Cowboy Cal, who has not started since finishing 9th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), makes his return to the racetrack Oct. 12 when he faces a full field of 3-year-olds in the $150,000 Bryan Station Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the Keeneland turf.
Owned and bred by Stonerside Stable, Cowboy Cal should feel comfortable returning to the turf, where he won three of four starts before making a failed run at the Derby. The son of Giant's Causeway has been working steadily at Saratoga for trainer Todd Pletcher and will cut back to a mile in the Bryan Station, the first time he will try that distance since breaking his maiden last September.
Cowboy Cal enjoyed his only trip to Keeneland in April when he finished just a neck back of stablemate Monba in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) on the Polytrack. In the Derby, Cowboy Cal was in contention for a mile but tired badly under John Velazquez.
"He was a pretty tired horse after the Derby. He lost a lot of weight," Pletcher said from his Belmont barn Oct. 12. "We gave him some time off at Stonerside and he's looking better now.
"He's a horse who has run well on turf and synthetics, and trained well on dirt. We though this was a logical place to start him back. The distance won't hurt him either."
Cowboy Cal’s lone graded stakes victory came in the Tropical Park Derby (gr. IIIT) Jan. 1 at Calder. Velazquez, Pletcher’s first-call rider who was injured in a bad spill at Keeneland Oct. 3, is scheduled to ride Cowboy Cal in the Bryan Station in his first day back in action.
Pletcher will also saddle James Scatuorchio’s Ready’s Image, who was also a Triple Crown prospect as a 2-year-old when he won the Sanford (gr. II) and ran second in the Hopeful (gr. I). After knee surgery kept the son of More Than Ready sidelined for over seven months, he returned with a victory in his 3-year-old debut in the May 14 Adjudicating Stakes at Belmont. Since then, Ready’s Image was well-beaten in both the Woody Stephens (gr. II) and Dwyer (gr. II) this summer.
Nistle’s Crunch, yet another colt who briefly made a stab at the Run for the Roses, should enjoy a trip back to Lexington. The Ken McPeek trainee has won two of three starts at Keeneland, including a 1 1/2-length score in allowance company April 16 on the turf. The son of Van Nistelrooyis winless in four starts since then. He finished fifth to Big Brown in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) and most recently, was third in the Saranac (gr. IIIT) Aug. 31 on the Saratoga grass.
Nistle’s Crunch, who was seventh in the Florida Derby (gr. I), is a New Jersey homebred of Alien Farm. Robby Albarado, sitting atop the Keeneland jockey standings thus far, will get the mount.
Another contender to keep an eye on is Namcook Stables’ Big Stick, who ran for a $45,000 tag June 27 at Belmont. The Grand Slam gelding has reeled off three consecutive victories since that day and will now try graded stakes company for the first time. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee finished eighth in his only start at Keeneland in April. Alan Garcia will be aboard.
$150,000 Bryan Station Stakes (gr. IIIT, Race 8, 4:40 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 Mile (Turf)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Ready's Image (MD), 119, Rene R. Douglas
2. St. Joe (FL), 117, Miguel Mena
3. Nistle's Crunch (NJ), 117, Robby Albarado
4. Cowboy Cal (KY), 123, John R. Velazquez
5. Deal Making (PA), 117, Ramon A. Dominguez
6. Seaspeak (KY), 117, Kent J. Desormeaux
7. Big Stick (KY), 117, Alan Garcia
8. Stormy Ballad (FL), 117, Junior Alvarado
9. Veiled Prophet (KY), 117, Jesus Lopez Castanon
10. Mr Maccool (KY), 117, Julien R. Leparoux
11. Coronel Moldes (FL), 117, Calvin H. Borel
12. Montana Mike (KY),117, Jamie Theriot