Blue Grass Stakes (G2) winner Irap will likely prepare for the May 6 Kentucky Derby (G2) at Keeneland, according to Jack Sisterson.
The bay son of Tiznow, who is trained by Doug O’Neill, exited his maiden-breaking score in Saturday’s Blue Grass in good order.
“He will stay at Keeneland and probably do the Nyquist thing and go to Churchill Downs the week of the Kentucky Derby,” said Jack Sisterson, who assisted in the preparation of Irap for the Blue Grass. “It seems like every time Doug has brought a horse here from California, they have thrived.”
Nyquist captured last year’s Kentucky Derby for O’Neill and Reddam Racing, the same connections of Irap. The 2016 Derby winner shipped to Keeneland after winning the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park and trained at the Lexington, Kentucky, track for nearly a month before shipping to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby.
“I don’t think any of Doug’s Derby horses in the past have had their final works at Churchill,” Sisterson said before leaving town for Europe.
Irap will be cared for by exercise rider Antonio Romero and groom Fernel Serrano at Keeneland for the time being.
Practical Joke, second by three parts of a length to Irap in the Blue Grass, was also doing well on Sunday, according to trainer Chad Brown.
“Practical Joke ran terrific,” Brown said. “He had a little bit of a wide trip but really ran well. I was encouraged to see him in a two-turn race with a sustained run, making up ground in the lane, not losing ground. He gives me some optimism to keep going forward towards the Derby.”
Practical Joke will stay at Keeneland until Brown decides when to send the Into Mischief colt to Churchill.
McCraken, who suffered his first career loss when third in the Blue Grass, jogged once around Keeneland’s main track Sunday morning with exercise Yoni Orantes aboard.
Unlike the Blue Grass top two, trainer Ian Wilkes plans to van McCraken to Churchill Downs on Monday.
“I thought he was too fresh and too much on the bit and that is where missing that race (March 11 Tampa Bay Derby [G2]) showed up,” Wilkes said. “He was a little too keen.
“I wanted to get a good race and I was very pleased with the race. He didn’t back down. He didn’t quit. You want to see what happens when he gets in against the big boys and he pushed back. We wanted to win, but maybe he learned something yesterday.
“That doesn’t matter. They all have a chance to beat you,” Wilkes added when asked if was disappointed to lose to a maiden. “It got the monkey off my back of being undefeated. That adds a little pressure. Now that that is over, you can concentrate on getting the job done.”
Tapwrit captured the Tampa Bay Derby by 4 1/2 lengths prior to Saturday’s Blue Grass, where he finished fifth, beaten 11 1/2 lengths. Like Irap and Practical Joke, the Tapit colt will stick around Keeneland for now.
“He is good this morning and will stay here for a while,” said Ginny DePasquale, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “He may go over to Churchill Downs; I don’t envision him going back to Florida.
“He just didn’t show up yesterday,” DePasquale added. “He was totally different compared to Tampa where he was on the muscle.”
Wild Shot set the pace for the opening half-mile in the Blue Grass before fading to finish last of seven for trainer Rusty Arnold, who reported the Trappe Shot colt was doing fine Sunday morning.
“Nothing went right yesterday,” Arnold said. “He was terrible in the paddock and he may have run three races in there which is surprising because he had never done that before. He didn’t handle the crowd.
“Soundness wise, he’s fine. We will regroup and talk with the Calumet people (owner). The ($250,000) Pat Day Mile ([G3] on May 6) is an option.”