William S. Farish, Jr.'s Seaside Retreat displayed his affinity for the Churchill Downs surface during a strong workout Thursday morning, after which trainer Mark Casse said the colt was confirmed for the May 6 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
With regular rider Patrick Husbands aboard, the son of King Cugat
zipped five furlongs in :59 2/5 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 "and change" while working in company with a horse trained by Dale Romans.
Thursday's workout was a litmus test for Seaside Retreat's Derby chances. Following the exercise there was no doubt about that the colt will go on to the Derby. Casse and Husbands both were pleased with what they saw.
"He (Husbands) phoned me from the horse and said 'We're going to the Derby, Boss'," Casse said. "He was really impressed. He was worried. He said when he went out there he thought the track was a little on the deep side. But he said he gets to the bottom of it. I told Patrick, 'You're going to be surprised. He is going to love the racetrack.' He was really happy with him."
Seaside Retreat goes into the Derby off a sixth-place finish, 32 ½ lengths behind runaway winner Sinister Minister, in the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) at Keeneland.
"I think what happens over at Keeneland is either you like it or you don't like it," Casse said. "Some of the horses get to the bottom of the track and if they get to the bottom of the track they run really fast. Our horse swam in it. Patrick said he was worn out in the post parade."
Casse said the colt also did not like the surface at Tampa Bay Downs, where he ran fifth in the Sam F. Davis previous to a second-place effort in the Lane's End (gr. II) over the Polytrack surface at Turfway Park.
Concerning Seaside Retreat's running style as a closer rather than one who stalks the pace or is up front early, Casse said he believes this year's Derby sets up well for his horse.
"If our horse was a speed horse or had to be very close to the pace, we would go elsewhere," Casse said. "I think this race has a good chance to set up great for us. If you're not in it you can't win it, so we are going to give it a try."
"We understand we are going to be a longshot and that is OK with us. If we didn't think we had a chance we wouldn't be here. I would love to see us 12th or 14th I really don't want to be coming from last. Get a good position going into the first turn and hope all the speed gets tired turning for home."
The trainer said Seaside Retreat has a skin rash that he believes is more cosmetic than physical. Casse said the colt developed the rash on both hips around the time of the Blue Grass, but that is not a concern because it has not bothered the colt's racing ability.
A Canadian-based trainer who winters in Florida and was leading trainer at Churchill Downs, Casse is in the unique position of having his first starters in both this year's Derby and the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) with Top Notch Lady.
"It's a dream," Casse said of the possibility of having a Derby starter. "I don't know how many nights after the races...I used to walk back to the barn listening to 'My Old Kentucky Home.' And now I am going to listen to it and watch one of my horses."
Bred in Kentucky by Farish and Centennial Management, Seaside Retreat has won three of seven starts, with earnings of $266,632. The colt just makes the cut to get into the Derby, as his graded stakes earnings – on which the final 20-horse field is based – of $125,807 rank him 19th on the list.
After breaking his maiden and winning an allowance at Woodbine Racecourse, the colt finished third in that track's Grey Breeders' Cup before winning the Display Stakes to conclude his 2-year-old season.