With his main Kentucky Derby contender Easyfromthegitgo awaiting the Louisiana Derby, trainer Steve Asmussen will unleash the second string Saturday in the one-mile Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, which will be run in two divisions.
In the first division, Asmussen will saddle Black Gold Handicap winner Private Emblem and Richest Half against Frank Brothers' undefeated colt Clergy, who has won both his career starts at 6 furlongs, and King Zonic, a 10-length allowance winner at Oaklawn, going 1 1/16 miles.
In the second division, which like the first attracted eight horses, Asmussen sends out Team Valor's promising Windward Passage, along with Riley Allison Futurity winner Interminable Gold. Opposing the Asmussen pair will be Fisher Station, a 4 1/2-length allowance winner at 1 1/16 miles his last time out, and the speedy Cojet, who is coming off an 8 1/2-length victory in a six-furlong allowance race at Oaklawn, in which he earned a 103 Beyer speed Figure. Breaking from the rail will be another two-turn allowance winner, Bay Monster, who captured his last start at Oaklawn by a length.
Windward Passage is coming off a solid second in a mile and 40-yard allowance race at Fair Grounds. The son of Captain Bodgit had been scheduled to run in an upcoming allowance race at Fair Grounds, but plans were changed for fear of the race not filling. Although his connections feel this race is a bit too short for him right now, they need to run him somewhere, and are looking for better things down the road after the distances stretch out. This could be a top horse in the making.
Private Emblem, a New York-bred son of Our Emblem, captured the Black Gold on the grass by a head back on Jan. 4. Prior to that he was third in the 1 1/16-mile Sam Houston Texan Juvenile and second in the Sleepy Hollow at Belmont Park for state-breds. Donnie Meche rides both Private Emblem and Windward Passage.Request for Parole heads Battaglia
Also on Saturday, Request for Parole looks to make it two-for-two at Turfway, as he heads a field of nine in the 1 1/16-mile John Battaglia Memorial. Although Request for Parole again will be facing Perfect Drift, who finished a good second to him in the recent WEBN Frog Stakes, the main competition could come from the undefeated Piston, trained by Kenny McPeek. The son of Peaks and Valleys has won both his starts at Turfway in convincing fashion, breaking his maiden in the mud by 2 1/4 lengths, then capturing a mile allowance race by 3 lengths.
But Request for Parole is the class of the field, having captured the Ellis Park Juvenile before finishing second in the Iroquois Stakes to Harlan's Holiday and the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes to Repent. If he should get beaten by Piston on Saturday, trainer Steve Margolis may put out a contract on McPeek.Cashel Castle returns at Sportsman's
Undefeated Cashel Castle, who was forced to miss the Hutcheson Stakes due to a minor ankle injury, has been entered in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance race at Sportsman's Park on Saturday. Not only did the undefeated colt not scare anybody way, with 12 horses being entered, he drew post 12, which is not where you want to be on Sportsman's notorious sharp turns.
For a horse, whose owners have recently turned down substantial offers for him, this certainly is an unusual spot to return. "A lot of people are going to think I'm crazy to bring him out of Florida into Chicago," trainer Chris Block said. "But I have a lot of confidence in the surface and that's part of the reason he's here. (Track superintendent Albert Jozwiak) does a wonderful job and I've had horses come off that track in good shape.
"We think his injury was a strain of the suspensory and that's all it was --- nothing more than that. We took precautionary measures, did some diagnostic work, took some ultrasounds and everything checked out good. We eased him back into training and everything was just fine. He only missed about five days of training and then we went back into it. We really took our time to make sure he was okay. He was all right so we proceeded. There really was nowhere to run him in Florida. It would have been 'throw him to wolves' running long, which I don't think is fair to the horse or to us."
Cashel Castle has won all three of his starts by a combined margin of 19 1/2 lengths, including an 8-length romp on the Hoosier Juvenile.