Team Valor International is sponsoring the $75,000 Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park March 23, and as fate would have it, it will also use the 1 1/16-mile Polytrack event as a last-ditch effort to get Crop Report to a prep for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Crop Report, a well-regarded 3-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro out of 1998 Delaware Handicap (gr. III) winner Amarillo, got a late start to his U.S. racing career after two starts at Newmarket. He made his North American debut for trainer Graham Motion on the Gulfstream Park turf, running third in an allowance event there Feb. 23.
"It's been unbelievably frustrating with this horse," Team Valor CEO Barry Irwin remarked. "Very little has gone right. I tried to buy him after he broke his maiden, but the owner wouldn't sell him. I ran into the trainer down at Melbourne but by the time we reached a deal it had taken about five weeks, which cost us a lot of time so the horse got here late. It's been a slow, drawn-out thing."
The connections entered Crop Report in a dirt allowance at Gulfstream March 17, but scratched after the colt drew the outside post. His post for the Rushaway? Outside in a field of nine under 118 pounds including jockey Joel Rosario.
"What are you going to do?" Irwin said. "He's ready to run right now, we don't want to wait any more. Our only shot to make the Derby is to make the (April 13) Blue Grass (gr. I) and if we win this race we might make the Blue Grass. We probably won't have enough earnings, but we might. I don't think we're going to make the Derby with him, but maybe the (May 18) Preakness (gr. I). I also think the (June 1) Belmont (gr. I) would be awesome for him."
Team Valor won the Rushaway in 1995 with Key Guy and finished second in 2011 with Crimson China. Crop Report will be one of two runners getting blinkers for the 1 1/16-mile event; allowance winner Stormin Monarcho is the other.
"We worked him on the dirt with Cerro, who is a pretty nice horse, and Crop Report outworked him pretty good," Irwin said. "First on the dirt, first work with blinkers. With the blinkers, he paid attention. He's a very big horse, he has trouble leaving the gate with the other horses because he's just so damn big, but once he gets going his stride is tremendous. He's got a commanding presence with a long, sweeping stride, and he just gives you the impression there's a lot of power there."
Carrying high weight of 124 pounds in the Rushaway is Mark Casse trainee Star Contender, a son of Henny Hughes making his first start for owner John Oxley since a sixth in the Jan. 1 Gulfstream Park Derby. Casse also has G. G. Racing Stables' Honorable Guest, unraced since winning the Nov. 7 Frost King Stakes going seven furlongs on the Woodbine Polytrack.
Also of interest is Skychai Racing and Sand Dollar Stable's J. J. Got Even, a son of Stephen Got Even who is undefeated in two starts at Turfway. The colt won a one-mile allowance race by two lengths Feb. 15. Rosie Napravnik will ride as part of a 120-pound assignment.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will send Red Wings from his deep bench of 3-year-old contenders. The English Channel runner broke his maiden Jan. 26 going a mile at Oaklawn Park and came back to finish third in a 1 1/16-mile allowance Feb. 17 behind Carve and Title Contender.
$75,000 Team Valor Rushaway Stakes (Race 8, approximate post 4:42 p.m. EDT), 3YOs, 1 1/16 miles (All Weather Track)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Red Wings (KY), J.K. Court, 118, D W Lukas
2. Divine Ambition (KY), C.J. Lanerie, 118, D Miller
3. Takin the Sloroad (KY), T.L. Pompell, 118, G S Bush
4. Honorable Guest (ON), N. Arroyo, Jr., 122, M E Casse
5. J. J. Got Even (KY), R. Napravnik, 120, M J Maker
6. Star Contender (ON), M. Mena, 124, M E Casse
7. Stormin Monarcho (KY), S.B. Martinez, 118, J Berndt
8. Bet a Bundle (KY), A.T. Tamburello, 118, K Jarvis
9. Crop Report (KY), J. Rosario, 118, H G Motion
Blinkers On: Stormin Monarcho, Crop Report