Before the running of last year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Keeneland Race Course was overrun with trainers whose potential contenders were squeezing in final works prior to shipping up to Churchill Downs. This year, Todd Pletcher cut a lonely figure along the rail at the Lexington oval as he sent Behindatthebar to gallop and then watched Monba and Cowboy Cal complete their final preparations April 26.
Although he failed to win his most recent start at Gulfstream Park, Peter Vegso's homebred Silver Tree turned in a solid effort in that April 5 race and has been assigned the high weight in the $100,000 Fort Marcy Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct April 27, closing day at the New York track.
Javier Castellano buys you a drink, then wraps the glass in a napkin so your hands don't get cold. If you're standing and he's sitting, he jumps up to offer his chair. In the paddock, greeting owners, he doffs his helmet with remarkable chivalry. And he loves puppies and kittens, which has nothing to do with racing, but adds to his delightful personality. We've dubbed him the most charming jockey riding in this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Manoel Cruz has never won a grade I race, and his most significant career victory came in a grade II event with a purse of $200,000. On May 3, he'll tackle the $2-million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) aboard Smooth Air.
Only four other runners will go up against the Shug McGaughey-trained Criminologist in her second start of the season, but those four have solid credentials and equal chances at taking the $100,000 Beaugay Handicap (gr. IIT) at Aqueduct April 26.
G. Watts Humphrey Jr.'s homebred Communique worked rail-skimming magic in deep stretch of the $150,000 Grey Goose Bewitch Stakes (gr. IIIT) and swung out just in time to keep Helen Groves' Tejida from a wire-to-wire win in the April 24 event at Keeneland Race Course.
Eee-bar. I-bar. Aye-bar. Eibar Coa doesn't care what you call him -- or what you think of him. His bold edge, which some call egotism, is just self-confidence. The unforgiving techniques he employs on the racetrack are carefully-honed race-riding skills. And his intensely competitive side is an inborn trait that brought him success in other athletics, such as judo and basketball.
Call Shaun Bridgmohan the strong, silent type. This 28-year-old rider keeps a relatively low profile in the jockeys' room and could be overshadowed by his more flamboyant fellow riders. But his exceedingly professional approach to his career has been the foundation for a highly successful partnership with trainer Steve Asmussen, for whom Bridgmohan will ride Pyro in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Fred Bradley's homebred Brass Hat will make the 24th start of his career in the $200,000 Fifth Third Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIT) at Keeneland April 25, but he'll be up against a field of established turf contenders like morning line favorite Stream of Gold, second choice True Cause, Drilling for Oil, Dancing Forever, and Transduction Gold.
Edgar Prado was hospitalized, but quickly released April 23 following a spill at Keeneland Race Course. The Peruvian jockey, who will ride Adriano in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) for trainer H. Graham Motion, had been aboard another Motion trainee in the seventh race at the Lexington oval when the accident occurred.
In 2006, Ramon Dominguez rode Bluegrass Cat to a second-place finish behind Barbaro in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). He was close enough to practically taste the victory, and this year he's chasing it with renewed determination aboard the Todd Pletcher-trained Monba, his fifth Derby contender.
In spite of his affinity for Louisville, Robby Albarado is missing a victory in the race that makes that city famous. He'll be chasing that win in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) aboard the Steve Asmussen-trained Z Fortune, while making his 10th start in the race May 3.
He has a new first-rate home base (California) and a new first-call trainer (Bobby Frankel), but Rafael Bejarano, 25, will be back in Kentucky to ride Anak Nakal for trainer Nick Zito in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) the first Saturday in May.
He can't live without his cell phone. If he could choose another profession, he would be a rock star. He once drove 165 miles per hour to reach the track in time for the first race. And May 3, E.T. Baird will be riding to the post aboard Recapturetheglory in the 134th Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I)
Golden Velvet turned the tables on rival Tessa Blue, but only after gutting it out in a neck-and-neck battle with that one in the $200,000 Sixty Sails Handicap (gr. III) at Hawthorne Race Course.
Two weeks ago, Todd Pletcher was sitting on the outside of the Derby picture looking in. But when Padua Stables and partners' Behindatthebar followed the hard-knocking efforts of Monba and Cowboy Cal in the April 12 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) with an impressive performance of his own in the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) April 19, the venerable trainer could count not one, but three potential contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Coming off a seventh-place finish in Aqueduct's seven furlong Carter Handicap (gr. I) April 5, Ryan's for Real benefited from a drop in class and an extension of distance and won the $200,000 Bill Hartack Memorial Handicap (gr. III) at Hawthorne Race Course April 19.
The 7-year-old Montbrook stallion Chapel Royal was represented by his first winner April 19 when Elite Racing Partners' Royal Card won an eventful third race at Keeneland.
Seven runners have entered the $150,000 Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland, but on paper the race comes down to a battle between three starters. Peter Vegso's Go Between, Turtle Bird Stable's Sir Whimsey, and Knob Hill Stable's Leonnatus Anteas head up the 1 1/8-mile event over the main track April 20.
Hudson River Farms' Sovereign Duty ambled around the Keeneland turf course before closing with a powerful late kick to take the $150,000 Royal Chase Sport of Kings Hurdle (NSA-I) in Lexington April 17.
Illinois Derby (gr. II) winner Recapturetheglory, a potential contender for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), worked five furlongs at Churchill Downs April 17.
For several 3-year-olds pointing toward the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland, the April 19 event offers a final chance at graded earnings and entry into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). But the horse whose form points to a likely win in the 1 1/16-mile event has no aspirations of making the Derby -- and he could spoil the plans of those who do when a field of 11 goes postward in the final Derby prep of the season.
Trainer Eric Guillot was refreshingly candid during an April 15 teleconference hosted by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, calling his horse "one of the 15 who might not belong," but saying a trip to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) is definitely under consideration for Salute the Sarge.
Owner Rick Porter has always known Eight Belles is a solid contender -- but he's thinking about putting the 3-year-old filly's class and stamina to the ultimate test May 3. Porter said April 13, if all goes well, the daughter of Unbridled's Song will be entered in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Trainer Todd Pletcher had won just a single race at Keeneland going into the April 12 card. But he won again where it counted, and with Monba and Cowboy Cal finishing 1-2 in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), it looks like North America's leading trainer of 2007 will be headed to the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) after all.
Last year, Steve Asmussen and Robby Albarado teamed up with eventual Horse of the Year Curlin to clobber eight other contenders in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. I). On April 12 at Oaklawn Park the trainer/jockey duo will collaborate again with Zayat Stables' Z Fortune, but this time their starter has a lot to prove.
Pyro may be on fire going into the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland April 12, but 11 other runners will attempt to douse his Derby dreams in the 1 1/8-mile event.
Ventura proved her affinity for Polytrack and American stakes competition when she mowed down a field of experienced contenders at Keeneland in the $200,000 Vinery Madison Stakes (gr. II) April 9.
Ariege and Golden Doc A, the one-two finishers in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) March 8, will renew their rivalry in the Midwest in the $250,000 Stonerside Beaumont Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland.
Ike and Dawn Thrash's Dawn After Dawn was a solid performer in each of her four past starts, registering two wins -- one in the La Canada Stakes (gr. II) -- under jockey Garrett Gomez.
Jockey Edgar Prado has teamed with Baltimore Sun writer John Eisenberg to produce a book that reaches deep into his soul, giving readers a taste of the powerful connection between horse and rider. My Guy Barbaro: A Jockey's Journey Through Love, Triumph, and Heartbreak with America's Favorite Horse hit stores April 1.
The Dan Hendricks-trained Daytona lost his last start by just one length -- snapping a four-race winning streak in graded stakes races -- so it was especially gratifying for Hendricks to watch the Indian Ridge gelding come back in fine form in the $150,000 Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita April 5.
Zenyatta extended her unbeaten streak to four races and defeated a champion in doing so when she took the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park April 5.
Charles Fipke's homebred Tale of Ekati may have turned in a sub-par effort in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), but he sparkled at Aqueduct when he ran down War Pass in the final strides of the $750,000 Wood Memorial (gr. I) April 5.
Winchell Thoroughbreds' Pyro, winner of the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) and the second choice at 9-2 in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) future wager pool number three, schooled in the paddock at Keeneland April 5
Elisabeth Alexander's Magna Graduate, winner of last year's $200,000 Excelsior Handicap (gr. III), will look to break a seven-racing losing streak when he returns to the 1 1/8-mile event at Aqueduct April 5.
Nick Zito has not lost faith in War Pass. True, the colt has questions to answer after finishing last as the 1-20 choice in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III). But the trainer saw his 2007 juvenile champ at his best during a five-race winning streak that carried over into this season, and he's hoping that side is revealed again when the son of Cherokee Run heads a field of 10 in Aqueduct's $750,000 Wood Memorial (gr. I).
- By Claire Novak
Robert LaPenta's War Pass has drawn post position number five in the $750,000 Wood Memorial (gr. I), an April 5 prep for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) that has drawn a field of 10 3-year-old contenders.
Fresh off his impressive victory in the March 29 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin shipped into Belmont Park April 2 to begin his quarantine period after spending the past several weeks in Dubai.
Dr. Steve Allday urged small breeding operations to create and maintain lines of communication with racetrack practitioners in comments made during the April 2 Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club meeting at Keeneland.
Millennium Farms' Student Council will try the turf--a surface he's never won over--for the first time since December of 2006 when he tackles seven other starters in the $200,000 John B. Connally Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Sam Houston April 5, but trainer Donnie von Hemel expects Going Ballistic to put up a fight.
The top three finishers from Santa Anita's March 1 China Doll Stakes will meet again in the $150,000 Providencia Stakes (gr. IIT) April 5, each still seeking a graded stakes victory.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano was back in the saddle April 2, just 21 days after sustaining compressed fractures to his T-5 and T-6 vertebrae in a Santa Anita spill.
On Florida Derby (gr. I) day at Gulfstream Park, horsemen hoped to gain some insight for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) picture. Before the 3-year-old colts took the spotlight, however, 3-year-old fillies tackled the $150,000 Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II), and Denholtz Stables' Shes All Eltish made one thing crystal clear - she's all class.
Making his second start in the U.S. and stretching out to 1 1/8 miles after missing by a neck in his last outing, Jon and Sarah Kelly's Sporting Art was sitting on a win in the $100,000 Bulleit Bourbon Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT).
As 12 horses headed to the post in the $6 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), trainer Steve Asmussen stood in the paddock at Nad Al Sheba racecourse. "I'm just wanting the real Curlin to show up," he said. Moments later, the Smart Strike colt more than obliged, rolling to a 7 3/4-length win and convincing viewers of one sure thing - right now "the real Curlin" is the best horse in the world.
In an eventful stretch drive that saw his jockey survive a slipping saddle, South Africa's 50-1 shot Jay Peg set a new course record as he fought back challenges from two top fillies to win the $5 million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-IT) during Nad Al Sheba racecourse's March 29 Dubai World Cup day.
Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farm has purchased 51% interest in Richard Brand's Biker Boy, the 3-year-old Nick Zito trainee whose March 16 debut resulted in a 93 Beyer and a 3 Ragozin number.
Jockey Tracy Hebert has been granted a license to ride by the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority and will be allowed to accept mounts at Churchill Downs, it was reported March 28.
Barry Abrams' and Madeline Auerbach's Lethal Heat is making her first start in graded stakes company, will be running off the turf for the first time, and is coming back in 10 days from a 1 3/4-length allowance win. But Abrams fully expects the 3-year-old daughter of Unusual Heat to handle those factors in the $100,000 Santa Paula Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita March 30.
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