Stud Stakes two weeks ago; and Gypsy Diamond, who notched a victory in the Group 3 Carbine Club Stakes last weekend.
Toormore, Sudden Wonder prep for classics with Newmarket wins
Godolphin's vibrant start to the 2014 British Flat turf season continued apace in Thursday's £200,000 Tattersalls Millions 3YO Trophy conditions event at Newmarket, with Sudden Wonder emerging on top by a head after a tussle with Observational.
Held up early behind the leaders towards the far side, the New Approach colt forged ahead of his peers racing over there with 1 1/2 furlongs remaining and, despite the persistent attention of Observational on the run to the line, gave extra in the final yards to seal the win with jockey Mickael Barzalona aboard.
"The horse had a nice two-year-old profile going into his three-year-old career, having won here very impressively in the autumn and he's a fine big strong horse who can only improve," trainer Charlie Appleby said. "This race has given him some good experience mentally and Mickael gave him a great ride. He's a nice middle-distance type who we are looking forward to for the rest of the season.
"He's entered in the (Group 2) Dante Stakes (on May 15 at York), but we will see how he comes out of the race and go from there."
Fourth behind subsequent Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Outstrip and Wednesday's impressive listed Feilden winner True Story in his opening salvo on the July Course here in June, Sudden Wonder was second fiddle to another smart Godolphin contemporary in Pinzolo back there the following month.
Off the mark by eight lengths when brought to this strip for the Houghton Conditions Stakes over a mile in October, the chestnut stayed in the winning vein on this return to provide more depth to the operation's Derby pretensions.
A trio of £65,000 Group 3 events followed the Tattersalls Millions at Newmarket on Thursday, with the Abernant leading the way. The race was a case of the survival of the fittest, with the race-hardened Hamza emerging best and the class act Aljamaaheer getting going too late on his drop in trip.
Smart at two, the winner had initially struggled to make an impact during the spring and summer of the sophomore year that often proves difficult for sprinters. By the following season, the bay son of Amadeus Wolf had finally emerged as a force in the category with a trio of runner-up finishes in Group 3s and ended with a game third in the Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp on Arc day.
Sixth in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint going five furlongs at Meydan on March 29, Hamza showed the benefit of that experience by making virtually all here, surrendering the lead for only a few strides as Es Que Love loomed late and finding the line in time as Aljamaaheer ate up the ground from rear.
Next up, Richard Hannon Jr. enjoyed his first renewal of the Craven, a longstanding Two Thousand Guineas trial, when producing the unbeaten Toormore to add a seventh to the tally of the East Everleigh stable his father brought into the limelight over the years of his outstanding training career.
Forwardly placed from the outset by Ryan Moore alongside The Grey Gatsby in what amounted to a two-horse affair, Toormore traded pacesetting duties with that rival for much of the contest and began to emerge the better from the quarter-pole. Asserting on the uphill climb to the line, the bay son of Arakan was firmly on top at the end of a contest diminished by the no-show from Godolphin's Be Ready, who never threatened to become involved as the pressure increased at halfway and who ultimately finished tailed off.
"He idled a bit and had a lot of daylight, but every time Ryan gave him a kick he went on," Hannon noted. "He's not a flashy horse and he was never going to come here and win by six lengths even if he could. He is going to give the owners a lot of pleasure, has come here and won his trial and goes to the Guineas with a very good chance."
Having placed himself toward the head of the juvenile pecking order when stylishly beating eventual Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Outstrip in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at the Glorious Goodwood meeting at the end of July, Toormore took a tactical affair to register a top-level success in the Group 1 Vincent O'Brien National Stakes, also over that trip, at The Curragh in September.
Finally, Mull of Killough bounced back from a latest disappointing unplaced effort in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on March 29 to defend his title in the Earl of Sefton.
Perfectly at home over this track and trip, the Mull of Kintyre eight-year-old was prominently placed from the outset. The bay, who had finished a close-up fourth in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes at Flemington in November, took a slight advantage with a half-mile remaining and saw off Fencing with a decisive downhill effort which placed him beyond the reach of the closer French Navy.
Federal Court settles AI issue in Australia
The Australian Full Federal Court on Thursday unanimously dismissed the appeal of Bruce McHugh against the December 2012 decision to uphold the rules of the Australian Stud Book and the Australian Rules of Racing prohibiting artificial insemination. Three appellant judge unanimously rejected McHugh's claim that the rules were a restraint of trade.
Australian Racing Board Chairman John Messara welcomed the dismissal, saying, "A great deal of industry time and financial resources have been spent over the past five years in defending this matter. The issue of artificial insemination is settled once and for all. We have said from the outset that our sport was not anti-competitive or a restraint of trade as proponents of A-I are perfectly free to establish their own industry. Fortunately the Federal Court agreed with us.
"Racing and breeding has many challenges now and into the future and the finality of this case will allow to concentrate fully on what matters most to participants, punters and stakeholders," Messara added.
Trevor Lobb, President of Thoroughbred Breeders Australia, stated, "I just wish to thank the support of all breeders here in Australia and overseas that understood the importance of fighting this with all our being to remain an international recognized and accepted country in this great sport."
VanMeter has first stakes starter, Von Hemel returns to Keeneland in Doubledogdare
Pearl Turn represents a number of firsts for her 30-year-old trainer, Will VanMeter.
On March 14 at Oaklawn, the four-year-old Bernardini filly became his first winner when she captured an allowance race by five lengths. On Friday, she will be VanMeter's first starter in a stakes and first starter at Keeneland when she breaks from post 3 in the Grade 3, $100,000 Doubledogdare with Rosie Napravnik aboard.
Asked why he decided to run Pearl Turn against the likes of Emollient in the Doubledogdare, VanMeter said the filly "made the decision. She was doing so well and acting like she wanted to step up. She's been acting very, very confident coming off her last race."
VanMeter, who has four horses at Keeneland, is the son of successful horseman Tom VanMeter, who owns Pearl Turn with Brad Grady. The elder VanMeter, a former practicing equine veterinarian who is a prominent sales consignor, bought Pearl Turn for $200,000 at the 2014 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale.
After graduating from Lexington's Sayre School, VanMeter spent two years in the Army. He then attended the University of Louisville and earned a degree in equine business. Soon after, he went to work for Racing Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas at Oaklawn, an experience he likened to "going to college and receiving a doctorate."
VanMeter expects a large turnout of family and friends to watch Pearl Turn.
"It's an honor to start a horse at Keeneland," he said. "It feels extra special to bring such a nice horse here. She's 50-1 (on the morning-line), but she doesn't know she's 50-1. I think she's sitting on a big race."
Donnie Von Hemel has experience at Keeneland, but it has been 2 1/2 years since the trainer has been at the track during a race meet. That streak should end Friday when he sends Gold Medal Dancer postward in the 20th running of the Doubledogdare.
"I don't believe we have been there since Caleb's Posse," Von Hemel said from Churchill Downs.
Caleb's Posse did his major prep work at Keeneland for the 2011 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, which he won by a widening four lengths.
In Gold Medal Dancer, who will be ridden Friday by Luis Quinonez, Von Hemel has a filly who won her career debut on Arlington's Polytrack in September 2012 and has an allowance victory at Oaklawn to start 2014.
"I don't think she has a preferred surface; she has won on all of them," Von Hemel stated.
Gold Medal Dancer closed her 2013 campaign with runner-up finishes in the Remington Park Oaks and Zia Park Oaks before returning to the races March 20.
"With the winter we had at Oaklawn Park, we did not get as much done as we had hoped," Von Hemel said. "We looked at races there and some races back this way and this race fit in nicely."
The Medaglia d'Oro filly has compiled a record of 9-4-3-0 with her only off-the-board finishes coming in a pair of Grade 3 contests.
"In the Eight Belles, which was her third career start, we probably asked her to do too much too soon," Von Hemel explained. "She only got beat about five lengths, was surrounded by horses the whole way and never really got going. In the Iowa Oaks, she was in against Fiftyshadesofhay, but I thought she would be there with the rest of them. I was disappointed. It was not her best day and she got a break after that."
Eleven line up for Lexington
Mr Speaker is also in with a good chance following a half-length second in the grassy Palm Beach at Gulfstream Park last month. The bay son of Pulpit broke his maiden and captured the Dania Beach in his final two juvenile starts for trainer Shug McGaughey and keeps Jose Lezcano in the irons for this first foray over the synthetic Polytrack.
Supermonic just tried Keeneland for the first time in an allowance going the Lexington's 8 1/2-furlong distance and romped home a 7 1/2-length front-running winner. The Pletcher-trained son of Latent Heat stamped himself as one to watch on Saturday as he faces stakes rivals for the first time with Joel Rosario taking the mount.
The rest of the Lexington field is stakes, and synthetic, debuter Z Lucky; optional claiming scorer Ride Away; and maiden winners Morning Calm and Global Strike.
While the Lexington is the feature on Saturday at Keeneland, it shares the program with one other graded contest and a stakes event.
The Grade 3, $150,000 Ben Ali is sandwiched in between the $100,000 Giant's Causeway, which begins the stakes action, and the Lexington. The nine-furlong, main-track contest drew 10 older horses, including Newsdad and Frac Daddy. The former just captured the Pan American at Gulfstream on March 24 and boasts a 2-0-0 mark from three tries at Keeneland, including last year's Fayette.
Frac Daddy scored an allowance win at Keeneland, just the second victory of his career, last October and is exiting a second in the Maxxam Gold Cup. The Scat Daddy gray has yet to actually earn a stakes win but will be saddled by trainer Kenny McPeek, who has been winning at a 23-percent clip at the current meet.
Eleven distaffers have been entered for the grassy, 5 1/2-furlong Giant's Causeway.
Midnight Hawk holds class edge in Illinois Derby
Whether or not Midnight Hawk will appreciate the distance of the Illinois Derby, the gray will at least experience some welcome class relief. A winner of his first two starts, including the one-mile Sham at Santa Anita in January, Midnight Hawk has futilely chased the likes of probable Kentucky Derby favorite California Chrome, Candy Boy, and Chitu in recent outings.
Midnight Hawk's most serious rival on Saturday might be Class Leader. The late-blooming Smart Strike colt, from the barn of Neil Howard, makes his stakes debut after back-to-back wins at Fair Grounds, the latter a one-length allowance score on March 13.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, whose barn has racked up wins in the Florida Derby and Arkansas Derby in recent weeks, has entered King Cyrus and Global Strike. Second in a minor stakes at Calder two back, King Cyrus will add blinkers for the Illinois Derby after a nondescript seventh-place effort in the Louisiana Derby. Global Strike, who is also cross-entered in Saturday's Lexington at Keeneland, is probably better than his last-out sixth in the Sunland Derby would indicate.
Like Global Strike, the Mark Casse-trained Dynamic Impact was cross-entered in the Lexington. The Tiznow colt needed five starts to break his maiden, but did so over a mile at Oaklawn last time in an effort which garnered a solid 96 BRIS Speed rating.
The Illinois Derby field is completed by longshots A Step Ahead, Irish You Well, and Emmett Park.
Recently sixth against a tough field in the Azeri at Oaklawn, Flashy American might move forward in her second start of the season in the Grade 3, $150,000 Sixty Sails Handicap over nine furlongs. A three-time stakes winner last season, the five-year-old gray mare also placed in the Shuvee Handicap and Falls City Handicap for trainer Ken McPeek.
Also entered in this wide-open renewal are Gamay Noir, who upset the Rampart at Gulfstream at odds of 49-1 last time, and Imposing Grace, a recent allowance runner-up who will probably move on to defend her title in next month's Arlington Matron.
Likely to show speed here are Sonja's Angel, second against optional claiming foes at Gulfstream last out, and Dress the Part, who landed the $50,000 Wayward Lass at Tampa Bay Downs most recently. Todd Pletcher's Brazilian import Ana Luisa and 2012 Canadian classic winner Dixie Strike are also among the eight fillies and mares entered.
Game On Dude towers over six rivals in Charles Town Classic
Multiple stakes victor Long River brings improving form into the race for Kiaran McLaughlin. A nice winner of the January 18 Evening Attire at Aqueduct, the four-year-old son of A.P. Indy exits a neck second to well-regarded stablemate Romansh in the Grade 3 Excelsior on March 22. Irad Ortiz Jr. retains the assignment.
"Maybe we can sit third, fourth or fifth and make a run," said McLaughlin, who is anticipating a hot early pace. "Game on Dude is obviously the horse to beat and a nice horse. He's coming off a big effort in California but has to fly (to West Virginia_. We're coming off a big effort at Aqueduct. There are a million and five reasons to come. He deserves a chance, and it's a Grade 2, and we're trying to win a graded stakes with our horse. There's no reason not to run."
Imperative finished ahead of Game On Dude when second at 26-1 odds in the Grade 2 San Antonio two back and will attempt to rebound from a seventh in the Big 'Cap. Kent Desormeaux sticks with the George Papaprodromou-trained gelding.
Clubhouse Ride finished second to Game On Dude three times last season, including the Charles Town Classic, and returns for another shot at the favorite. However, the Craig Lewis charge will need to turn things around, dropping seven starts in a row, including all three efforts this year. The six-year-old exits a non-threatening third in the March 30 Santana Mile at Santa Anita. The Candy Ride horse keeps Typer Baze in the irons.
"Chasing (Game On Dude) around the country is like trying to catch the wind," Lewis said. "He's coming up to this as well as I could hope. He's feeling good, acting good."
Moreno, a nose second in the Travers, will make his first appearance of the year. Scratched from last Saturday's Oaklawn H., the four-year-old gelding has not started since a 10th in the Breeders' Cup Classic. The Eric Guillot trainee captured the Grade 2 Dwyer last season and the speedster also placed in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby and Grade 2 Jim Dandy. Moreno picks up the services of Joel Rosario and figures to break running from post position 2.
"His pedigree indicates he should be better at four," Guillot said. "He's been working lights out at Santa Anita."
Multiple Grade 2 runner-up Ruler of Love, fourth when opening 2014 in the March 22 Challenger at Tampa Bay Downs; and local star Lucy's Bob Boy, an eight-time Charles Town stakes winner, round out the field.
"He kind of accelerates on the turns here while everyone else slows down a little bit," trainer Sandra Dono said of the West Virginia-bred Lucy's Bob Boy. "He might have a little bit of a hometown advantage, but just to run with this class of horses -- like Game on Dude -- is a privilege."
Two races prior to the Classic, Grade 3 winner Rise Up heads a a field of nine three-year-olds in the $100,000 Robert Hilton Memorial at seven furlongs. The Tom Amoss-trained colt entered the year on the Kentucky Derby trail but missed the start and never threatened in both outings this year, finishing seventh in the Grade 2 Risen Star and 10th in the Louisiana Derby. The Rockport Harbor colt picks up a new rider in Leandro Goncalves.
An overflow of 11 fillies and mares, including one also-eligible, were entered to the $200,000 Sugar Maple. Multiple stakes winner My Pal Chrisy, who is cross-entered to Saturday's Grade 2 Distaff H. at Aqueduct, will be the one to beat in the seven-furlong test following a runner-up in the Grade 2 Inside Information at Gulfstream Park.
Kauai Katie returns in Distaff Handicap
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez rill ride Kauai Katie, the 3-1 second choice on the morning-line, from post 5.
La Verdad, also a four-year-old, has won six-of-eight starts, including five-of-six at Aqueduct. In her most recent start, the bay daughter of Yes It's True made quick work of New York-bred competition in the Broadway over the inner track in March. She was installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Distaff.
After finishing fourth in her debut, La Verdad won five straight races before she set the pace and yielded late when second in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap in February at Laurel Park. The front runner found the Broadway to her liking, quickly seizing the lead and never looking back en route to a 3 1/4-length triumph.
Rajiv Maragh will ride Bridgehampton, drew post 6, for the first time in the Distaff.
Munnings Sister, who has won five stakes, including three at Belmont Park, returns to New York after competing twice in Florida and making one start in California for trainer Barclay Tagg. She was third in the Sugar Swirl in December and won the Awesome Feather in February before reporting home third in the Las Flores on March 9. The winner of the Las Flores, Judy the Beauty, returned to take Keeneland's Madison last Saturday.
Luis Saez will ride Munnings Sister, 4-1, from post 4.
The Distaff field is completed by Miss d'Oro, who was second in last year's Distaff and hasn't raced since finishing fourth in the Vagrancy Handicap in May; Lion D N A, who won a pair of inner track stakes before finishing fifth in a starter allowance February 17; and My Pal Chrisy, who has finished second in three straight races, including the March 22 Inside Information at Gulfstream Park, and is cross-entered to Saturday evening's $200,000 Sugar Maple at Charles Town.
All-Weather Championship Finals Day draws full fields
Final declarations have been made for All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Lingfield Park on Good Friday, April 18, and the £1 million on offer in prize money has certainly proved popular.
There are 96 horses declared across the card with maximum fields for five of the seven contests. In addition, the £150,000 Three-Year-Old Championships, the £150,000 Sprint and the £150,000 Mile each have two reserves which can be utilized if there are any withdrawals by 9 a.m. (BST) Thursday morning.
"We really could not have asked for a better inaugural All-Weather Championships Finals Day with maximum fields in five of the six main races," ARC Director of PR and Communications Kate Hills said. "The Fast-Track Qualifiers have provided a strong narrative in the build-up to Good Friday and it is very satisfying to see so many of them lining up.
"We are all set for a fabulous and historic day's racing with racing for the first time in England on Good Friday."
Horses qualified for the six championship contests by running in a minimum of three races at Britain's all-weather tracks -- three owned by ARC (Lingfield Park, Southwell and Wolverhampton) and The Jockey Club's Kempton Park -- between October 26 and April 11 or else by succeeding in one of the 16 Fast-Track Qualifiers.
A field of 13 goes to post in the day's richest race, the £200,000 Classic over 10 furlongs. Heading the declarations are course and distance winners Robin Hoods Bay and Grandeur. Robin Hoods Bay landed the March 22 Winter Derby for trainer Ed Vaughan while Grandeur was successful in the Winter Derby Trial a month earlier for conditioner Jeremy Noseda. Both of those races served as Fast-Track Qualifiers for the Classic.
The final field for Britain's richest-ever all-weather race also includes multiple Polytrack scorer Solar Deity plus listed scorers Aussie Reigns and Dick Doughtywylie.
In the £150,000 All-Weather Fillies' & Mares' Championships, a maximum field of 14 distaffers is set to face the starter, including the Michael Bell-trained Fashion Line, who won twice at Wolverhampton before finishing a close fourth in the valuable Ladbrokes Lincoln Trial on March 8 at the same track.
All three Fast-Track Qualifier winners in the Three-Year-Old category are set to take part in the £150,000 All-Weather Three-Year-Old Championships over seven furlongs, which has a maximum field of 14.
Ertijaal qualified by landing the listed Spring Cup at Lingfield Park on March 22 by a head from American Hope. The filly Alutiq could only finish seventh that day but had already qualified by landing a Fast-Track Qualifier at Kempton Park on January 15. The other Fast-Track Qualifier scorer to line up is Complicit, who scored at Lingfield Park in November before going on to win on the All-Weather surface at Deauville next time out.
Dean Ivory, based at Radlett in Hertfordshire, is represented in the All-Weather Three-Year-Old Championships by Golden Amber. The daughter of Holy Roman Emperor won on turf in Ireland last year and although winless in three six-furlong starts on Polytrack, the trainer believes the step up in trip will suit and she will sport a hood for the first time.
"I think Golden Amber will appreciate the step up to seven furlongs on the all-weather," Ivory said. "To get into these big races, you have to run three times to qualify so you end up running them in races that aren't ideal. I was running her over six furlongs when I knew she wanted seven.
"She had three quick runs to get her in, but she has had a break and galloped at Lingfield last week with Sirius Prospect just to sharpen her up. I think the hood will help. It will get her to relax."
Another race with a maximum field is the £150,000 All-Weather Marathon over nearly two miles. Again, three Fast-Track Qualifier scorers line up -- Arch Villain, who scored at Kempton Park on January 22; Castilo del Diablo, a winner at Kempton Park on March 31; and Litigant, who has won two of his three starts on Polytrack and landed his Fast-Track Qualifier at Lingfield Park on March 1.
Ivory is represented in the race by Duchess of Gazeley, who put up her best performance when third, beaten a half-length, behind Litigant at Lingfield Park.
"Duchess of Gazeley is in great form," Ivory stated. "The two miles at Kempton doesn't suit her -- she struggles to get the trip -- but it's a lot easier at Lingfield. She has good form at the track but we have got to ride her to get the trip.
"She would have a squeak on her run behind Litigant at Lingfield and I would like to think she will be in the first three or four."
The £150,000, six-furlong Sprint also features the three Fast-Track Qualifier scorers among the maximum field of 12. They include Tarooq, who scored by a head from Rivellino in the listed Cleves Stakes at Lingfield Park on February 22. The eight-year-old had previously led home Hawkeyethenoo, Lancelot Du Lac and Alben Star in a handicap over the same course and distance in December, when the first six horses home all broke the track record. Stepper Point, successful in the five-furlong listed Hever Sprint Stakes at Lingfield Park on March 22, and Valbchek, not seen out since taking the listed Golden Rose Stakes at Lingfield Park on November 16, are the other two Fast-Track Qualifier winners.
Lancelot Du Lac did not manage to win a Fast-Track Qualifier but, having finished third behind Tarooq and Valbchek, his trainer Ivory is confident of a good run. The four-year-old was last seen out when fifth behind Trinityelitedotcom in a March 29 Kempton Park handicap.
"I thought it was a good, solid run from Lancelot Du Lac at Kempton," Ivory commented. "Ideally, I wanted to sit him second or third that day, but they hit the gate and went like the clappers. He was a little bit further back than I would have like and there was a tail wind, so the leaders did not come back to us and broke the track record by a second.
"That run should put him spot on and, as long as we get luck in running, which is so important at Lingfield, I really do think he is going to take a lot of beating."
A maximum field of 12 goes in the £150,000 Mile. Again, all the of the three Fast-Track Qualifier winners are set to run -- Sirius Prospect, who has been rested since winning the listed Hyde Stakes at Kempton Park in November; Grey Mirage, successful in three of his four most recent Polytrack starts; and Chookie Royale, who makes the long journey down from Scotland.
"Sirius Prospect has had two gallops at Lingfield. I just wanted to show the horse around - he has never run there before - and get him used to the bends," Ivory spoke of his entrant. "He worked lovely again this morning. I know we have a bad draw (14) and you need the luck in running at Lingfield, but he is in great nick and I am expecting a big run.
"A mile at Lingfield is like seven and a bit on the grass. He held on well at Kempton and is bred for a mile, so I'm not worried about the trip."
All-Weather Championships Finals Day gets underway with the £50,000 All-Weather Championships Apprentice Handicap over 1 1/2 miles in which 11 horses go to post including The Lock Master, who is seeking a four-timer following victories at Southwell and Wolverhampton.
Please visit awchampionships.co.uk for more details about the All-Weather Championships, including the leaderboards and the blog from Luke Morris.
Emollient seeks third Keeneland stakes win in Doubledogdare
Another with notable synthetic credentials is Sisterhood, who narrowly missed in both the Doubledogdare and Arlington Matron last year. The Wesley Ward pupil has been idle since December, when she ended her campaign with a fifth consecutive unplaced finish against stakes foes.
Several quality grass performers are also in the Doubledogdare lineup, including 2013 Bewitch winner Strathnaver. The Graham Motion-trained daughter of Oasis Dream also captured the Lady Baltimore at Laurel in September and was last seen finishing a close third in the My Charmer Handicap at Calder in December.
Solid Appeal kicked off her 2013 campaign with an allowance win over the Keeneland main track and later won the Nassau and Dance Smartly, both Grade 2 events over the Woodbine turf. She will be making her first start since running third in the Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs in November.
Others of note are Canadian classic winner Dixie Strike, Remington Park Oaks and Zia Park Oaks runner-up Gold Medal Dancer, and the Grade 3-placed Ire, who has won three of four starts on the Keeneland Polytrack.
Beholder returns in Santa Lucia
Like Zenyatta, she is trained by John Shirreffs and will be ridden for the second time in a row by Mike Smith. Owned by St. George Farm Racing, LLC, she is 4-2-1-0 with earnings of $77,800.
The complete field for the Santa Lucia Stakes, to be run as the 8TH race on a nine-race card Sunday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Legacy, Drayden Van Dyke, 117; Moulin de Mougin, Martin Garcia, 117; Beholder, Gary Stevens, 123; Magic Union, Victor Espinoza, 117; Eblouissante, Mike Smith, 117; City At Dawn, Julien Couton, 117, and Irish Presence, Tyler Baze, 117.
First post time on Sunday is at 12:30 p.m. (PDT). Admission gates will open at 10:30 a.m.
Keeneland celebrates the arrival on Friday of the "50 to 1" Movie Tour with a special appearance by Mine That Bird. The movie "50 to 1," which chronicles Mine That Bird's improbable journey to victory in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, opens in theaters in Lexington and across Kentucky on Friday. Lexington is the final stop on the 1,700-mile, cross-country promotional tour that began in mid-March at Sunland Park near El Paso, Texas. Friday's events at Keeneland will kick off at 1 p.m. (EDT) with a fan meet-and-greet with the connections of Mine That Bird and members of the movie cast and crew. Expected to attend are Mine That Bird's owners, Mark Allen and Leonard "Doc" Blach; the movie's director, Jim Wilson; writer, Faith Conroy; and actors Skeet Ulrich and Todd Lowe. Mine Than Bird will be paraded in the Paddock around 2:30 p.m., and the connections and cast will be recognized in the winner's circle at 2:50 p.m. Click here for more about the movie...
Racing fans are invited to rub elbows with Kentucky Derby-winning owners, trainers and jockeys at "It's My Derby," a once-in-a-lifetime event presented by the Kentucky Derby Museum on Friday evening at the Keeneland Sales Pavilion. "It's My Derby," a fundraiser for the Kentucky Derby Museum, features an evening of laughter, bourbon tastings, big personalities and the best stories in racing. The event kicks off with a VIP reception presented by Four Roses, followed by a panel discussion hosted by Racing Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas. Lukas will swap Derby stories with Stuart Janney, co-owner and breeder of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb; trainer Shug McGaughey; and jockey Joel Rosario; Barclay Tagg, trainer of 2003 Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide; and Derby-winning jockeys Chris McCarron and John Velazquez. Kentucky Derby winners Mine That Bird and Funny Cide will be at the event to greet fans. A live auction of unique, one-on-one Derby experiences hosted by racing celebrities also will be held. Among the packages fans can bid on are a private tour and brunch at the home of Lukas during Derby Week; a morning on the Churchill Downs backside during Derby Week with Chris McCarron; Kentucky Oaks and Derby seats; accommodations for an afternoon at the races at Saratoga capped by a private dinner with McGaughey; and several VIP experiences on Derby Day at Churchill Downs. For more information, or to buy tickets for the event, please visit It's My Derby...
Frac Daddy (Scat Daddy), a participant in last year's Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, has won races on dirt, turf and Polytrack in his career, but the Polytrack score at Keeneland during the 2013 fall meet may been the most impressive. "That was a monster race," trainer Ken McPeek said of the 3 1/2-length allowance victory that was completed under wraps. McPeek is hoping for a similar effort Saturday when he sends Frac Daddy to the gate in the 84th running of the $150,000 Ben Ali (G3) at 1 1/8 miles. "I think he needs to run at a certain distance," McPeek said of Frac Daddy, who finished second in his 2014 debut on dirt in the March 1 Maxxam Gold Cup going 1 1/8 miles at Sam Houston. "Right now he is probably a Grade 3 horse until he proves to be more competitive." Frac Daddy earned his trip to the Kentucky Derby with a runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby (G1). He finished 16th in the Kentucky Derby and 14th in the Belmont. "We put him in some ambitious spots last year," McPeek admitted. "(Owner) Carter Stewart might like those spots better than me. He said when he played quarterback that sometimes you've just got to go deep." McPeek added that Rosalind (Broken Vow), a seven-length dead-heat winner of the April 5 Ashland (G1) at Keeneland, is scheduled to work over that venue's Polytrack Saturday morning as she prepares for an engagement in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 2 at Churchill Downs. Rosalind is expected to ship to Churchill next week and have one work there prior to the Oaks...
Wednesday's Derby Trial at Epsom, a 10-furlong conditions race, offers the winner a wildcard entry into the £1.325-million Derby (Eng-G1) over the same course June 7 -- providing the horse is not already entered or a gelding. Bremner (Manduro) won a seven-furlong maiden and a mile novice stakes at Ayr for Kevin Ryan last season. Subsequently purchased for 280,000 guineas at the Tattersalls Autumn Horse-In-Training Sale in October, he has been transferred to Hugo Palmer. "He was in the Feilden Stakes (Wednesday)," Palmer said, "but I took him out in favor of going to Epsom because he is a supremely well-balanced horse. I think he should be well adapted to the unique test that Epsom poses and the race at Epsom is more valuable than the Feilden. He is owned by Australians (Team Down Under), so the ultimate dream goal is the Melbourne Cup (Aus-G1) one day." Bremner's potential rivals include Hartnell (Authorized), third in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud (Fr-G1) and a supplemental Derby entry for Mark Johnston; Hymenaios (Danehill Dancer), a recent Doncaster maiden winner from the Richard Hannon yard; and the Ed Dunlop-trained pair of Red Galileo (Dubawi), who was just added to the Derby, and Trip to Paris (Champs Elysees). In-form handler John Gosden sent out Debussy to beat Midday in the 2009 Derby Trial and has entered decisive Kempton Park scorer Marzocco (Kitten's Joy) and Italian import Nonno Guilio (Halling). Other notables include Johnston's Stars over the Sea (Sea the Stars), as well as debut maiden victors Moontime (Sea the Stars) and Mannaro (Manduro) representing Charlie Appleby and Marco Botti, respectively...
Just 24 hours after a High Chaparral colt set a new European record for a breeze-up sale at the Tattersalls Craven Breeze-Up, the high water mark was moved again when a War Front colt from Willie Browne's Mocklershill was sold for 1,150,000 guineas. As well as a new European record, the sale is also the top price anywhere in the world this year. Cataloged as Lot No. 119, the colt out of Julie From Dixie (Dixie Union), attracted a plethora of bidders including Seamus Burns and Charlie Gordon-Watson before David Redvers took up the running along with Jamie McCalmont. Darley's John Ferguson then joined the fray and looked to have secured the colt before McCalmont made the successful bid, stood alongside Michael Tabor, MV Magnier and Paul Shanahan. "It is brilliant, I can't believe it," consignor Willie Browne said. "I knew he was popular, he did a great breeze, he ticked all the right boxes and all the ingredients were there for a big price. And, of course, he is by the right stallion. It just shows you if you have two people on a horse, what you can get. He was led out in the U.S. unsold at $240,000 as a yearling and I'd thought I go and get him privately for $200,000 -- in the end had to pay $250,000! But he was worth it." Trade on the second day saw a total of 47 lots sell for 5,086,000 guineas, at an average of 108,213 guineas and a median of 62,000 guineas. This took the two-day sale total to 93 lots sold for 10,489,000 guineas, at an average of 112,785 guineas and a median of 70,000 guineas. The turnover was up 14 percent on 2013, with the average and median rising 26 percent and 27 percent respectively. At the conclusion of the 2014 Tattersalls Craven Breeze Up Sale, Tattersalls Chairman Edmond Mahony noted, "To have sold the first ever million guineas breeze-up two-year-old in Europe is a major benchmark for the Tattersalls Craven Breeze Up Sale. Twenty-five years ago we staged the first breeze up sale at Tattersalls and the top price of the sale was 35,000 guineas. At that point, it would have been hard to envisage a breeze-up two-year-old breaking the seven figure barrier, but this sale can now be regarded as a world leader and the progress of the sale is a massive tribute to the outstanding professionalism of the consignors." Click here for full results...
Ten sophomore fillies are set to sprint six furlongs on Saturday in Woodbine's C$125,000 Star Shoot. Madly Truly (Malibu Moon) closed out her juvenile season with a win in the Mazarine (Can-G3) over Woodbine's Polytrack before shipping to Kentucky for a subpar effort in the Golden Rod (G2) on November 30. The Mark Casse trainee returns in the Star Shoot off a more than four-month break and will get Eurico Da Silva aboard. Paladin Bay (Sligo Bay) is also making her sophomore debut in this spot Saturday, having last been seen taking the Ontario Lassie by a neck. The Harold Ladoucer pupil also won the Princess Elizabeth and placed in four other stakes at Woodbine. Regular rider Gerry Olguin has the call on Paladin Bay...
Dual stakes winner Enterprising (Elusive Quality) heads a field of eight sophomores entered Saturday in Santa Anita Park's $75,000 La Puente going nine furlongs on the turf. The Tom Proctor-trained bay has thus far captured the Pasadena and Eddie Logan over the course and has also placed in the El Camino Real Derby (G3) and California Derby. Jockey Gary Stevens will be back in the irons as Enterprising faces, among others, stakes scorer and recent Pasadena fourth Diamond Bachelor (War Front)...
Finger Lakes will kick off its 2014 live Thoroughbred racing season on Friday. The Western New York track's 52nd season will being with a nine-race opening day program, with a first post of 12:35 p.m. (EDT). A new wagering option has been added to the menu for the 2014 season -- the Pick 5 will be available beginning with the 3RD race on a typical nine-race card. The minimum play for the Pick 5 is 50 cents. Finger Lakes will begin the season with live racing four days a week with dark days of Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. Thursdays will be added to the scheduled beginning May 15. Post times for most days will be 1:10 p.m...
A disappointing seventh as the 2-1 favorite in the February 9 Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1), Summer Front (War Front) will look to rebound in Saturday's $100,000 Miami Mile H. (G3) at Calder. The five-year-old Christophe Clement trainee kicked off the season with a victory in the Ft. Lauderdale S. (G2) by three parts of a length, and figures to be a strong favorite to defend his title in the Miami Mile, which he won last year by 1 1/2 lengths. Also in the lineup is Hey Leroy (Any Given Saturday), who pulled off an 11-1 upset of the Appleton S. (G3) at Gulfstream last month in his stakes debut for trainer Manny Azpurua, and Travelin Man (Trippi), a Grade 2 winner on dirt who finished second in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint two back. Csaba (Kitten's Joy), a multiple Grade 3 winner on Calder's main track, is entered for the main track only...
On the final day of the 35th Asian Racing Conference in Hong Kong, May 8, leaders representing eight of the most significant and valuable race meetings in the world will share their strategies for success and their approaches for dealing with the inevitable challenges. Rod Street, Chief Executive of Great British Racing, will explain the thinking behind British Champions Day, now in its fourth year. Two fellow 'youngsters' in the major event stakes are Champions Weekend, represented by Horse Racing Ireland's Chief Executive Brian Kavanagh and The Championships in Sydney, introduced here by John Messara, Chairman of Racing New South Wales. Among the events with a longer history on the world racing stage are the Breeders' Cup, which celebrated its 30th running last November and is represented at the Conference by Craig Fravel, its President and CEO, and the Dubai World Cup, which was run for the 19th time in March this year and will be discussed by Martin Talty and Claire Grey from the Dubai Racing Club. The other events under the spotlight are the Hong Kong International Races, the Japanese Derby and the Singapore International Racing Festival. The Executive Director of Racing at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, William A. Nader said: "We are proud of the success of our Hong Kong International Races, and I am looking forward to presenting our strategy to the delegates at the conference, but it will be fascinating to hear from the organizers of so many other world-class events about the thought process they go through too." The Conference is being organized by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, in association with the Asian Racing Federation and takes place from May 5-8 at Hong Kong's Conference and Exhibition Centre overlooking the world famous Hong Kong harbor...
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) board of directors on Thursday approved the association's audited financial results for the fiscal year concluding January 31, 2014, which reflect net revenues of $667,477. The results continued a positive trend from the previous fiscal year when NTRA net revenues were $66,850. Thursday's action took place during the board's regularly scheduled second-quarter meeting. "The positive 2013 financial results were accomplished through disciplined reductions in spending as well as unprecedented growth in a variety of areas, especially the NTRA Advantage group purchasing program," NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop said. "The NTRA is building a sustainable future by producing valuable programs and building strong partnerships while reducing its reliance on dues support from members." The complete NTRA financials and the company's annual report will be released in early June. In other action, the board ratified the 2014 NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance Code of Standards; reviewed recent progress in industry-wide efforts to implement uniform national medication reforms; and received updates on federal legislative activities in Washington, D.C., marketing, communications and the Advantage purchasing program. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the NTRA board of directors will be August 8 in Saratoga Springs, New York...
Keeneland's regular Sunrise Trackside event on Saturday -- which offers activities for all ages beginning at 7 a.m. (EDT) including Breakfast With the Works, children's activities in the Kids Club Corner, guided walking tours of Keeneland and a trackside handicapping seminar -- will offer something special for this upcoming Saturday. The Keeneland Kids Club will host an Easter Egg Hunt on the North Terrace Lawn at 9 a.m., and children will be able to see baby chicks, bunnies and other animals from Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. Keeneland is closed on Easter Sunday, April 20.
For Friday or Next Raceday
KENTUCKY DERBY REPORT
APRIL 18, 2014
by James Scully
Dance With Fate improved upon a narrow runner-up in the February 15 El Camino Real Derby on Tapeta, registering a second straight century-topping BRIS Late Pace rating as well as a career-best 99 Speed rating in the Blue Grass. Despite a solid pedigree for dirt tracks, he's run faster on turf and all-weather than in two dirt attempts.
Eurton has explained as much, noting that Dance With Fate packs a more powerful punch on synthetics because the ground doesn't give way for him like dirt does. The conditioner wasn't keen about coming back on three weeks' rest, mentioning the May 17 Preakness as a more viable target for joining the Triple Crown chase, but the allure of the Derby could prove impossible to overcome for the colt's connections.
Dance With Fate rated near the back during the early stages of the Blue Grass and was still 11th with three-eighths of a mile remaining. Jockey Corey Nakatani swung him extremely wide nearing the conclusion of the far turn and the dark bay colt responded with an outstanding turn of foot, blowing past Medal Count in midstretch to win going away by 1 3/4 lengths.
Dance With Fate shipped back to California on Monday and if the race doesn't take too much out of him, the argument can be made that the Blue Grass winner deserves to be in the Kentucky Derby. Nakatani pointed out how the Churchill Downs main track can play favorably to some turf horses -- "He seems to do well on the grass, and at Churchill, I've won the (Kentucky) Oaks on a filly that won on the grass (Pike Place Dancer in 1996) so hopefully we'll get (Dance With Fate) there after this race."
Animal Kingdom raced exclusively on turf and synthetics prior to his 2011 Derby victory and similar types such as Dullahan (2012) and Paddy O'Prado (2010) have placed in recent years. Those examples help make the case for Dance With Fate's involvement as well as the expected pace scenario -- the opening half-mile has been :45 1/5 the last two years and could be extreme again this year.
Dance With Fate will be an outsider if his connections opt for the Derby. I don't expect to see him thrive over the main track at Churchill Downs but stranger things have happened.
Blue Grass runner-up Medal Count is confirmed. By Dynaformer, sire of 2006 Derby winner Barbaro, Medal Count is based at Churchill Downs with Dale Romans and has really come on in his last two starts on Keeneland's Polytrack, recording a sharp victory in the off-the-turf Transylvania before wheeling back eight days later in the Blue Grass.
The bay colt broke his maiden over the main track at Ellis but will need to improve significantly upon his last two dirt efforts, recording unplaced efforts in the Fountain of Youth and Breeders' Cup Juvenile. However, the late runner caught a speed-favoring track at Gulfstream earlier this year and his form appears much improved now.
Don't know whether Medal Count is good enough -- his numbers aren't among the best in the field -- and it will be important to follow his progress over the next couple of weeks. But I'm looking at him as an intriguing option for the exotics.
Danza made two starts last year, breaking his maiden at 5 1/2 furlongs before recording a close third in the 6 1/2-furlong Saratoga Special, and the chestnut son of sprinter Street Boss was no factor opening the year in a seven-furlong optional claimer, finishing 7 1/2 lengths back of stablemate Anchor Down, who is currently sidelined.
One of only two runners higher than 10-1 in the eight-horse Arkansas Derby field, Danza paid $84.60 after easily winning his two-turn bow. He broke from the innermost post position and hugged the rail throughout the 1 1/8-mile event, stalking up close in third before slipping through an opening entering the stretch.
Ahead by 1 1/2 lengths with an eighth of a mile remaining, Danza continued to widen his advantage to the finish line. He turned in a huge performance.
Joe Bravo rode the chestnut colt and hopes to keep the mount for the Derby, but Javier Castellano is waiting in the wings without an assignment following this week's defection of Constitution. Castellano rode Danza in his first two starts.
Pletcher was considering both the Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby before opting for the latter.
"We were searching for the right race and the right option," the trainer said, "and it seemed like the Arkansas Derby was the race for us to step out and take our shot. We're certainly very excited that we did and very proud of the way the horse ran today."
Danza surprised everybody and the term "bounce" will be bandied about regarding his chances in the Derby. He benefited from a perfect trip, with pacesetter Bayern drifting several paths off the rail leaving the bend, and figures to face greater adversity in the 20-horse Derby field.
I'll be surprised to see him play a major role next time but won't dismiss Danza's chances for a minor award. He will settle off the pace before looking to rally and has been able to improve his position in the stretch run of all four career starts, registering a 106 Late Pace rating in the Arkansas Derby.
Out of a French Deputy mare, Danza is bred for the distance on his dam's side -- half-brother Majestic Harbor recently captured the 1 1/2-mile Tokyo City Cup at Santa Anita -- but the grueling nature of the 1 1/4-mile test could prove too much too soon for the lightly-raced colt. Animal Kingdom became the first Derby winner with only four starts beforehand (Big Brown won with just three in 2008) and Sunland Derby winner Chitu is the only other confirmed Derby horse this year with such limited experience.
Ride On Curlin closed belatedly to outfinish Bayern for second and will head to the Derby off three consecutive stakes placings, recording a pair of troubled thirds in the Rebel and Southwest. Conditioned by Billy "Bronco" Gowan, the hard-knocking colt settled nicely near the tail of the field Saturday after being forwardly placed in his three previous outings and the grinder figures to employ similar tactics in the Derby.
Picking up the services of Calvin Borel won't help his price -- the Hall of Famer has captured three of the last seven runnings -- and Ride On Curlin has failed to earn a triple-digit Speed rating in his last seven starts. Others look faster than him but Ride On Curlin remains a possible exotics player.
Bayern is under consideration but needs help qualifying with only 20 points (currently 26th on the leaderboard). The lightly-raced colt missed a scheduled start in the March 8 San Felipe due to a foot bruise and came up a little short after establishing a reasonable pace in the Arkansas Derby, but he figures to benefit from the first stakes attempt.
Bob Baffert could point Bayern toward the Preakness.
Tapiture failed to fire after advancing into a striking position at the head of the stretch. He was making his first start at nine furlongs and rates as a poor candidate to handle the added ground in the Derby.
Saturday's Lexington at Keeneland offers a total of 17 points (10 to the winner) and probably won't have any impact upon the Derby. Grey winner Ami's Holiday, a 10-1 outsider in his first start of 2014, is the only horse with any points in the field and would move to 23rd on the list with an upset.
Global Strike is cross-entered to the Illinois Derby and figures to scratch after drawing post 11 in the Lexington, but there is still plenty of speed in the line-up.
Divine Oath and Mr Speaker both look dangerous and figure to compete for favoritism, but I'll take a shot with Poker Player, who was never a factor following a slow start in the Spiral but returns to his favorite track Saturday.
The Wayne Catalano charge offered an eye-catching move on the far turn of last year's off-the-turf Bourbon on Keeneland's Polytrack, winning by a length in a 13-horse field and rebounds Saturday at a decent price (10-1 morning line).
The focus shifts to Derby contenders next week.
Kentucky Derby Top 10
APRIL 18, 2014
by Dick Powell
The Blue Grass Stakes (G1) was run for the eighth and final time on Polytrack Saturday and California shipper Dance With Fate (Two Step Salsa) will go into the history books as the last winner over the synthetic track.
Whether or not Dance With Fate goes on to greatness three weeks later in the Kentucky Derby is a moot point. He beat 13 rivals in a terrific betting race and joins the likes of Bandini, Sinister Minister and Millennium Wind that won the Blue Grass and little else.
I picked those three as they won the Blue Grass back when it was run on dirt. Since switching to Polytrack, the Bluegrass has had a spotty record producing classic types but that was the case in the most recent years when it was run on dirt. Not much changed but at least the Blue Grass renewals that were run on Polytrack had big fields.
A couple of years ago, the Jockey Club spent millions of dollars to have McKinsey & Co. do extensive market research on our industry. One common theme that they, and every other forum, has come up with is that field size is a critical component of business success. Bigger fields create more exotic wagering opportunities and more betting.
Despite its universal acceptance, racing still pays lip service to field size. It brags when it is up marginally but despite fewer foals produced, still runs too many races. A slight increase in field size barely results in marginal results. When we say we want bigger field sizes, I have to quote a panel at a Thoroughbred Racing Association seminar that stated, "We want seven 10s and not 10 sevens."
In other words, seven races a day with 10 horses in each instead of 10 races a day with seven horses in each. But each day, despite McKinsey's research that reinforced what we already knew, racing still gives us 10 sevens each day.
No further proof is needed when you look at the recent decisions of Keeneland and Del Mar to pull out their Polytrack and go back to dirt. It's not like dirt is the new surface and they were taking a big gamble to install it. They have years of experience on dirt, eight and seven years experience with Poly, and they ignored the proven advice that bettors want big fields.
In the years between 1999 and 2006, the Blue Grass was run on dirt at Keeneland. The average field size for the eight runnings was 8.86 starters per race. When Polytrack was installed for the 2007 meeting, the last eight runnings of the Bluegrass Stakes had an average field size of 13.14, an increase of 48 percent. If you were told that field size for your premier three-year-old race would increase by 48 percent, you would agree to a synthetic track of plastic bottle caps.
I went back and looked at the Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar to see what the results were when they switched to Polytrack in 2007. In the years between 2000 and 2006, the Pacific Classic was run on dirt and the average field size for the seven runnings was 8.28 starters per race. When Polytrack was installed for the 2007 meeting, the average field size for the seven runnings increased to 10.71, an increase of 29 percent.
As far as betting was concerned, it was hard to gauge the results since over the past 14 years, betting menus have changed dramatically and more wagering options fractionalize existing pools.
Was the Blue Grass a better Kentucky Derby prep when it was run on dirt? I would say yes, but not by much. Was the Blue Grass run on Polytrack a better race? I would say yes, by far.
The Arkansas Derby (G1) was also run on Saturday at Oaklawn Park and when was the last time Todd Pletcher won a Grade 1 stakes race at 41-1? The only one that I can remember that comes close was when his Red Giant won the Virginia Derby (G2) at 37-1. Danza (Street Boss) was dismissed by the bettors since he only had one start this year and this was the farthest he had ever run.
Under a heady ride by Joe Bravo, he saved all the ground and when a hole opened up on the rail at the top of the stretch, he burst through to go on to a 4 3/4-length victory in the good time of 1:49.68. His career-best BRIS Speed rating of 104 equals the one earned 30 minutes earlier when Will Take Charge (Unbridled's Song) won the Oaklawn Park Handicap (G2) in 1:49.55.
Ride on Curlin (Curlin) rode the rail early then had to swing wide for clear sailing around the far turn. He finished with interest to get up for second and should have no trouble with 10 furlongs. It was a new dimension for him as he usually races up near the pace and this time was able to finish well after relaxing early.
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