Departing On Schedule Ahead of Foster
Departing, whose strong 3-year-old campaign included a run in the 2013 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and wins in three derbys, put in his final work June 9 for the June 14 Stephen Foster Handicap Presented by Abu Dhabi (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider's 4-year-old War Front gelding is among eight probable starters, including reigning champion 3-year-old male Will Take Charge, for the 1 1/8-mile race that carries a $500,000 purse. Others probables are Moonshine Mullin, Revolutionary, Golden Ticket,Prayer for Relief, Long River and Mylute. Possible starters include Bellarmine and Carve.
Departing breezed four furlongs in :49 2/5 for trainer Al Stall Jr. under jockey Robby Albarado, who will be in the saddle for the Foster. He covered the distance in fractions of :12 2/5 and :24 4/5 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:02.2/5 and six furlongs in 1:15.3/5.
"I told Robby not to let him do anything. If you look pretty on him he's going to go in :47, so you need to restrain him," Stall said. "Robby said it's a good thing we did, because he went :49, and as soon as we hit the wire he re-broke. We got him to the seven-eighths pole in about 1:13 flat, completely on his own and under wraps. So he's there and we're looking forward to running on Saturday."
The only 2014 outing thus far for Departing is a 1 3/4-length triumph in a one-mile allowance race at Churchill Downs April 30. He was racing for the first time since a disappointing fourth-place run behind Broadway Empire as the odds-on favorite in the Oklahoma Derby (gr. III) at Remington Park Sept. 29.
"I was very happy with that first race," Stall said. "I thought he ran well and had a little adversity, which should help him for this race. We're ready and we're excited."
Prior to his Remington Park run that ended his 3-year-old season, Departing won three of four races and all were derbys run in different states. The string started with a victory in the Illinois Derby (gr. III) at Hawthorne Race Course, followed by a sixth-place run behind the victorious Oxbow in the Preakness that preceded easy romps in the West Virginia Derby (gr. II) at Mountaineer Casino Race Track & Resort and Louisiana Downs' Super Derby (gr. II).
Stall said there was no physical problem that led to Departing's long stretch away from the track. He said his young star simply needed some time on the farm.
"It was just plain old time," Stall said. "I want to say 'I' and not 'we'—I went to the well with him one time too many as a 3-year-old. He ran a tremendous race in the Super Derby. It was 98 degrees that afternoon, but we knew we'd be 1-5 for $400,000. I'm not saying greed took over, but we were rolling with him. He acted fine and everything was fine, but he had just done a little too much.
"He came here from Oklahoma for a few days and then went to Claiborne Farm and hung out. He showed up at the Fair Grounds and he's done what he's supposed to do between three and four. He's filled-in and he's picking it up. He's not a big horse, but he looks like he's gone the right way and his works have been great.
"He's doing nice and we're fresh, and we're trying to plan for the second half of the year. It's a rare thing in horse racing, but we're on schedule."
Departing enters the Stephen Foster with a career record of 7-0-1 from 10 starts and earnings of $1,438,300.
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