A to the Croft

A to the Croft

Anne M. Eberhardt

Daily Oaks Notes: April 30

Country Star scheduled to arrive today; A to the Croft and Proud Spell gallop.

(from Churchill Downs)

A TO THE CROFT – After the renovation break, Koolmen Racing Stable’s A to the Croft galloped about 1 ½ miles with Jose Castanon aboard. Trainer Ken McPeek watched the filly as she came off the track and said to Castanon, “She looked great.”

McPeek is happy with A to the Croft’s post position nine in the Oaks. “I think there’s a couple of horses with speed in there,” McPeek said. “I think with Little Belle, they’re probably going to pay a little more attention to her because she stole that last race (Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.) So if she goes out front, I think somebody will go after her because they respect her more.”

That scenario might work out well for A to the Croft, who will be ridden by Calvin Borel and is 20-1 in the morning line. “We need a little pace in the race,” McPeek said. “She does better when she’s got something to run at.”

ABSOLUTELY CINDY – There must be an absolutely good reason for Jeremy Roetting to drive to Louisville from Cincinnati to gallop one horse in the morning. The reason is Absolutely Cindy.

“An opportunity like this doesn’t come around often,” said Roetting, who partnered Absolutely Cindy for a mile and one-eighth gallop after the renovation break Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs. “She is the whole reason I come out to the track in the morning.”

Owned by trainer and breeder Keith Kinmon, Absolutely Cindy has had Roetting as a morning companion now for a year.

“I started getting on her the spring of her two-year-old year,” said Roetting, who liked the Arch filly right off the bat. “She always goes so nice and covers so much ground. I just liked the way she traveled and hit the ground. You could always tell you had a little more horse.”

Absolutely Cindy will break from post position two in the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks on Friday under Julien Leparoux.

“I would have preferred six, seven or eight, but two is good because she will be able to save some ground and get comfortable going into the first turn,” Kinmon said.

Jockey Brian Hernandez had worked Absolutely Cindy on Sunday and Kinmon said at the time Hernandez most likely would ride.

“Julien rode her at the Fair Grounds and at this level, I just wanted to have a little more experience,” Kinmon said.

Absolutely Cindy ran sixth in the Silverbulletday (GIII) under Leparoux in her only start on a conventional dirt track such as Churchill Downs.

“We were both concerned about the pace that day, so it’s not all on Julien,” Kinmon said. “He laid close that day and he won’t do that again.”

AWESOME CHIC – Aurora Springs Stable’s filly Awesome Chic drew post position number three in the Kentucky Oaks and she will be ridden by jockey Robby Albarado for the first time.  The morning line maker installed her as a 20-to-1 long shot, but owner Jose Acero sees that as a way for her backers to make more money.

“She drew a good post…I feel like all the planets are aligning,” he said.  “She breaks first, all alone.  She has the speed, but there’s no reason to use her in the beginning.  She’ll drop back and lay off the pace.”

Trainer Rafael Ramos said, “In the stretch, you can count on her.”

Awesome Chic galloped 1 ½ miles Wednesday morning.  She will school in the paddock Wednesday afternoon.

The Florida-bred daughter of Awesome Again  was purchased for $100,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale of two-year-olds in April 2007.

“She has the best pedigree to win the race,” said Acero.  “I have my formula for picking good horses.  It’s like making a soup: three cups pedigree, five cups conformation, seven cups character and ability, and 20 cups of good luck.

“We chose this filly for her pedigree.  Rafael also suggested that her action in the tack show was good,” he explained.

In addition to racing Thoroughbreds, Acero also keeps mustangs in his native Dominican Republic. 

BSHARPSONATA – Cloverleaf Farm’s Bsharpsonata galloped two miles before the renovation break with Scott Miller aboard.

Bsharpsonata will break from post position 10 in the Oaks under Eric Camacho.

“It doesn’t bother me,” John Salzman said of the post. “It’s a mile and eighth race and there is plenty of run to the first turn. As long as she gets away from there in good order, we’ll be fine.

Salzman’s son Tim is the trainer of record for the filly and he is due in from Maryland later Wednesday.

COUNTRY STAR – Stonerside Stable’s Country Star, a double Grade I winner and a likely 3-1 second choice in the betting for the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, finished the Keeneland phase of her conditioning for the $500,000 headliner Wednesday morning when she took a once-around tour of the mile and one-sixteenth Polytrack oval on a cool, but bright, Kentucky morning.

Trainer Robert Frankel reported that all was well with his Empire Maker  filly and that he would be shipping her the 70 miles from Lexington to Louisville later Wednesday in anticipation of the Friday feature.

The Hall of Fame conditioner, who already has won two editions of the Oaks (Flute in 2001 and Keeper Hill in 1998), was asked if he was happy with the way his dark filly was coming up to the nine-furlong race. “Yes,” was his reply.

Country Star drew post position No. 6 in what is likely to be an 11-horse field and will have rider Rafael Bejarano aboard.

GOLDEN DOC A – The chestnut filly Golden Doc A stretched her legs a mile and a half worth under exercise rider Stephen O’Callaghan again Wednesday morning, just as she has all week leading up to her start in Friday’s $500,000 Kentucky Oaks. She accomplished the exercise with the same vim and vigor she’s showed throughout her stay in Kentucky; in fact, throughout her already extensive career.

The California-bred daughter of Unusual Heat already has a dozen starts on her ledger and she’ll have the saddle services of red-hot Kent Desormeaux in the Grade I Oaks as they break from the rail in what is almost assuredly going to be an 11-horse field.

Golden Doc A is owned by Kentuckian Ron McCauley, who purchased her from the primary connections who bred, raised, owned and raced her prior to her last two starts – the brothers Barry and David Abrams. Barry is still on board as the filly’s trainer and David will always be listed as her breeder and the pair were trackside to watch their pride and joy go about her business at 8:30 Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs following the track’s daily renovation break.

Barry Abrams, who sees life as especially sweet these days following a victory on his part in a battle with throat cancer, admitted that he’s over-the-top excited about running his filly in the Grade I Oaks.

“I started in this business on the harness side and the most excited I’ve ever been about a race before came back in 1984,” he noted. “I ran a harness horse named Guts as the 3-5 favorite in the first Meadowlands Pace for a pot of about $1.3 million. I was pumped. My horse came running from dead last and got beat a nose, but still it was an amazing event.

“But coming up to this race with Golden Doc A it is much more exciting. We’re going to be running Friday in front of a huge crowd and all the buzz and media attention around the race makes it very special. Then there’s the fact that in so many ways this is ‘our’ filly. We bred her, we raised her, we raced her, we own her dam, her brothers and sisters, and we’re in on the stallion, too. This could be a very big thing for California racing, which, of course, is special to us. And it could beyond California, well beyond. That would be especially nice for her sire, who is worthy of being a national stallion, not just a California one.”

Unusual Heat, a son of Nureyev, is currently California’s leading sire.

ELUSIVE LADY –  At Belmont Park, Gold Mark Farm’s Elusive Lady galloped 1 ¼ miles with George Muniz aboard. At 2 p.m., the Van Nistelrooy filly is scheduled to board a plane for Louisville.

Elusive Lady drew post four for the Oaks. “I think it’s OK,” trainer John Kimmel said. “I’m a little worried about the weather because I don’t think she’ll like an off-track.”

Kimmel said his assistant Patrice Belette will be at Churchill Downs with Elusive Lady, and he will arrive on Friday. Eibar Coa, who rode Elusive Lady to win the Tempted Stakes (GII) at Aqueduct last October, will be aboard the filly in the Oaks. She is 30-1 in the morning line.

– At Keeneland, Darley Stable’s Ashland Stakes (GI) winner Little Belle had a “nice little gallop,” said assistant Neal McLaughlin, “and we’ll do the same tomorrow.” With exercise rider Marsha Barrs aboard, the A.P. Indy filly covered 1 ¼ miles over the Polytrack.

When asked about the drawing post seven in the field of 12 for the Oaks, McLaughlin said, “I love it” for the front-running filly who controlled the pace in the Ashland and outbattled Bsharpsonota for a neck victory. McLaughlin then added with a laugh, “I hope Eight Belles draws well in the Derby so she runs there.”

On Thursday at 1 p.m., Little Belle is scheduled to leave Keeneland for Churchill Downs. Rajiv Maragh will ride Little Belle in the Oaks, and a win will mark the filly’s fourth consecutive victory and third consecutive stakes win. She is 8-1 in the morning line.

PROUD SPELL –  Brereton Jones’ homebred filly Proud Spell galloped 1 ½ miles under trainer Larry Jones on Wednesday after the renovation break.  While Proud Spell goes in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, Jones will saddle her stablemate Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

Jones offered a comparison of the two: “They are on opposite ends of the spectrum.  Proud Spell is very stocky, with more of a sprinter type body, but she can stretch out.

“Eight Belles is very big and was slower in coming around.  She had issues in changing leads and was cross-firing, but she has grown into her body.”

With Eight Belles expected to withdraw from the Oaks and run in the Derby, Proud Spell becomes the likely favorite. She is second choice on the morning line behind Eight Belles at 7-2.

“We’ve been fortunate to have run against others in this race already,” said Jones.  “And I think you can draw a line through her last race on Poly (third place finish in Ashland Stakes at Keeneland behind Oaks contenders Little Belle and Bsharpsonata).

“We ran second twice last year to the Eclipse Award winner, and turned around to be the only one to beat her (Indian Blessing).”

PURE CLAN – IEAH Stable, Lewis Lakin and Pegasus Holding Group Stable’s Pure Clan galloped a mile and a half after the renovation break under regular morning partner Steve Schmelzel.

The morning exercise received a thumb’s up from trainer Bob Holthus, whose filly will break from post position 11 under Hall of Famer Edgar Prado.

“We’ve got what we’ve got and I don’t think they are gonna change it,” Holthus said of the post draw. “Edgar is going to have to figure a way to save some ground somewhere.

“If you are four or five wide the whole way, you are not going to win unless you have a $100,000 horses running against $20,000 horses.”

RASIERRA – Lloyd DeBruycker’s Rasierra jogged to the starting gate for a schooling session and then galloped a mile under Claudio Solis before the renovation break Wednesday morning.

Rasierra will break from post position five under Jamie Theriot and race with blinkers off for the first time in five races.

“She has been working so well without them that we are going to leave them off,” said Cody Autrey, who has been handling the filly’s training at Churchill Downs for trainer Ray Tracy Jr., who is expected to arrive in Louisville Wednesday afternoon.

“Ray put them on her early last year to get her more focused, but I don’t think she needs them now. I think she is going to run a huge race. It is a big step up and it is just a question of if she is fast enough.”

Rasierra, who was supplemented into the Oaks at a cost of $25,000, has a record of 7-1-4-1 with all four second-place finishes coming in blinkers. Theriot was aboard for two of those races, the Arlington-Washington Lassie (GIII) that closed out 2007 for Rasierra, and the 2008 debut in an allowance sprint at Fair Grounds.