When Charitable Man goes to post in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) on April 11, it will be his first race in nearly seven months. In his more than 20 years of training, Kiaran McLaughlin cannot remember a time when he entered a horse in a tougher spot.
“It’s a very, very tough task to ask a horse to win a grade I off a seven-month layoff, especially a 3-year-old,” said McLaughlin. “The closest thing I can think of is when we put Invasor in the Breeders’ Cup (Classic, in 2006) off a 90 or 100 day layoff. That was asking a lot, but he was more accomplished. And, he won.
“Ideally, we would have found a seven-furlong, non-winners of two for (Charitable Man), but this is what we were left with. We could have run him on April 4, but (the Keeneland Polytrack) is a kind surface. We felt like this was a good spot.
“But the main thing is, we wouldn’t have put him in here if we didn’t think he was a very special horse.”
McLaughlin’s high praise of Charitable Man, who is owned by Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr., is based on what he saw as a 2-year-old. The son of Lemon Drop Kid --Charitabledonation, by Saint Ballado was undefeated in two starts – both of them in impressive fashion. A $200,000 yearling, Charitable Man broke his maiden in August at Saratoga by 11 1/2 lengths going 6 1/2 furlongs and one month later he came from off the pace to take the $250,000 Futurity Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park by a length.
Those victories should have set Charitable Man up to be one of the early Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands (gr. I) favorites when 2009 began, but two weeks after the Futurity, McLaughlin discovered the colt had a saucer fracture in his shin. The injury required surgery and a screw was inserted in his leg.
“The screw came out on Dec. 1 and we sent him to Ocala,” McLaughlin said. “We put him the water in an Aqua-ciser and it seemed to really help. When he got on the track at the end of January, Ian Brennan worked with him and did a great job. Surprisingly, he was quite fit when he came back and he started training right away. He didn’t show any signs of being tired.”
During the past month, Charitable Man’s works at Palm Meadows have been exceptional, which prompted McLaughlin to start thinking about the Kentucky Derby once again. With $150,000 in graded earnings, the dark bay colt is already on the fringes of having enough money to gain a berth in the first leg of the Triple Crown, and even a fourth-place finish in the Blue Grass would get him in.
“He’s training very well and has trained well on the synthetic at OBS,” McLaughlin said. “But it seems like they all train well over it. We won’t know until the race. I expect him to be forwardly-placed (Alan Garcia will ride) and lay just off of Join in the Dance, who looks like the speed.
“If he runs well, we’ll go to the Derby. If not, we’ll find another plan. But we’re not just running in this race just so we can have a horse in the Derby. We’re using this as a real prep race. He’s a top horse.”
Charitable Man was bred in Virginia by Edward Evans, who is also the owner-breeder of top Derby contender Quality Road – winner of the Florida Derby (gr. I) last month. Charitable Man is the 4-1 third choice on the morning-line.