A year ago, trainer Wesley Ward ran one-two with a pair of fillies, Aegean and Jealous Again, in the Kentucky Juvenile Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs.
Seven weeks later, Ward would stand the racing world on its ear by becoming the first United States-based trainer to win at the Royal Ascot meeting in England. Actually, he would record two wins, one of which came when Jealous Again pulled a shocker in the five-furlong Queen Mary Stakes (Eng-III).
Interestingly enough, third behind Ward’s pair in last year’s Kentucky Juvenile was Mission Impazible , who will start this Saturday in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands for Twin Creeks Racing Stables and trainer Todd Pletcher.
Ward has another pair for this year’s running, which takes its place on the Oaks day undercard from its traditional spot on the Thursday of Derby week. Ward, who earned the Eclipse Award as the leading Apprentice Jockey in 1984 will send out the filly Nina Fever and Final Mesa. He owns Final Mesa and co-owns Nina Fever with Lexington horseman Gatewood Bell.
Nina Fever, from the first crop of Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) Borrego, broke her maiden April 3 in front of the home crowd at Keeneland by eight lengths under Robby Albarado as the 8-5 favorite.
Final Mesa, by Sky Mesa , also broke his maiden over the Polytrack at Keeneland, winning April 16 by 71/2 lengths under Albarado.
Albarado has chosen to ride Nina Fever in the five-furlong Kentucky Juvenile.
Heiligbrodt Racing Stables’ homebred Wetzel (by Successful Appeal ) and Mervin and Barbara McNamara’s Weekend Wildcat (Lion Heart) were noses apart in a maiden race on Keeneland’s opening day card April 2 and are back to face off again in the Kentucky Juvenile.
Shipping in from Maryland is trainer John Salzman Jr.’s Twelve Pack Shelly, a filly by Deputy Storm that set a track record at Laurel in her debut traveling 4 1/2 furlongs in :50.83. With Harry Vega aboard, Twelve Pack Shelly won by 10 3/4 lengths after recording an opening quarter of :21.88.
Stepping up to the plate against strong winners in the Juvenile are a pair of first-time starters: Boys At Tosconova , a colt by Officer, and Charles Fipke’s The Freak, by Perfect Soul . Both have been training over the Polytrack at Keeneland.
Although early in the season, the Kentucky Juvenile has had quite an impact on both racing and breeding. Recent winners of the race include leading stallions Posse (2002), and Cuvee (2003), Horse of the Year Favorite Trick (1997) and 2-year-old filly champion Chilukki (1999).
Kentucky Juvenile (gr. III), April 30, $100,000, 2-year-olds, five furlongs, April 30, Churchill Downs, approximate post 2:10 p.m.
PP, Horse, Jockey
1, Saturday Dance, J Graham
2, Lou Brissie, J Velazquez
3, Wetzel, R Bejarano
4, Weekend Wildcat, V Lebron
5, Boys at Tosconova, K Desormeaux
6, Final Mesa, J Rosario
7, Nina Fever, R Albarado
8, The Freak, A Jimenez
9, Twelve Pack Shelly, H Vega