Triple Crown News & Notes
Orb coming up to Preakness at least as well as Derby
"There are a lot of ways to lose, as we all know. Freaky things can happen. I think we're in the position where we can kind of dictate the race and hope, if we don't get in trouble, that he can make his run and then see what happens," McGaughey said.
"We hope he doesn't get in trouble; we hope he handles the track; we hope he handles the kickback of dirt; we hope he handles the day. If he does all that, I would have to think it's going to take a pretty darn good horse to beat him."
If there has been anything that could possibly be perceived as a negative for Orb, it's probably his No. 1 post position that may hold at least the slight potential to get him trapped inside.
"I don't think it's a problem. I think he'll be fine; it's a long distance," said jockey Joel Rosario, who rode Orb to victory at Churchill Downs two weeks ago.
Rosario's flawless ride in the Derby did nothing but boost McGaughey's faith in his jockey's big-race ability.
"I don't know if anyone could have ridden him better. He got him over a little bit to get around the first turn without losing a whole lot of ground. He held his position there, got him to the outside and was very patient with him," McGaughey said. "Being that far back, you might want to move a little bit quicker than you want to and hang. But he was very patient and he told me he was relaxed and got into the flow of the race very well and 'was just waiting on me.' "
When he purchased Itsmyluckyday for his wife, Laurie, and the Trilogy Stable for $110,000, Plesa didn't exactly envision that the son of Lawyer Ron would develop into a Kentucky Derby and Preakness starter.
"For someone to say that, you're telling a little story. Way, way, way back in your mind, you might say, 'I hope.' But I didn't look at him and say, 'My Derby horse!'" Plesa said. "I liked the pedigree and I liked what I saw, and we were lucky enough that he fell into our price category."
Itsmyluckyday, who went to the track for a routine gallop Friday morning, finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby over a sloppy track that his connections blame for the subpar performance. His only "off" track experience produced a four-length victory in a minor stakes at Calder last year.
"People look to Calder and you can't compare them. Calder's like no other racetrack when it's sloppy. It's a sand racetrack and when it rains, it tightens the racetrack up. There might be puddles on top and it might splash back at you, but as far as firmness for the horse, it's firmer when it rains than when it doesn't rain," Plesa said. "The slop line at Calder…people who put credence into it are doing wrong."
Plesa said he was hoping for a fast track, over which everyone would get a fair chance.
Trainer Doug O'Neill broke up his regular routine Friday morning and sent Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents out nearly two hours before his usual Pimlico appearance for a one-mile maintenance gallop shortly after 7 a.m. (EDT). The result was the same as it's been all week.
"He looked great," said O'Neill, who saddled Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another for a victory in last year's Preakness. "He's had a terrific week. This track in the morning is almost like a training center. It's so tranquil and quiet. We enjoyed it last year, and so far, so good this year."
Part-owner Dave Kenney was here last year as part of O'Neill's much larger post-Derby entourage, and although he didn't have any stake in I'll Have Another, he did get a taste of the Preakness flavor.
"The experience has been great," said Kenney, who owns a large transportation dealership in Southern California and counts multiple Grade 1 winner Richard's Kid among his many Thoroughbred holdings. "We're anxiously excited about the race. The people at the Preakness have just been phenomenal to us. They're gracious hosts, and hopefully we can get a little different result than the last big race."
Jockey Kevin Krigger, who has been aboard all seven starts for Goldencents, will try to become the first African-American rider to win the Preakness since Willie Simms captured the 1898 edition with Sly Fox.
New shooters Departing, Govenor Charlie aim to rise to occasion
The lone loss was a third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby, a race in which the winner, Revolutionary, ran third in the Kentucky Derby, runner-up Mylute was fifth in the Derby and fourth-place finisher Golden Soul was second in the Derby.
Stall had equated Departing's Louisiana Derby effort to a college player going to the NFL. Was Departing NFL material after the Louisiana Derby?
"Definitely, and he showed it in the Illinois Derby," Stall said of a race Departing won by 3 1/4 lengths after breaking from the No. 13 post.
"In retrospect, looking at how the horses performed coming out of the race, that was an NFL game. We handicapped the race coming in and looked at Revolutionary. He was not an (Aqueduct) inner track horse. You could throw that out the window. (Trainer) Todd (Pletcher) had him down in Florida for eight weeks. He was a dirt horse."
Departing will be Stall's first Preakness starter since Terrain ran seventh in 2009, finishing eight lengths behind Rachel Alexandra. Like Departing, Terrain did not run in the Kentucky Derby.
"It was a 20-horse field (for the Derby) and he had finished fourth in the Blue Grass," Stall said. "We had already made plans for the Preakness before Jess Jackson bought Rachel Alexandra."
Stall has made a couple of trips back to Pimlico since the 2009 Preakness, winning the William Donald Schaefer in 2010 with Blame and repeating in 2011 with Apart.
Blame's victory started a campaign that culminated with a triumph in the Breeders' Cup Classic over the wildly popular mare Zenyatta. On Saturday, Stall will be in a similar spot trying to knock off Kentucky Derby winner Orb.
"I am sure all the riders will be keeping an eye on Orb," Stall said. (Trainer) Shug (McGaughey) said he wanted a target on his back and he's sure got one. This will probably be the shortest field for a Triple Crown race and the craziest races and weird things can happen in short fields."
Orb will break from the No. 1 post position and sometime in the race, Joel Rosario on Orb may have to get off the rail.
"There can't be any ushers out there tomorrow," Stall said with a laugh.
Stall was asked what he would like to see from Departing in Preakness 138.
"I want to see Brian have a handful of horse," Stall said. "There are three to five of them who figure to be in front early with us being behind them."
Stall expects horses such as Goldencents and Itsmyluckyday to perform better Saturday than they did at Churchill Downs, as well as Will Take Charge, who had a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby in his first race in seven weeks.
And then there is Orb.
"I know Orb will run his race and it is not like him to take a step back," Stall said. "We need to take a step forward. I am confident he (Departing) will run well. The rest of it is out of our control. Orb has found his level; now it is a matter of how high we can go."
Departing will attempt to become the eighth gelding to win the Preakness. The two most recent geldings to prevail came 10 years apart, Prairie Bayou in 1993 and Funny Cide in 2003.
Govenor Charlie is a Mike Pegram homebred, a descendant of some of the owner-breeder's top runners, Hall of Famer Silverbulletday and Derby-Preakness winner Real Quiet. The colt was slow to develop and didn't make his debut until January 19. He broke his maiden in his second race, at a mile in mid-February and became a Derby prospect with a runaway victory in the Sunland Derby in March.
"He was actually a surprise to us because he was this little bulldog-looking horse," Baffert said. "When I stretched him out that's when he really showed a big race and then he ran fast, broke the track record at Sunland.
"And he's got that family, Silverbulletday. It's just champion, champion, champion. There are champions all over that pedigree. Yet, he doesn't look like her. He's got a lot of Storm Cat."
Govenor Charlie's dam is Silverbulletway, an unraced daughter of Storm Cat and Silverbulletday. Midnight Lute was sired by Real Quiet out of the Dehere mare Candytuft.
Orb, who won the Derby by 2 1/2 lengths, has trained well for the Preakness and is the even-money favorite in the morning line. Baffert was asked whether it was too early to anoint Orb a legitimate threat to sweep the Triple Crown.
"He's got to get by this one. You can't get ahead of yourself," Baffert said. "I think it's a very competitive race. A lot of horses that didn't run well in the Derby come back and run well. I've seen that."
Baffert said other Preakness runners have looked good to him and that he was impressed by Itsmyluckyday's appearance.
Govenor Charlie, who will be ridden by Martin Garcia, drew post No. 8 and is 12-1 in the morning line.
"I'm a longshot and I should be a longshot," Baffert said.
"I think we're all thinking about what kind of horse Orb is. Is he a super horse? He's a very good horse. When you win five in a row, you're a really good horse. The way he does it, he doesn't have to be on the lead and that's a big difference. If he was a front-running horse, then it makes it tough."
Napravnik returns to her racing roots for Preakness
"I think he should improve off his race in the Derby," Napravnik said. "He ran a great race that day. Hopefully we can get a good trip on Saturday."
Napravnik left for Baltimore on Thursday night shortly after picking up her 12th win of the Churchill meet. She enters Friday ranked third in the Churchill Downs jockey standings behind Shaun Bridgmohan and Joel Rosario.
"The meet has been great," Napravnik said. "I've done pretty well and made some new connections."
Despite this being her first Churchill meet, Napravnik already has become quite popular with the fans. Rarely does she make it back to the jockeys' room after a race without signing a few autographs and posing for a couple of pictures. Win or lose, fans line up after nearly every one of her races to meet her.
"It can get overwhelming at times when you're busy and in a hurry, but it's great," Napravnik said. "I love to see people excited about the game. We (jockeys) try to do all we can and sign every autograph and give out a pair of goggles every now and then."
Napravnik, who has now returned to Maryland as one of the leading riders in the country, fielded questions during a Friday morning press conference at the Pimlico Stakes Barn.
"Preakness or not, I'm so excited to be home," she said. "I had a terrible trip coming in last night, but I was driving home at 11 o'clock just excited to be here. To come and ride the Preakness is really a dream come true. I'm really happy to be here."
Napravnik moved to trainer Holly Robinson's farm in Sparks, Maryland, in the summer of 2004 and started exercising horses. She won her career debut aboard Ringofdiamonds for trainer Dickie Small on June 9, 2005. Nearly eight years, another 1,543 wins and more than $49 million in purse earnings later, she is ready for her first ride in Maryland's signature race.
While most jockeys would call a Kentucky Derby victory the most important achievement, Napravnik said for her the Preakness is in the discussion.
"I would say they are head-and-head," she said. "The Derby would mean so much for my career and to so many people. The Preakness would really be a great personal accomplishment. I don't know which would be more exciting. I haven't won either yet, so I'll let you know when it happens."
Napravnik will be the third female rider in Preakness history and the first since Andrea Seefeldt finished seventh in 1994. At the press conference, she fielded a question about being a female rider.
"I guess it will always be asked. I'm glad to be here," she said. "I'm not doing this because I'm a girl. I'm not trying to win the race because I'm a female jockey. I just want to win the race."
Still, she said that her familiarity with Pimlico does not give her a serious home-track advantage.
"Jockeys, in general, we adjust all the time to new tracks," she said. "I don't think it's such a huge deal, but obviously being very familiar with the track is probably an advantage. I've ridden this race course a million times and won plenty of races on it. At least for me, it's not something I have to get to know."
The Derby experience gave Napravnik a better understanding of how to handle Mylute on Saturday.
"A lot of people had said he broke bad, which is not true," she said. "He broke fine with the group, but he just dropped back. If there is anything I would change is maybe not be quite as far back. He's got a great running style. He's very relaxed. He's very easy to ride. You can move him in or out, wherever he wants to go.
"What I really learned about him is that his class is kind of coming out and he's really improving. I'm really excited about this race."
Win or lose on Saturday, Napravnik won't be hanging around Baltimore too long after the races. She is named on seven horses at Churchill Downs on Sunday, including Horned Frog in the 1ST race.
Titletown Five looks to score for Hornung
With two Hall of Famers keeping watch over him Friday morning, Titletown Five seemed to be getting an inordinate amount of attention for a potential 30-1 shot in the field for Preakness 138.
"I feel good, just being in it," said NFL Hall of Famer Paul Hornung, the ex-Green Bay Packer and part-owner of the colt who represents the "Five" in Titletown Five. "I've been here many times. This is the first time one of the horses I own is in a race of this magnitude. I'm going to be very interested in watching him run. We're gonna make a run somewhere."
Hornung, who is the same age (77) as his Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, knows he may not have many more chances like this on racing's big stage. And as a native of Kentucky Derby hometown Louisville, Hornung has always had more than a passing interest in horse racing, even when he was setting records on the gridiron at Notre Dame and helping the Packers win an NFL championship in 1965.
"I've been to the Derby many times; I've been here many times; I've been to New York and Saratoga many times," said the former "Golden Boy," who along with ex-teammate Willie Davis and Lukas comprise the majority of the Tiznow colt's ownership. "This is a real thrill for me to be involved."
Titletown Five is a colt that he and Lukas had high hopes for as a two-year-old, but following his maiden victory at Churchill Downs in October, the $250,000 purchase was found to have bone chips in a front knee that required surgery.
"If Titletown Five didn't get that chip in his knee, he was going to be one of the really good horses," Lukas said. "I was devastated; he'd won by nine or 10 lengths. He's sound, but we lost the whole winter conditioning and everything."
Titletown Five is winless in three starts this season, but it does bear mentioning that as a two-year-old he got the best of Kentucky Derby winner Orb in a maiden race at Saratoga.
"He beat Orb," said Lukas, who is seeking his sixth Preakness win with a three-horse contingent that includes Oxbow and Will Take Charge. "It was early in his career and he's (Orb) a late-developing horse, but we still beat him."
Hornung was there that August afternoon when Titletown Five finished second and Orb was third in one of Saratoga's key maiden races of 2012.
"It gives me an idea that we've got a good horse," Hornung said. "I think we can do it if we run our race. If you do it once, you can do it again."
Lukas pronounced all three horses ready for the assignment after Friday morning gallops at Pimlico. Julien Leparoux will be aboard Titletown Five for the first time Saturday.
"I was really pleased with what I saw today," Lukas said. "They've gotten better every day since they got here (Tuesday)."
Two more Hall of Famers, jockey Gary Stevens and Mike Smith, will have the mounts on Oxbow and Will Take Charge, respectively. Between them, they have won the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown three times, Stevens won aboard Silver Charm (1997) and Point Given (2001) and Smith with Prairie Bayou (1993). Stevens was retired when Oxbow began his racing career at Saratoga last August.
"When I saw Gary around January or February he was fit and I thought he looked better on a horse in the morning than prior to his retirement when his knees were bothering him," Lukas said. "He just looked better and seemed in a better place. There's no doubt about his talent, so I said to him, 'Gary, I've got a couple three-year-olds that are coming along. Watch them, and if one of them looks like it's going to be good enough, I'd have no problem putting you on.'"
Still, Stevens was attempting a comeback at the age of 50 in a sport where most of the competitors were 20 or 30 years younger.
"He started winning a few races at Santa Anita and I thought, 'Hell, let's go,'" Lukas said. "I was telling somebody else who was criticizing me for putting him on: 'You know any other combination that's got seven Derbys between them?'
"Mike Smith has been good for us, too. The experience thing is huge in these races. It really shows up in these big ones -- pressure. These young guys they say, 'Aw, it doesn't bother me,' but it bothers them. And this may be more of a jockey's race than the other two. I think they better have their heads screwed on here."
With saddling a third of the field, he feels good about his chances.
"I only like to come here if I'm competitive," he said. "I think we are. Orb's the best horse, let's face it. This year it's exciting for me. I've got a lot of passion for it."
138TH PREAKNESS STAKES
Orb draws rail, installed as even-money favorite
Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents, who will attempt to rebound from a 17th in the Derby, comes next at 8-1. The next four on the morning line -- Itsmyluckyday, Govenor Charlie, Will Take Charge and Oxbow, are close, ranging from 10-1 to 15-1. Maiden winner Titletown Five, who exits a fourth in the Derby Trial, is expected to be the longest shot in the field and is listed at 30-1.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a five-time Preakness winner, is responsible for a third of the Preakness field with Oxbow, Titletown Five and Will Take Charge.
PREAKNESS DRAW THEY SAID IT
MAY 15, 2013
"Well, he won the Fountain of Youth from the '1' (rail post). His first race was from the '1' and he finished third in a very good race. Obviously, if I was going to pick it out, I wouldn't have picked the '1.' But with only nine horses in there to run a mile and three-sixteenths, with a rider like Joel (Rosario), he's going to figure out what to do. He'll have him in the right spot."
Shug McGaughey on Orb drawing the rail in the Preakness
"If it had come out the '1' in the Derby, you'd almost have felt like you needed to go home, but I don't feel that way here. Goldencents with the '2' (post) probably forces our hand a little bit, but we'll just see what some of the others do. Titletown Five (in post 3) is probably going to show some speed coming off a mile race. I think the field will spread itself out to where we'll be able to get a position and do what we want to do."
—McGaughey discussing race strategy from the innermost post position
"Yes, I did. I saw in the papers it being bounced around at even money or 4-5. I might have been a little bit surprised that he is even- money and the second choice is 5-1. It's a pretty good spread. We'll see what the public does. As I've always said, I wish everything I ran was even-money or the favorite because they've got something on their line that makes them that way. Orb is that way, too."
—McGaughey on whether he felt Orb's even-money morning-line odds were justified
"I'm looking forward to Saturday afternoon. We've got an even-money shot in the Preakness. What more could I ask for?"
"We're ecstatic about it. With this horse, it doesn't matter as much, but it sure is nice being inside, a little bit toward the middle, and then having Orb inside us and Departing inside us, the two big threats. It's great to be outside of them. In the Derby, we actually had the same path, basically, as Orb did, but he was three or four lengths in front of us. This time, maybe we keep a little better eye on him with his being on the inside, and we'll see what happens."
—Todd Quast, general manager of Goldmark Farm, co-owner of 5-1 second choice Mylute, on getting post 5
"Everything's fine. There are only nine horses, so the position isn't that important. (Orb) isn't going to go on with it, so he's going to have to go around. Out of the nine numbers, the '1' is probably the one you want the least."
—trainer Al Stall Jr., who will send out 6-1 third choice Departing from post 4
"We weren't overly concerned about a post position, because in a nine-horse field, we don't think it's that significant with the speed leaving. We're completely comfortable with No. 2."
—trainer Doug O'Neill on the starting spot for Goldencents, the 8-1 fourth choice on the Preakness morning line
"My lucky number, 9. I feel good about it. My horse is training excellent. I like being on the outside. I'm going to leave it up to (jockey) John Velazquez. We've got tactical speed, so he can put this horse wherever he wants. You can just draw a line through that last race and forget about it."
—trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. after receiving the far outside post with Itsmyluckyday, who will be looking to rebound from a 15th in the Kentucky Derby
"Perfect. When it was '1', '7' and '8' left ... Eight is perfect. I couldn't be happier. Really, nobody ever wants to be down inside. You always think, 'It's OK, it's OK,' but it just adds a little more pressure to you because you need the trip. Orb is a good horse. Hopefully, he will overcome it."
—Jimmy Barnes, assistant to Bob Baffert, on Govenor Charlie's post position and the possible drawback of starting at the rail
"It's of no consequence out there. That's good. I don't think I can make an excuse for any post positions at all. I think I did fine. I'll have to come with a different alibi tomorrow. I don't know that the rail's all that bad or the outside either."
—D. Wayne Lukas on Will Take Charge, who will start from post 7
"I was satisfied all the way around with my three horses, especially Oxbow. It's a small field with a good run to the turn. I don't think it's very significant, except maybe for Orb. Oxbow for a change got a decent post position, so that's going to help there. I like what happened there very much."
—Lukas on Oxbow getting post 6; the colt drew post 10 in three consecutive stakes starts before breaking from post 1 in the Kentucky Derby
"He's got good tactical speed, so I think that's fine. He will be somewhere in the mix early, so that's OK."
—Lukas on Titletown Five, the longest shot in the Preakness field at 30-1; the colt will start from post 3
MAY 17, 2013
Preview & Wagering Strategy
by James Scully
There are still horseplayers who want to believe that Orb is the same colt who received an 89 Speed rating in his 2013 debut, a one-length optional claiming win at Gulfstream Park on January 26. Or the fact that he ran 1 1/8 miles two seconds slower than the filly Dreaming of Julia, netting only a 97 Speed rating, when easily capturing the March 30 Florida Derby suggests mediocrity.
Those stats are meaningless because of Orb's development: he's become a powerful racehorse.
Trainer Shug McGaughey expressed the same sentiment Wednesday morning.
"What really surprises me is how he comes out of his races, not only mentally, but physically," the Hall of Famer said. "I looked at him just a second ago with the blanket off of him. Looking from behind, the sun was shining on him, and I was looking at a different horse than I saw a week ago and two weeks ago."
Orb is bigger and faster, and his recent workout -- a sharp half-mile breeze (:47) at Belmont Park on Monday that was accomplished with little effort -- signals his readiness. He's now earning Speed ratings worthy of a champion, generating a 111 for his 2 1/2-length Derby triumph.
The Derby featured a pace meltdown due to blazing early fractions (Orb rallied from 17th) and was run in the mud, but those circumstances didn't matter. Orb has proven that he can adapt to any scenario, winning behind fast and slow paces, on speed-favoring surfaces and from the rail post position, and his superiority will continue to show in the Preakness.
The race for second is wide open as seven horses appear viable. Titletown Five, the probable longest shot in the field, would be the only major surprise in the runner-up slot.
I will make a case for Oxbow, the only horse in the Derby close to the pace who was around at the end, finishing sixth. The hard-trying colt should be in perfect position turning for home.
The only time Oxbow didn't run well this year, a fifth in the Arkansas Derby, came when new jockey Gary Stevens took a hold at the start. Those tactics didn't work and Oxbow will be forwardly-placed in the Preakness, perhaps showing the way if he breaks running.
He offered a bold move to challenge leaving the far turn in the Derby, cornering well in every start this year, and a more realistic pace scenario Saturday should benefit him. Oxbow can hold for second.
Departing posted a good-looking score in the Illinois Derby, winning by more than three lengths after traveling wide on both turns, and rates as a very promising gelding for Al Stall Jr. But similar to Orb earlier this year, Departing may not be at his prime yet. He recorded a non-threatening third in his only previous outing against quality competition, the Louisiana Derby two starts back, and faces a serious class check on Saturday. I will include the late runner underneath in the exotics but expect to see more in the future.
Mylute is another closer to consider for a minor award. Runner-up in the Louisiana Derby two back, he came charging late for fifth in the Derby and shows a nice Speed rating pattern, with increasing numbers in his last seven starts. But quality concerns still remain given that he's benefited from unrealistically fast fractions in his last two starts and is zero-for-seven in stakes races. Mylute figures to be well-supported with Rosie Napravnik, who recorded her first win at Pimlico, but I'll just watch to see how he fares in Baltimore.
Will Take Charge experienced a troubled trip when forced to check in upper stretch of the Derby, so he's a candidate for a much-improved effort after a well-beaten eighth. But the two-week rest will be tricky for a colt who likes time between starts, receiving a seven-week break between his Rebel win and the Derby, and the Belmont Stakes would've provided an ideal five-week freshening. Will Take Charge offers little appeal on the short turnaround.
Itsmyluckyday was a leading three-year-old earlier this season, but he never fired over the wet track at Churchill Downs and will have to rebound Saturday. The main concern is his declining form in two consecutive starts since spectacular wins in the Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull. I'm taking a negative view and will let the Eddie Plesa-trained colt ruin my exotic wagers.
Goldencents experienced a similar trip to Itsmyluckyday in the Derby, weakening to 17th as the 7-1 third choice, and supporters are hoping he can run back to his smart victory in the Santa Anita Derby two starts back (106 Speed rating). I respect his ability but question whether 1 3/16 miles is an optimal distance for the speedy colt.
Govenor Charlie figures to be up close with his speed and is in good hands with Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, a five-time Preakness winner. His last two wins are easy to like, but fitness (unraced since March 24 and bypassed the Derby after missing some training due to a foot issue in April) and inexperience (only three career starts) are significant drawbacks that make him impossible to recommend.
From a $100 bankroll in the Kentucky Derby, I netted a $102 profit (total return of $202) from $20 win and place bets on top choice Orb. The exotic tickets all missed when 34-1 longshot Golden Soul finished second.
Playing with house money Saturday, I will back Orb to win and take a swing at straight exactas over Oxbow and Departing:
$50 win Orb
Enjoy the Preakness!
Fiftyshadesofhay scores in Black-Eyed Susan
Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman's Fiftyshadesofhay came with a game rally in the stretch of Friday's Grade 2, $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico to just catch Marathon Lady strides before the wire and give jockey Joel Rosario a winning start to Preakness weekend.
The jockey is on hot streak right now, capturing his first Kentucky Derby two weeks ago aboard Orb, and gained some valuable insight into the main track at Pimlico ahead of Saturday's ride aboard that colt in the 138th Preakness Stakes.
Rosario was focused on Fiftyshadesofhay on Friday, though, settling the bay miss wide near the rear of the field as stakes debuter Maracuya tried to lead all the way home. That chestnut filly set splits of :23 4/5, :48 3/5 and 1:13 1/5 in an attempt to move her record to a perfect three-for-three. Toasting and Marathon Lady were keeping in close attendance to Maracuya's outside, while Petit Trianon saved ground down to her inside.
Toasting and Marathon Lady drew even with Maracuya rounding the final turn, but Marathon Lady was going best of all and began pulling off. For a brief moment the Steve Hobby trainee appeared a clear winner, but Rosario was just beginning his move on Fiftyshadesofhay. The sophomore daughter of Pulpit slowly closed the distance between herself and Marathon Lady, just getting past her rival in time to stop the clock for nine furlongs on the fast dirt in 1:52 3/5.
"It was kind of a perfect trip, but she was kind of slowing a little bit from the dirt in her face," Rosario explained. "I got her on the outside and she looked like she was really comfortable. Right when I went past the three-eighths pole before turning for home, she kind of got away from me a little bit. I was kind of worried about it, but she was able to get it back together and she kept going.
"(Trainer) Bob (Baffert) told me, 'She's just one-paced, so keep her going.' So I think it was a little bit better to keep her on the outside. When I passed the sixteenth-pole I could see that the horse in front of me was backing up a little. That's when I felt better."
"I wasn't sure turning for home because I told Rosario that she usually runs 1-2-3, but ride her the way you feel you should ride her. Rosario sort of did his own thing today, but it was the right thing," Baffert said.
Fiftyshadesofhay was sent off the 2-1 second choice and returned $6.60, $3.80 and $3. Marathon Lady, a neck behind the winner on the wire, was best of the rest while 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Toasting in third. Maracuya faded to fourth, while Petit Trianon filled out the fifth spot.
"She ran huge. She ran her tail off. She had a great trip. I don't know what we could have done any different," Hobby praised Marathon Lady.
Emollient, favored at 4-5 off a nine-length romp in the Ashland on April 6, seemed to lose all chance when stumbling out of the gate. She finished sixth and long shot Lady Banks trailed in last. Manuka Honey and Walkwithapurpose were both withdrawn.
"She stumbled out of the gate really bad, and she caught her leg. It was pretty much over for us after that," jockey Mike Smith clarified about Emollient.
"She had a pretty good stumble leaving the gate, which didn't help," agreed Emollient's trainer, Bill Mott. "Obviously, she got back a little further and had to overcome that. It looked like to me she might have been fighting that racetrack. The main track may not be her best surface, so you might see her try the turf course next time."
Fiftyshadesofhay finally got back to the winner's circle in this spot while getting away from juvenile filly champion and Kentucky Oaks second Beholder, who easily held the Black-Eyed Susan winner to second in the Las Virgenes and third in the Santa Anita Oaks in their past two meetings. Prior to that, Fiftyshadesofhay was a 5 3/4-length victress of the Santa Ysabel following an eighth-placing in her first try on turf, and against stakes company, in the Blue Norther.
The Blue Norther was also Fiftyshadesofhay's sophomore bow, as she closed out 2012 by breaking her maiden at Hollywood Park on November 22. With Friday's score, the bay filly has now banked $492,490 to go along with her 9-3-2-2 career mark.
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Fiftyshadesofhay sold for $175,000 as a Keeneland September yearling and has followed in the hoofsteps of her dam, the Real Quiet mare Quiet Kim, who placed in the 2006 edition of the Santa Anita Oaks.
Fiftyshadesofhay counts as her fourth dam the stakes-winning It's Freezing mare Ice Fantasy. That one would produce dual Grade 3 victor Fighting Fantasy as well as the dams of Grade 1 winner Snow Ridge and classic-placed Grade 2 scorer Sweetnorthernsaint. Afleet Express, hero of the 2010 Travers, is also descended from Ice Fantasy.
Last Gunfighter catches Eighttofast in Pimlico Special
John D. Gunther's homebred Last Gunfighter was hammered into 3-5 favoritism in Friday's Grade 3, $300,000 Pimlico Special, with the betting public confidently expecting that he would remain perfect in six starts since joining Chad Brown. The odds-on favorite duly obliged by 4 1/4 lengths, despite the best efforts of a loose-on-the-lead Eighttofasttocatch to steal the race through pedestrian fractions.
Eighttofasttocatch, wire-to-wire hero of the April 20 Henry S. Clark at Pimlico, didn't have to go fast to secure a comfortable lead through an opening quarter in :24 2/5. Last Gunfighter was well placed in a stalking spot by Javier Castellano, covering up fellow tracker Brimstone Island to his inside. The front runner slowed the tempo down to a crawl through a half in :49 4/5, and he still enjoyed a three-length margin at the six-furlong mark in 1:14.
Rounding the far turn and into the stretch, Eighttofasttocatch had plenty up his sleeve, and his chances of pulling the upset started to rise when Last Gunfighter was under a drive in pursuit. But after the pacesetter got the mile in 1:39 1/5, his doubtful stamina came into play. Eighttofasttocatch's stride shortened as he visibly tired in the closing stages of the 1 3/16-mile test.
At the same time, Last Gunfighter was beginning to roll for Javier Castellano. Reeling in Eighttofasttocatch to thwart the upset, the First Samurai colt drew off to win with authority in a final time of 1:58 2/5 on the fast main track.
"I had a beautiful trip," Castellano said. "That's where I wanted to be, and it worked out great. It was a small field, and I didn't see much speed.
"The only horse that had the speed was the front runner, and he was my target all the way. It worked out perfect. At the three-eighths pole I had to use him a little bit to get him into the race, and he got into it really quick. I really liked the way he did it. Turning for home, he's a game horse and he passed the other horse and he took off."
"The horse on the lead is a good horse," Brown said in tribute to runner-up Eighttofasttocatch.
"With the softer fractions at the quarter-pole, it looked like he was getting away from us a little bit. But I had a lot of confidence that Javier had the pace judged right.
"This horse, he's done that before in his races. He's a bit of a grinder, where it kind of looks like he loses his placing and then here he comes again. It was kind of typical of the way this horse runs. Once he had him collared -- any horse that puts up that many Ws in a row, you know they want to get their nose on the line."
Tim Keefe, trainer of Eighttofasttocatch, complimented jockey Forest Boyce for his well-judged ride.
"He was just second best," Keefe said. "Going into it, you look at Chad Brown's horse and he was getting better with every start. Forest did every right, slowed the pace, slower than I could have hoped for. I was just hoping it was going to be too much for Chad's horse to overcome."
Another 9 1/4 lengths back in third came the eight-year-old Richard's Kid, a multiple Grade 1 winner in his heyday.
"He's such a cool horse," trainer Doug O'Neill said of Richard's Kid. "There was no pace but he kept plugging away. He showed up today. We're going to go back home and get ready for Del Mar (a title defense in the Cougar II on July 26). He ran third in the Pimlico Special and that is a great honor and a great privilege."
Indian Dance, Concealed Identity and Brimstone Island rounded out the order of finish.
Last Gunfighter, who paid $3.20, $2.10 and $2.10, has now bankrolled $475,405 from an overall mark of 10-6-2-2. Unraced at two, the dark bay placed in all four starts for Helen Pitts. He switched to Brown for the second half of his three-year-old campaign and wasted no time in breaking his maiden at Belmont Park in October. Last Gunfighter has made uninterrupted progress at Aqueduct ever since.
Narrowly clearing his entry-level allowance condition in November, he romped by 4 3/4 lengths in his stakes debut in the December 9 Raymond Earl, and next landed the January 19 Evening Attire. He extended his winning streak to five in the March 23 Excelsior, his first Grade 3 attempt, last time out.
The Kentucky-bred is out of the winning Sir Cat mare Saratoga Cat, who is a half-sister to stakes scorers Saratoga Boot and Sexy Boots. Another family member, Costly Shoes, captured the 1988 Black-Eyed Susan. Further back, Last Gunfighter descends from the female line of champion and noted sire Dehere.
Ben's Cat takes Jim McKay Turf Sprint for a second time
Also the winner of the 2011 Jim McKay Turf Sprint, Ben's Cat's previous stakes wins include the past two renewals of the Grade 3 Turf Monster Handicap, the last three editions of the Maryland Million Turf Sprint, and the last four runnings of the Mister Diz for state-breds. His other black type victories include the Pennsylvania Governor's Cup, the Parx Dash, the Laurel Dash and the Find Handicap. His record now stands at 31-21-3-1, $1,462,290.
Bred, owned and trained by Leatherbury, Ben's Cat is a son of Parker's Storm Cat out of the stakes-placed Thirty Eight Paces mare Twofox, who is a fill sister to Grade 2 queen Thirty Eight Go Go and a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Notches Trace.
"It looks like he's as good as ever as a seven-year-old," Leatherbury said. "He's not that well bred, I just hit a home run when everything fell into place with this horse. He's super and has stayed totally healthy. He's probably one of the best dirt-grass horses in the country. He'll run in the (Pennsylvania) Governor's Cup at Penn National on June 1."
Three Lyons Racing's Sensible Lady successfully defended her crown in the $100,000 The Very One, a five-furlong turf dash for fillies and mares. A mere three-year-old when she won last year's renewal at 24-1, the Street Sense filly was backed down to 7-2 second favoritism here.
Well back in the field of 14 at the first call, Sensible Lady made steady progress along the inside, shifted course inside the eighth pole and split rivals late to forge clear by a neck. Under Angel Serpa, Sensible Lady completed the distance in :56 2/5 and paid $9.20.
Nechez Dawn, who pressed the pace for the opening three-sixteenths, spurted clear by two lengths in the stretch and held on gamely for the place, a length ahead of 68-1 chance Donna Getyourgun. The order of finish was completed by Nastar Medallist, Sounds of the City, 2-1 favorite Sweet Cassiopeia, Spun Cap, Queen Chatanika, Colony Club, Suzzona, Mosaicist, There Is No Limit, Too Clever by Half and Hidden Ball Trick. Quality lass and World Gone Wrong were withdrawn.
Sensible Lady was a four-time stakes winner last year, taking the Buckland at Colonial Downs, Jenny Wade at Penn National and Coronation Cup at Saratoga following her win in The Very One. She also placed in three other stakes. Her record now stands at 18-8-0-4, $371,330.
"Her first start this year at Keeneland (a fourth in the April 20 Giant's Causeway), she just doesn't fit there because that course is more sandy than this one," winning trainer Tim Salzman said. "She's just amazing. She got shut off 50 yards from the wire and still got there. She is a Street Sense, so I'd like to stretch her out and look for better races."
Bred in Kentucky by Spendthrift Farm, Sensible Lady was a $9,500 OBS two-year-old purchase. Reared by the multiple stakes-winning Awesome Lady, a daughter of Bianconi, she hails from the same family as current multiple Grade 2 star Kauai Katie.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred Emotional Kitten continued her surprise ascent with a photo-finish victory over even-money favorite Summer of Fun in the $100,000 Hilltop, a 1 1/16-mile grass test for three-year-old fillies.
Stumbling at the start under Joel Rosario, Emotional Kitten trailed the field for more than six furlongs and by as much as 14 lengths. The Kitten's Joy began to get involved around the far turn, made a six-wide bid around turning for home, and just got up to register the nose victory at 5-1. She returned $12 after completing the course in 1:41 4/5.
"She stumbled out of the gate and grabbed a quarter," trainer Wesley Ward revealed. "She showed a lot of heart."
Summer of Fun easily held second, 1 1/4 lengths clear of Zenzara. Completing the order of finish were Miss Lucky Sevens, Premier Steps, pacesetter Birdlover, and Le Fascinator. Hold Our Destiny, Kitten's Point and The Tea Cups were scratched.
Emotional Kitten placed only twice in her first six outings, two of which were stakes. She ended her juvenile campaign on a better note, taking a $75,000 maiden claimer at Gulfstream Park by 1 3/4 lengths. Following a third against allowance foes in her sophomore debut at the same track, she next contributed to her owners' record Keeneland meet with a come-from-behind allowance win on April 7 over the same trip as the Hilltop. Her record now stands at 9-3-1-1, $165,154, and Ward said she will now be pointed toward the Virginia Oaks at Colonial Downs on July 13.
Bred in Pennsylvania, Emotional Kitten was produced by the Ghazi mare Silent Emotion, a stakes winner who's also reared the Grade 1-placed multiple stakes winner Unspoken Word.
"It set up good for us with that other filly (scratched Winning Image) out of the race," Figgins said. "I just kind of told Xavier to keep it close and that's how it worked out. This horse is real easy to train. Even in defeat, she's run awfully hard. Xavier feels strong about this horse because she's an easy one to ride.
"She'll run in the Bed o' Roses at Belmont (on June 15) if she comes out OK. Three weeks won't be a problem."
Dance to Bristol preceded this victory with stakes wins in the 2011 Pandera at Aqueduct, the 2012 Marshua at Laurel and the $200,000 Sugar Maple at Charles Town April 20, a race she won by nine lengths. Also four-times stakes-placed, the daughter of Speightstown improved her career earnings to $410,880.
Bred in Kentucky by Mr. and Mrs. David Garner, Dance to Bristol brought $42,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic juvenile. She was produced by the Louis Quatorze mare Dance to Dawn, a half-sister to Grade 1 victor Chief Honcho. Both were reared by multiple Grade 3 winner Expressive Dance.
This extended family is responsible for noted sire Exclusive Native and Grade/Group 1 winners Versailles Treaty and Poet's Voice.
Owned by CJZ Stable and trained by Tony Dutrow, I'm Mom's Favorite has compiled a mark of 5-3-1-1, $138,940. Second on debut at Parx in December, the Indian Charlie filly was maiden graduate by a nose at Aqueduct in early February. Third in the $100,000 Cicada in her stakes debut next out, she preceded this victory with a seven-length romp against allowance foes at Pimlico April 13.
Bred in Kentucky by the partnership of VanMeter, McDonald and McKathan, I'm Mom's Favorite was a $150,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic juvenile purchase. She was produced by the Storm Cat mare Charming Toutsie, a daughter of multiple Grade 1 vixen Tout Charmant.
Wilson propels women to victory in 'Battle of the Sexes'
In separate wagering on the four-race challenge, Wilson paid $25 for the win on a $2 bet. The Wilson-Prado exacta was worth $72.80.
"It feels good," said Wilson, who earned the top prize of $12,000. "What it all boils down to is having fun and showcasing the game, but I'm a jock and I'm a competitor, so you always like to win."
Held in conjunction with the Lady Legends for the Cure IV, a pari-mutuel race featuring eight retired female riders, the challenge was part of The People's Pink Party, a joint effort between Pimlico and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world's largest breast cancer organization, to help raise money and awareness in the fight against the disease.
This marked the fifth year for a jockey challenge at Pimlico on the eve of the Preakness Stakes, and the first in its new format. It was the second win for Wilson, who also finished first in an all-female version of the challenge in 2011. She donated a portion of Friday's winnings to the breast cancer cause.
"It was a little less of a whirlwind for me. Now, I'm a little bit more of a veteran," she said. "I know Pimlico a little better than I did the first time, so I was able to catch my breath and enjoy it a little bit more this time."
Twelve points were awarded for finishing first among challenge participants, six for second, four for third and three for fourth.
Rounding out the finishers were Forest Boyce, third with 10 points; Javier Castellano and Kristina McManigell, who tied for fourth with nine points; Rosie Napravnik (six), Gary Stevens (four) and John Velazquez (three).
The challenge got off to an exciting start in the second race, when Prado came from off the pace with 6-5 favorite Graeme's Song to edge Napravnik and Hall of Famer Stevens, separated by a head for second and third, respectively.
Next-to-last in the opener, Wilson took over from there, winning each of the last three challenge races. She won the third race with Heart of Rome ($6.40), running down 6-5 favorite Talent N Passion and Castellano in the stretch.
In the fifth race, Wilson was the first challenge participant to hit the wire, running second with 60-1 long shot R. B. Float, who returned $52.40 for the place. She led all competitors again in the seventh on Followmyfootsteps, who paid $12.60 for second at 12-1.
"You look at the form every time in these challenges, and it's all luck of the draw," Wilson said. "You take a look and think you have some decent shots with some decent horses; for it to come to fruition is just good fun. I just come to do these things to showcase the game and have fun. The win here today is just a bonus."
Wilson has 1,059 wins and more than $50 million in purse earnings in her career, which began in 2004. She captured the 2005 Eclipse Award and Canada's Sovereign Award in 2005 and 2006 as champion apprentice.
In 2007, Wilson became the first female rider to win the Queen's Plate, Canada's oldest race and its version of the Kentucky Derby, aboard Mike Fox.
"Every year I walk into the jock's room here and even at Woodbine, and it's full of girls," she said. "It's getting to be more and more every year, and that's what I like to see. There's a larger number of girls getting the opportunity to ride and showcase their abilities, and within that percentage you get those upper-echelon jocks that get a chance to showcase themselves in the big races."
Prado earned $8,000 for finishing second, Boyce collected $6,000 for third, and Castellano and McManigell split $4,000 for fourth. The remaining participants each took home $1,000.
The challenge brought together eight riders who have won more than 23,000 career races and over $1 billion in purse earnings, including 14 Triple Crown races, five Eclipse Awards and two Sovereign Awards.
"I really give kudos to (Racing Secretary) Georganne Hale and the guys here at Pimlico," Wilson said. "They do a good job and make sure they get some top-notch riders to make it a true showcase event. That's tough to do. I've been around the world for some of these different events, and jocks have different commitments. The fact that they're able to put this together as well as they do is a pat on the back to them."
Russ-Tortora wins Lady Legends for Cure IV
Trained by Frannie Campitelli for owner John Davison, Haywired led from start to finish in the six-furlong allowance for three-year-olds and up, hitting the wire in 1:13 on a fast main track.
This marked the fourth consecutive year that eight retired female jockeys competed in the pari-mutuel race, held in conjunction with The People's Pink Party, a partnership between Pimlico management and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world's largest breast cancer organization.
Pimlico made a donation of $27,507 to the Komen Maryland affiliate, equal to the amount wagered to win on Haywired. Favored at 2-1, the three-year-old Cindago gelding paid $6.20 to win.
Second in last year's race, Russ-Tortora is one of five original Lady Legends participants, along with Jennifer Rowland-Small, Barbara Jo Rubin, Patti P.J. Cooksey and Cheryl White.
"In the gate, my heart was pounding a little bit harder," Russ-Tortora said. "I was just watching that crack, waiting for it to open, and it wasn't opening fast enough. After we came out, it was like old stuff."
Third in the inaugural event in 2010, Russ-Tortora won 520 races and nearly $6 million in purse earnings in her riding career, which lasted from 1980-94. She made history on February 27, 1982, winning the Widener Handicap aboard Lord Darnley at Hialeah, becoming the first woman to capture a Grade 1 race.
Russ-Tortora set career highs with 118 wins in 1981 and $1,408,493 in purses in 1993.
"I still ride horses regularly, but that's not the same as breezing and galloping," she said. "He stumbled leaving there, but he seemed to catch on to the lead pretty easy. I just nursed it along and tried to keep the creepy feeling of everybody looking over my shoulder away."
It was the third win in five career starts for the front-running Haywired, and second in three tries since being claimed by Campitelli. He was fifth last time out over the Pimlico turf on April 25.
The trainer had high praise for the ride from his veteran jockey, who took Haywired through fractions of :23 2/5, :47 and :59 3/5 and had a two-length lead at the top of the stretch.
"Considering we had a speed horse, and he went to his knees leaving the gate, it was like, 'Wow, we're in trouble,'" he said. "But, she got him up and got him on the lead, put everybody to sleep and let him run away from them. When they came to her, she had something left. She did a great job.
"It was great. It's great for the cause, great for the track, great for everybody. The fans love it. I think they deserve a lot of credit."
Eighth in 2011, Russ-Tortora said she would be back to defend her title next spring, in an event designed to help raise money and awareness in the fight against breast cancer.
"It means a lot to me," she said. "I have good friends that have battled cancer and survived it. My own sister died of breast cancer. To have the technology that God has given them now is just wonderful. I'm so thankful for it."
Grain, ridden by 48-year-old newcomer Stacie Clark-Rogers, a Sovereign Award nominee for top apprentice in 1994, was second.
"Everything went perfect today," she said. "This race was great fun for all of us. I was on a very nice horse, but I couldn't get to Mary. (Trainer) Katy (Voss) did a great job training this horse. I got on a few for her in the morning to tune up for today."
Cooksey, 55, herself a breast cancer survivor and one of two females to ride in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, was third on Outbacker.
"She ran a winning race," Cooksey said. "She probably would have been better on the outside. But even after all the years, I can't bring myself to circle the field, so when Abby (Fuller on Start the Party) swung wide at the head of the stretch, I just started picking my way through. I was real happy with the race. It gets a little tougher each year but it is for such a great cause."
Show Ya Luv, ridden by Zoe Cadman, 38, a winner of 311 races from 2000-04 and now an analyst for HRTV, was fourth.
"It was good until the end where I got bumped pretty hard," she said. "It was right before the wire. But, hey, that's racing."
Abby Fuller, 54, the first female to sweep New York's Triple Tiara for fillies with Mom's Command in 1985, was fifth aboard Start the Party.
"It was great, just so much fun," she said. "I raced about a year ago at Calder, so it's been a while. He was wide coming out of the turn, but the trainer told me to ease him back and push him out to the outside and make a run. I thought I had it for a while, but the speed held up. He ran a good race."
The defending Lady Legends champion and the pioneering female rider in Maryland in the 1970s, Rowland-Small, 60, was sixth with Santorini Sun.
"This was a fantastic day," she said. "The race went great and my horse did not have any problems at all. It was a good, clean race and a wonderful day."
Barbara Jo Rubin, 64, the first woman to win a pari-mutuel race against males at a recognized track in 1969, was seventh aboard Keep Momma Happy.
"He ran great," she said. "He just didn't have the speed of the other horses, so he got a lot of dirt in his face. After that, he was like 'that's it' and he was pretty much done at that point. It was great fun."
Cheryl White, 59, the first female African-American rider, finished eighth with Wildhaassseee. She was originally named on Dance With Bull, who was scratched.
The inaugural Lady Legends event in 2010, won by Gwen Jocson, was the first pari-mutuel race of its kind, was profiled on NBC and filmed as the climatic ending to the feature-length documentary, "JOCK," chronicling the story of the first generation of female riders.
Mary Wiley-Wagner, the wife of Maryland Jockey Club starter Bruce Wagner, won the race in 2011.
Milers take center stage in Lockinge
Aidan O'Brien unleashed a reinvigorated Hawk Wing in the Group 1 Lockinge at Newbury 10 years ago, and there are strong vibes that the stable's ex-French project Declaration of War could be about to take center stage in Saturday's renewal.
Taken from Jean-Claude Rouget and given plentiful time to mature, Susan Magnier, Michel Tabor, Derrick Smith and Joseph Allen's four-year-old was initially shaping as a middle-distance performer when winning a 10-furlong Curragh conditions event in September and the Diamond Stakes over 150 yards further on Dundalk's Polytrack the following month. Reinvented as a miler this term, the bay captured the Heritage Stakes at Leopardstown in convincing style April 14 and has attracted significant money in the betting market this week.
Now that Frankel and Excelebration are out of the way, Khalid Abdullah's Cityscape has the opportunity to shine in the major domestic mile contests. Impressive in the 2012 Dubai Duty Free at Meydan, he failed to see out 10 furlongs when fourth in the Eclipse at Sandown in July before running second to Excelebration in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville in August and Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot in October either side of a third placing in the Woodbine Mile the following month.
"On official ratings, he's the best miler in Europe," trainer Roger Charlton told PA Sport. "Obviously there are a few new kids on the block this year like Declaration of War, so he'll need to maintain his form. He ran against Wise Dan at Woodbine and I knew he was the one to beat going out there but we had to give him weight, despite it being a Grade 1.
"There's no doubt Wise Dan is right up there with the best."
Godolphin have won this four times, and rely on Farhh, who stays at the mile trip over which he was second in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp when last seen in September. Previously second to Frankel in the Sussex at Goodwood and York's Juddmonte International in August, he also filled that berth in the Eclipse and has looked to be booked for a top-level success for some time.
"Farhh had a small chip removed from his ankle after he ran in France and we gave him time to recover," Saeed bin Suroor commented. "He has been working nicely and seems happy and fresh, although he will improve for the run. I am hoping that there is some rain before Saturday, because he prefers cut in the ground but I think that he will be fine on good going."
Sir Henry Cecil also boasts four renewals of this race and puts forward Ecurie Wildenstein's Beauty Parlour this time. The daughter of Deep Impact has classic-winning form over this trip after annexing last year's Poule d'Essai des Pouliches at Longchamp and is better than her latest seventh in the September 29 Sun Chariot at Newmarket suggests.
One who could come under the radar is George Strawbridge's newly-gelded Fencing, who has always suggested he could be a top performer like his dam Latice and who looked a different proposition when winning the Paradise Stakes over this trip at Ascot May 1.
Two dozen remain in Derby; fourteen in Oaks
The unbeaten Dawn Approach features in 24 colts going forward in the 2013 Epsom Derby scheduled for June 1.
Dawn Approach has already annexed the first classic of the season, the Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket, and will be attempting to become the 38th horse to win both classics.
A son of the 2008 Derby hero New Approach, Dawn Approach is the even-money favorite with Coral. His trainer Jim Bolger could also be represented by Trading Leather, who was runner-up in Thursday's Dante Stakes at York. Bolger's third leading three-year-old, Loch Garman, is set to contest the Irish Derby.
Speaking at York yesterday, the Irish handler said: "I am thrilled with my three top horses, Dawn Approach, Trading Leather and Loch Garman. We know the one that is better (Dawn Approach) -- he is well. It is a toss-up between the other two.
"I think the only trials that matter were run in Coolcullen (on his stable's gallops). I'm ecstatic with them. With due respect for the winners of the Leopardstown trial and the trial here (York), we would be expecting to show serious improvement from a fitness point of view (Loch Garman and Trading Leather respectively)."
Ireland's champion trainer Aidan O'Brien, seeking his fourth Derby victory following Galileo (2001), High Chaparral (2002) and Camelot (2012), has been in red-hot form during the trials season and has seven contenders remaining.
These include Ruler of the World and Magician, who were successful in the Chester Vase and Dee Stakes, respectively, at Chester last week, as well as Lingfield Derby Trial scorer Nevis and Battle of Marengo, who landed the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown. O'Brien could also be represented by Mars, a staying-on sixth behind Dawn Approach at Newmarket, Festive Cheer and Flying the Flag.
Further Irish interest could be provided by First Cornerstone, Galileo Rock and Zand.
Andre Fabre was responsible for the last French-trained winner of the Derby, Pour Moi in 2011, and is set to be represented this year by Ocovango. The Monsun colt is unbeaten in three starts at Saint-Cloud and was last seen out when taking the Prix Greffulhe on May 4, the same trial Pour Moi landed before his Epsom Downs victory. Ocovango could renew rivalry with the Jonathan Pease-trained Bravodino, who was half-length back in second in the Prix Greffulhe, while fellow French trainer Freddie Head also has two contenders going forward, Eternal Ray and Qahir.
Further interest from the continent is provided by German contender Superplex, fourth behind Ocovango in the Prix Greffhule.
The last Northern-trained winner of the Derby was Dante in 1945, but there is a live contender from Yorkshire this year in the Elaine Burke-trained Libertarian, a shock 33-1 winner of the Dante Stakes.
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Telescope, who was well-supported in the ante-post market but was forced to miss the Dante due to a late setback, remains engaged and could head straight to Epsom Downs following a racecourse gallop.
Mirsaale is the one horse in the field with proven form at Epsom Downs, having taken the Derby Trial on April 24, and he is set to be a first runner in the Derby for Newmarket-based trainer James Tate.
Completing the potential line-up are Jammy Guest, who lines up in the Fairway Stakes at Newmarket Saturday, Gold Medal, Ocean Applause and Tinghir.
The 2013 Derby will have a prize fund of at least £1.325 million. There is one final chance for connections to add a horse to the field at the £75,000 supplementary entry stage on May 27. Exciting German challenger Chopin, a 10-1 chance with Coral, is expected to be supplemented.
Secret Gesture and Liber Nauticus, who both scored eye-catching victories in their respective trials, head the 14 fillies remaining in the Epsom Oaks. The 1 1/2-mile fillies' classic takes place on May 31 with a record prize fund of £400,000.
Trained by Ralph Beckett, successful in the 2008 Oaks with Look Here, Secret Gesture could not have been more impressive as she sauntered to a 10-length victory over Miss You Too in the Oaks Trial at Lingfield on May 11. She is the 11-4 joint favorite with Coral. Beckett has also left in Talent, who was victorious last time out in the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket on May 5.
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Liber Nauticus captured the Musidora Stakes at York on Wednesday on only her second racecourse appearance and looks open to any amount of improvement.
Aidan O'Brien, who captured a fourth Oaks with Was in 2012, has a trio of fillies going forward headed by One Thousand Guineas third Moth (the other joint favorite with Coral), who could be joined by Snow Queen, a staying-on fifth at Newmarket and Cork maiden winner Say.
The other Irish-trained entry going forward is Dubaya while French hopes are pinned on Planete Bleue, who carries the famous silks of the Wildenstein family.
Newmarket handler Michael Bell took the 2009 Oaks with Sariska and has two remaining entries in 2013 -- Madame Defarge, third behind Talent at Newmarket, and The Lark, who is out of a half-sister to Sariska and was third in the Fillies' Trial Stakes at Newbury Friday.
Also among Friday's acceptors are Cheshire Oaks runner-up Gertrude Versed, Masarah and Roz, who was runner-up in the Fillies' Mile at Newmarket last season.
There is a £30,000 supplementary entry stage for the Oaks on May 25, when Cheshire Oaks winner Banoffee is expected to be added to the field.
Dixie, Gallorette highlight Preakness undercard
Skyring, the other Lukas entry, has lacked consistency during his turf stakes career. His one shining moment thus far came on Preakness Day 2012, when he gamely fought back to take the James W. Murphy by a neck going a mile.
Two horses entering the Dixie in solid form are Swift Warrior and Willcox Inn. The former went two-for-two over the winter taking Grade 3 events at Sam Houston and Tampa Bay Downs, but hasn't raced in three months. Willcox Inn, who hasn't won a stakes since his sophomore season, was a solid second last time in the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds in late March.
Todd Pletcher will saddle multiple Grade 3 winner Doubles Partner, who was fourth in the Muniz and second in the Tampa Bay behind Swift Warrior in his last two starts. Other graded stakes veterans in the field include Howe Great, Humble and Hungry, Two Months Rent and Forte de Marmi.
Notacatbutallama, a two-time overnight stakes winner on grass in New York last fall for Pletcher, will break from the rail in his first outing since January. Others likely to garner support are the stakes-placed China Holiday, Special Skills, Shining Copper, Redwood Kitten and Red Wings.
Summer Applause tops Allaire duPont Distaff; Maryland Sprint draws 10
Summer Applause will be making her Pimlico debut but has never had trouble acclimating to different tracks in the past. The talented four-year-old owns a 3-2-0 mark from seven tries at the distance, including a victory in last year's Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds, and reclaims the services of top jockey John Velazquez for the Allaire duPont.
Among those lining up against Summer Applause is Brushed by a Star, who is looking for a first win since transferring to the shedrow of Eddie Kenneally.
The five-year-old daughter of Eddington eked out a head score in the Chilukki at Churchill Downs in November before selling for $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale. She was sent to Kenneally, who has thus far saddled the bay for placings in the Falls City Handicap, Houston Ladies Classic, Santa Margarita and Sixty Sails Handicap.
Two races later, the Maryland Sprint Handicap will see Action Andy look to improve on his third-place effort in this same event from 12 months ago. He entered last year's Maryland Sprint Handicap off a subpar sixth in the Sir Shackleton at Gulfstream Park, but this time around was runner-up in that contest on March 30. The Gators n Bears gelding captured three straight races last fall, taking the Maryland Million Sprint and Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel before defending his title in the Pelican at Tampa Bay Downs.
Action Andy will have to overcome fellow stakes winners Candyman E and Laurie's Rocket, who were each third in graded contests in their last races, to add the Maryland Sprint 'Cap to his resume.
Stakes victor Clawback will take on Grade 2-placed Undrafted in the Chick Lang earlier on the day while the Rollicking -- featuring a mixed group of juvenile colts, fillies and geldings -- will kick off the stakes action in the 4TH race.
Pimlico reported an on-track crowd of 38,957 for Black-Eyed Susan Day. Friday's festivities included a presentation to the Maryland affiliate of Komen on the infield cupola, as well as a concert in the infield with the Goo Goo Dolls, Rodney Atkins and Rachel Farley. The 13-race program generated a handle of $13,096,736. "What a terrific way to start the weekend," Maryland Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas said. "Opening the infield was a positive experience and we got a picture-perfect day. Our partnership with Susan G. Komen is a winner as days like this prove."...
Frankie Dettori's planned comeback from his six-month suspension on Monday has been put on hold after the British Horseracing Authority revealed that France Galop has not given the all-clear. Due to ride at Leicester, the 42-year-old will not be able to take up his mounts after the French organization refused to allow him to ride there. As a result, the BHA is unable to reciprocate and Dettori is set to face a further interview with France Galop on May 26. "The BHA has received notification from France-Galop that they are not prepared to sanction Frankie Dettori as fit to race ride until he has had a meeting with their Medical Committee," the BHA said in a statement released Friday. "Consequently, in line with the position outlined to Dettori by the BHA's Licensing Committee at their meeting on Tuesday 14th May, and in the absence of clearance from France, no licence will be issued while such matters remain outstanding. BHA is seeking further clarification from France Galop, but is unable to make any additional comment at this time." Dettori had spent four days in France last month undergoing a medical examination and a series of tests and was under the impression that he had the green light...
Also on Friday, the British Horseracing Authority announced that it is to investigate a number of trainers regarding the administration of the drug known as Sungate. After Newmarket trainer Gerard Butler announced last month that he had used the substance, which contains anabolic steroids, on veterinary advice to treat the joints of some of his horses, Britain's governing body has been at work in uncovering the extent of the problem. "Sungate is a product developed by an Italian company, produced and licensed for equine use in Italy," the BHA statement read. "Its use in the UK is legal, but only when imported under the Special Import Certificate scheme administered by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. The product is intended to assist in the treatment and management of joint disease in horses. Sungate contains stanozolol, an anabolic steroid and consequently a prohibited substance under the Rules of Racing. The BHA became aware of the use of the product on horses in training following a visit to Gerard Butler's yard in February 2013 as part of its testing in training sampling programme. Subsequently, it became apparent that a veterinary practice, which had legally imported Sungate into the UK, had recommended its initial administration to horses in the care of Gerard Butler. The BHA has met with representatives of the veterinary practice in question. As a result of that meeting, the BHA believes that Gerard Butler was not the only trainer to whom the administration of Sungate was recommended. Veterinary surgeons are not bound by the Rules of Racing, but are subject to their own rules of professional conduct. Therefore, in order to establish the extent of the use of the product, BHA investigating officers will be interviewing trainers who are known to use the same veterinary practice. Under the Rules of Racing, licensed trainers are strictly liable for the administration of any prohibited substances administered to horses under their care and control."...
Believe You Can (Proud Citizen), winner of the 2012 Kentucky Oaks and most recently third in the La Troienne on May 3, breezed five furlongs Friday in :59 3/5 over the fast main track at Churchill Downs for trainer Larry Jones. It was the fastest of 22 moves at the distance. "Everything seems really good," Jones said. "As of right now, she's headed to the (Grade 1) Ogden Phipps (at Belmont on May 27)." Jones added that Santa Margarita winner Joyful Victory (Tapit) also is scheduled to run in the Ogden Phipps. Joyful Victory breezed five furlongs in :59 4/5 at Churchill Downs on May 15. It was the second fastest work of 31 at the distance...
Trainer Pat Byrne said he plans to work Alysheba winner Take Charge Indy (A.P. Indy) an "easy three-eighths" at Churchill Downs on Saturday at 6 a.m. (EDT). He is targeting the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on June 15. Winner of the Florida Derby and runner-up in the Clark Handicap in his 2012 finale, the four-year-old colt recorded a third in the February 9 Donn and a second in the March 30 Skip Away before returning to the win column on the Kentucky Oaks undercard last out...
Following a runner-up effort behind Pyrite Mountain in the May 5 Wando at Woodbine as the 2-5 favorite, Uncaptured (Lion Heart), the 2012 Horse of the Year in Canada, is headed back to Churchill Downs, the site of his two biggest victories, for the Grade 3 Matt Winn on June 15. "He's on a van right now headed to Churchill," trainer Mark Casse said. "We're planning on running him in the Matt Winn." The Matt Winn for three-year-olds will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track on the Stephen Foster undercard under the lights. "We're looking forward to getting him back on dirt," Casse said. "As long as he trains to our satisfaction, the Matt Winn is the next step." Both dirt starts for John Oxley's Uncaptured came at Churchill Downs. At the 2012 fall meet, he completed the Iroquois-Kentucky Jockey Club double, but Uncaptured will be looking to snap a three-race losing skein after finishing second in the Spiral and 10th in the Blue Grass prior to the Wando...
Miz Ida (Proud Citizen), runner-up to Exclusive Love (Bernstein) in a May 12 allowance race at Churchill Downs, is being pointed toward the Grade 3 Mint Julep Handicap on June 8, according to trainer Steve Margolis. Her last start was her first since finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs in November. The four-year-old filly posted four stakes wins last season, including the Indiana Downs Distaff, Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf and Grade 3 Valley View in succession prior to the Mrs. Revere...
Glen's Diamond (Intikhab) led throughout to spring a surprise in Friday's Group 2 Yorkshire Cup. Successful in the Dee at Chester in May 2011, the Richard Fahey charge went missing after a subsequent seventh placing in the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot the following month and made little impact during a spell at last year's Spring Carnival at Meydan. Revisiting old promise when runner-up to Red Cadeaux (Cadeaux Genereux) in this race 12 months ago, he was unable to build on that and finished up his latest campaign with a fourth placing in a handicap over an extended 12-furlong trip back at Chester in September. Allowed to dictate here, he traveled with ease into the straight with Joshua Tree (Montjeu) and Royal Diamond (King's Best) applying the pressure and the favorite Top Trip (Dubai Destination) apparently struggling in behind. As soon as he had shrugged off the former duo, he had the French raider to contend with and, despite looking likely to surrender his advantage in the drive to the line, kept digging in to prevail in the bobber. "He can be quite keen and they left tactics to me today, but I found myself in front," jockey Tony Hamilton said. "He ran on bad ground all last year and we nearly pulled him out today because of it. We've always liked him and he's very hard on himself. He did everything in a relaxed manner today and was tough and able to finish his race well." Assistant trainer Robin O'Ryan added, "He didn't have the best of experiences in Dubai last year and he relaxed in front today."...
Columbine Stable's Intimacy (Awesome Again), a sophomore half-sister to champion Forever Together (Belong to Me), made a winning career debut in Friday's 7TH race at Louisiana Downs. Trained by Al Stall Jr. and ridden by John Jacinto, the 5-2 second choice tracked in second, got through along the rail, and pulled away to score by 2 1/4 lengths. Intimacy covered the mile and 70 yards on the fast main track in 1:45 4/5. The maiden special weight had been transferred from the turf course, and there's no surprise why connections would have originally been thinking turf. Forever Together reigned as champion turf mare in 2008, on the strength of victories in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, Diana and First Lady. The following season, the Jonathan Sheppard mare added the Jenny Wiley and repeated in the Diana. Kept in training in 2010 by owner George Strawbridge Jr., Forever Together just missed turning a three-peat in the Diana, and ultimately retired with more than $2.9 million in earnings. She too had begun her career on dirt, most notably capturing the 2007 Forward Gal, before switching surfaces. Intimacy, a $250,000 Keeneland September yearling, may yet do the same...
Six females will sprint 6 1/2 furlongs in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Vagrancy Handicap and Spectacular Sky (Sky Mesa) figures to vie for favoritism in her first start at Belmont Park following a runner-up in the Grade 2 Inside Information on March 17. A three-time stakes winner, the Marty Wolfson-trained mare will be reunited with jockey Luis Saez, who guided the five-year-old to a pair of stakes wins at Calder last year. Fantasy of Flight (Tiznow) posted a 9 3/4-length score over optional claiming rivals in her lone appearance at Belmont last October and finished second in the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie at Gulfstream two starts back. Glorious View (Pleasant Tap) brings a three-race win streak into her stakes debut for Bill Mott, netting a 100 BRIS Speed rating for her nine-length score over optional claiming rivals most recently, and Withgreatpleasure (Hold That Tiger), who is cross-entered to Saturday's Grade 3 Allaire DuPont Distaff at Pimlico, exits a 14-1 upset in the Grade 2 Ruffian and would cut back in trip here for trainer David Nunn. Grade 2 Distaff runner-up Miss d'Oro (Medaglia d'Oro) is also part of the well-matched field...
Lady of Fifty (After Market), an easy winner of the Bayakoa Handicap in her only race over Cushion Track, will return to Hollywood Park on Saturday for the Grade 2, $150,000 Marjorie L. Everett Handicap. The 1 1/16-mile contest is part of a stakes doubleheader that also includes the $100,000 Fran's Valentine, a one-mile turf affair for older fillies and mares bred or sired in California. In conjunction with the 138th running of the Preakness Stakes, Hollywood Park will have an early post time of 11 a.m. (PDT) Saturday with track gates opening at 8 a.m. Lady of Fifty will highlight the stakes action at the Inglewood, California, track as she seeks a return to the winner's circle. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, the gray miss captured the Bayakoa in early December in her final start as a three-year-old prior to finishing fourth and third in a pair of Grade 2 races -- the La Canada and Santa Maria -- over the conventional dirt track at Santa Anita earlier in the year. She'll be joined in the starting gate by stablemates Sister Kate (Benchmark), who has scored in her past two, and Lady Aspen (Grand Reward), runner-up in the Golden Poppy most recently. Wheeling back off a two-week break is the John Sadler-trained More Chocolate (Malibu Moon), who will be trying the Cushion Track for the first time while exiting a fifth-placing in the La Troienne on May 3 at Churchill Downs. The bay miss captured the La Canada on Santa Anita's dirt in January in her first attempt at a surface other than turf. Fellow Sadler trainee and turf runner I Dazzle (Hold That Tiger) will also be making her synthetic debut after winning the American Beauty on April 7 over the Santa Anita turf. The Everett field is completed by Bayakoa runner-up Open Water (Include) and allowance victress Maker or Breaker (Empire Maker)...
Za Approval (Ghostzapper) will be the horse to beat in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Red Bank at Monmouth Park. A one-length winner of the Grade 3 Appleton last out, the Christophe Clement-trained gelding tops a field of 13, including main-track only Ruler on Ice (Roman Ruler), in the one-mile turf affair. Recent stakes winner Hobbs (Put It Back) will make his first appearance over the Jersey Shore turf for trainer Kathy Mongeon and Grade 3 winner Finale (Scat Daddy) represents the deep Todd Pletcher barn. Other contenders include Bad Debt (Grand Reward), Merrazano (Mizzen Mast), Monument Hill (Royal Academy) and Utley (Smart Strike)...
A field of 10 turf distaffers will go the distance of 1 3/8 miles on Saturday in the $65,000 Keertana at Churchill Downs. Artemus Kitten enters the race off a nice third in the Doubledogdare at Keeneland in mid-April, which followed a winning run in the Jersey Lilly at Sam Houston in early March. The Mike Maker-trained five-year-old shows two prior races over Churchill's turf, finishing fifth in the Mint Julep Handicap and third in an optional claimer, both last June. Also expected in the Keertana is Beijoca (Dynaformer), who finished third while making her stakes bow in The Very One at Gulfstream Park in February. The four-year-old miss broke her maiden at Churchill last May and is exiting a nose victory in a 1 1/2-mile Keeneland turf allowance. British import Qushchi (Encosta de Lago) will make her fourth start stateside in the race, most recently closing for third in the Bewitch at Keeneland...
Close It Out (Closing Argument) will attempt to get back to the winner's circle on Saturday while facing nine rivals in the $55,000 Champali going six furlongs at Calder. The Steve Towne trainee was last seen on February 9 rallying for a nice fourth in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship. The five-year-old gelding filled that same spot in the Florida Sunshine Millions Sprint, though only beaten 1 3/4 lengths on that occasion, and was fourth in the state-bred Sunshine State to close out 2012. His last winning race came in his last start at Calder in the Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap on November 10. Manoel Cruz has the call aboard Close It Out as the chestnut takes on lightly raced five-year-old and stakes debuter Ooohs and Aaahs (Seeking the Gold) and stakes-placed Cajun Breeze (Congrats)...
Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center in Georgetown, Kentucky, will host "Calvin Borel Day at Old Friends" on Monday and fans will have the opportunity to meet the three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey who was recently elected to Racing's Hall of Fame. Borel will be available to sign autographs and take pictures with fans from 1-4 p.m. (EDT). He also will visit with Ready's Rocket, who was retired to Old Friends last year. Ready's Rocket won 11 races at Churchill Downs, which is more than any other horse since 1991, when detailed information was gathered by Equibase. Borel was aboard for 10 of those triumphs. "He's the kind of horse that made me," Borel said. "He was consistent and horses that last that long are the ones that make you. They're the ones that are going to win for you every couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to seeing him again." Overall, Ready's Rocket won 20 of his 74 starts and earned $261,636. For more information on "Calvin Borel Day at Old Friends," or to RSVP, call Old Friends at (502) 863-1775 or visit www.oldfriendsequine.org...
Craig Dado, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, has been elected to the board of directors of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), it was announced following the organization's second quarter board meeting held Friday in Baltimore, Maryland. Dado, 48, has been with Del Mar since 2001 after having previously worked at Santa Anita Park. In other action, the board -- approved audited financial results for the fiscal year concluding January 31, 2013, which reflected net revenues of $66,850. The complete NTRA financials and the company's annual report will be released in early June; ratified the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance 2013 Code of Standards; received a report on federal legislative activities from The Alpine Group, the organization's Washington, D.C.-based lobbying team; and received updates on the National Handicapping Championship, NTRA Advantage group purchasing, sponsorship and other programs. The revised compliance standards will serve as the basis for future racetrack Alliance accreditation, including the re-accreditation of tracks originally accredited by the Alliance in 2010 and 2011. The 2013 Code includes a number of revisions recommended by the Alliance Advisory Committee, including the establishment of an injury review committee; starting-gate-removal protocols; recording and storage of racing surface data; regulatory veterinarian protocols and procedures; and post parade/starting gate scratch protocols. These changes will affect tracks and horsemen, alike, and are intended to make accredited tracks and the horsemen who race at these tracks more accountable to racing's fan base. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the NTRA board of directors will be August 8.
For Saturday or Next Raceday
MAY 18, 2013
Kavanagh, Pastorius blow out in Singapore
by Liesl King
Thankfully, after the rain of yesterday, dawn broke over Kranji with clear skies and a slight easing in the heat.
The most interesting observation to come out of the morning's trackwork was the different training styles of the various countries -- a phenomenon that only becomes apparent when you have a congregation of international horses.
Kavanagh (Tiger Ridge), trained by Mike de Kock, appeared first, opting for the heath track with Kranji-based South African, Greg Cheyne, doing duty for compatriot and raceday jockey Glyn Schofield. South African trainers prefer to do their last speed work two days out and de Kock is no exception, with Kavanagh producing a blistering 35.1 seconds over the final 600 meters.
Assistant trainer Trevor Brown confirmed that it was the last work the gelding will do.
"It's all systems go and he is done now," Brown said. "We have drawn barrier three and we are delighted with that. It's as good as two lengths in front."
Pastorius (Soldier Hollow) was the talk of the day as he did his very first and also his final piece of fast work on the turf track with trainer Mario Hofer's daughter Stephanie aboard. With trainer and owner in attendance, the handsome bay put in a solid gallop with consummate ease, clocking 38.1 over the final 600 meters.
Despite the colt drawing barrier 11, the connections remain very confident, with Hofer explaining that not only will Pastorius have the services of a very good jockey in Frenchman Olivier Peslier, but he has the ability to come from anywhere in the field.
In stark contrast, the Australian and Hong Kong contenders are visibly winding down as the week progresses.
After trotting in the ring for ten minutes, Bel Sprinter (Bel Esprit) appeared on the turf track for a leisurely stroll, with track rider Carly Thomas allowing the gelding frequent stops to inspect the various photographers and TV cameras. Trainer Jason Warren was happy with his charge, but added that he hoped the weather stayed cool, as Bel Sprinter was slightly dehydrated.
The Hong Kong pair of Military Attack (Oratorio) and Dan Excel (Shamardal) also eased their morning workout, with the pair doing a slow canter on the Poly for 1 1/2 laps. While Dan Excel was quite content to lope along, Military Attack made it very clear that the pace was far too pedestrian for his liking with an interesting display of leaping, bucking and bouncing down the main straight.
Trainer John Moore's son George was on hand to witness the bay gelding's exuberance.
"I am happy with where they are at," he said. "They have improved steadily though the week and are now pretty close to their right racing weights."
Then there are the "distance horses," who come out day in and day out to complete at least 1 1/2 or two laps of the Kranji Poly (1,500-meter circumference) at a steady pace. In this category we have Hunter's Light (Dubawi), Meandre (Slickly) and Dux Scholar (Oasis Dream) -- whose daily routine includes a 2,000-meter steady canter -- Mawingo (Tertullian), with an even more impressive 3,000-meter daily canter and, surprisingly, the sprinter Lucky Nine (Ire) (Dubawi), who also clocks up the miles with an impressive 2,000-meter canter daily.
Lastly, we have the lone Japanese contender, Dasher Go Go (Sakura Bakushin O), who in contrast has been steadily increasing the speed of his daily workouts. After a steady canter on the turf Thursday, assistant trainer Keiichiro Yasuda stepped up the pace Friday with a strong canter down the main turf straight, coming in at around 18 seconds a furlong.
A final blowout over 200 meters on the turf is planned for Saturday in order to fully wind him up just prior to the race. Yasuda explained that Dasher Go Go is nearing his ideal race weight of 1,179 pounds, and that despite his bad draw in barrier nine, the entire has the speed to put himself into any spot and that they will just go with the pace.
With race day now only two days away, the mounting tension is palpable and with most of the contenders' preparations done and dusted, it now becomes a game of just keeping them hydrated, keeping them eating up and counting the hours in muggy Singapore.
*all times Eastern
HANDICAPPER'S EDGE is compiled by Bloodstock Research Information Services. This newsletter may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Copyright 2011, Bloodstock Research Information Services. Information as to the races, race results and earnings was obtained from Equibase Company LLC and is utilized herein with the permission of the copyright owner, Equibase Company LLC.
A horse racing website is currently hiring for part-time positions as a Customer Service Representative in Lexington, Kentucky. Must be available nights and weekends. Some weekdays may also be available. Computer literacy required, horse racing knowledge and customer service experience a plus. To schedule an interview, email or send your résumé to the following: Nancy.Kanaval@brisnet.com, P.O. Box 4097, Lexington, KY 40544.