Trainer Tom Albertrani has been down this road before.
In 2006, Albertrani won the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) with Deputy Glitters. He repeated the feat this spring with Padua Stables’ Odysseus, who will break from post 1 under Rajiv Maragh in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) April 10. Odysseus is listed as the 7-2 second choice on the morning line.
“It is hard to compare horses. You have to look at the whole crop,” Albertrani said April 9 after Odysseus completed his morning exercise of jogging a mile and galloping a little more than a mile. “Does he belong with this group? Definitely. You just hope he peaks at the right time.”
Odysseus came to Albertrani’s barn at Saratoga last summer.
“He came in with a good reputation and he looked the part,” Albertrani said. “It took awhile for him to come around and show his ability. His first couple of breezes didn’t really get my attention, but then he started putting it together. His first race when he ran second was very creditable.”
That was the end of October, but then Odysseus hit a bump in the road.
“A lot of my horses got temperatures in November and December,” Albertrani said. “I’m not talking about just two or three, but 40. I never had had anything like that. It set him (Odysseus) back about a month.
“He was in Florida in November and we were aiming for the opening week of the Gulfstream Park meet. He did get to run the second week of the meet, but we have been playing some catch up. He has run about every four weeks and done a lot of racing.”
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Blue Grass starter Pleasant Prince had a strong gallop April 9 under exercise rider Brian Pena.
“That’s what you want to see a day before a big race,” trainer Wesley Ward said of Pleasant Prince, the 3-1 morning line favorite who will break from post 6 under Julien Leparoux.
Ward, 42, has had four runners compete in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships but never had a starter in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
“Everyone in horse racing has the ultimate goal to go to the Kentucky Derby,” Ward said. “Now I stand one race away. If you get in the gate, you have a one in 20 chance of winning, but at least you have that chance.”
The Ramseys have had one Kentucky Derby starter, Ten Cents A Shine, who ran eighth behind Funny Cide in the 2003 Run for the Roses after finishing eighth in that year’s Blue Grass Stakes.
“(The late Racing Hall of Fame trainer) Bobby Frankel recommended to Mr. Ramsey that he give me a shot,” Ward said, “and the first conversation I had with him he told me that he was a Kentuckian and his ultimate goal is to get to the Kentucky Derby.”
Donegal Racing’s Blue Grass starter, Paddy O'Prado, had a schooling session at the starting gate April 9 and then galloped a mile under Mary Doser.
Doser said the Dale Romans trainee would have a paddock schooling session during the afternoon race card. He will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux, who has won two of the four stakes run during the meet, both of them Grade Is.
Arriving from California April 8, trainer Alexis Barba was at Keeneland this morning to watch Make Music for Me continue his preparations for the Blue Grass. The Bernstein colt, with Andy Durnin aboard, headed to the track in the morning accompanied by Brian Ange, assistant to trainer Eoin Harty, on a pony. The pair walked through the paddock on the way to the main track, where Make Music for Me galloped 1 1/2 miles.
Make Music for Me enters the Blue Grass off his lone victory, which came in the Pasadena Stakes over the Santa Anita turf course March 6 in his 2010 debut. Last year, he faced eventual champion Lookin At Lucky three times. He ran second to that rival in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) and Best Pal Stakes (gr. II), and third to him in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I). Make Music for Me left California last October for the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland, finishing fourth.
“He ran OK in that race,” Barba said about Make Music for Me’s performance in the Keeneland race. “He got in a little bit of trouble. We’ll see what he does now. We’ve got blinkers on this time, and he’s a little fresher.”
“I think it’s a very competitive field. I think it’s anybody’s race.”