KENTUCKY DERBY REPORT
KENTUCKY DERBY REPORT
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the Spiral Stakes in 2001 with Balto Star and in 2005 with Flower Alley when it was a Grade 2, will be looking for his third win in the now Grade 3 race when he sends out the uncoupled duo of Heavy Breathing and Holiday Promise on Saturday at Turfway Park.
WinStar Farm's undefeated Gemologist is headed to Aqueduct for next month's Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial, trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed by phone Wednesday morning.
Fair Grounds will partner with the Susan G. Komen Foundation to present a full afternoon of fun while raising funds for breast cancer research on Fair Grounds Oaks Day, March 31.
A schedule of 11 overnight stakes races worth an aggregate $725,000 for the 2012 meet was announced Wednesday by Arlington Park Director of Racing and Racing Secretary Chris Polzin.
A cheat sheet from Jason Shandler for the remaining Derby preps. read blog
Mark Valeski, runner-up in last month's Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes, made a case for favoritism in the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby on April 1, breezing an impressive five furlongs over the fast main track at Fair Grounds on Tuesday. He completed the move in :59 2/5 under regular rider Rosie Napravnik, the fastest of 11 works at the distance by a full second.
South Florida-based Alpha, easy winner of the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct on February 4, is now considered probable for the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby on April 1, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin confirmed Tuesday.
SANTA ANITA NOTEBOOK
A year ago, trainer Graham Motion sent a promising three-year-old with just a maiden victory to his credit to run in the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes. The rest is history.
For the third consecutive year, Churchill Downs and NBC have partnered to give one person the chance to place a life-changing $100,000 win bet in the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
Undefeated Grade 2 hero Gemologist will use the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7 as his final prep for the Kentucky Derby, owner WinStar Farm confirmed via Twitter on Monday.
Multiple Grade 1 hero Game on Dude and champion filly Royal Delta are among 14 horses projected to compete in the Group 1, $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 31, according to the list of probable competitors released Sunday by the Dubai Racing Club.
The field for Saturday's Grade 3 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park is expected to fill or nearly fill the gate as trainers solidify plans for their Kentucky Derby hopefuls. The race's $500,000 purse virtually assures the winner a spot in the Derby gate, as proved true for the 2011 Spiral Stakes and Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom.
Jockey Ramon Dominguez and apprentice rider Samuel Camacho Jr. were released Sunday evening from North Shore University Hospital where they were transported following a spill in this afternoon's 8TH race at Aqueduct.
Frank L. Jones Jr.'s homebred Tapitsfly, who had not won a stakes race since the 2009 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, remedied that statistic with a strong late rally in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 Honey Fox at Gulfstream Park. Typically up on or near the pace, the Dale Romans filly enjoyed being held up a little farther back by Julien Leparoux, and rolled past Bay to Bay and La Reine Lionne by a measured three-quarters of a length.
Reigning Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, fresh once more after the spoils of victory attained Saturday afternoon at Fair Grounds in the $150,000 New Orleans Ladies, was standing quietly in her stall early Sunday morning while trainer Larry Jones was still in town.
Nearly every runner in Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Rebel Stakes returned in good order according to their handlers Sunday morning, with the exception of Adirondack King, who developed colic late Sunday morning.
With a third straight Grade 2 Rebel Stakes victory sealed thanks to Secret Circle, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was eagerly looking forward to the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby next month at Oaklawn.
At Palm Meadows on Sunday, Grade 2 Risen Star winner El Padrino worked five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 on the fast track.
As of Sunday morning, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin appeared to be in a New York state of mind when thinking about the next starts for Godolphin stakes runners Alpha and It's Tricky.
Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf upsetter Perfect Shirl has been forced to withdraw from the Group 1, $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic, Canadian Hall of Fame trainer Roger Attfield announced.
On Sunday, reigning champion two-year-old male Hansen recorded his first move since taking the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes by three lengths on March 3.
"It looks like he will (keep going)," assistant trainer Jim Barnes said of Secret Circle, who was stepping up to 1 1/16 miles for the first time.
Cresran's homebred Tiz Miz Sue bided her time just behind the early leaders before making her move in the stretch, closing strongly on the far outside to win going away in Saturday's Grade 3, $147,000 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The five-year-old mare garnered her first graded stakes victory, scoring by three lengths under Joe Rocco Jr., and the Steve Hobby trainee completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:43 2/5 over the fast track.
Jay Em Ess Stable's Include Me Out was an easy winner of the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita on January 22 and continued that thread Saturday with a 3 3/4-length victory in the Grade 1, $294,000 Santa Margarita Invitational under jockey Joe Talamo. The Ron Ellis trainee was sent off the 6-5 second choice to Ellafitz's 4-5 favoritism, but was much the best in this one while finishing nine furlongs on the sloppy, sealed dirt in 1:47 3/5.
Fox Hill Farms' reigning Horse of the Year Havre de Grace made a winning return to competition on Saturday, easily outclassing four rivals to take the $150,000 New Orleans Ladies Stakes at Fair Grounds by 4 1/2 lengths. The Larry Jones trainee was sent off the prohibitive 1-9 favorite, and did not disappoint her backers, who may have decided to keep their tickets as souvenirs instead of cashing in for paltry across-the-board returns of $2.10.
After a troubled trip in her season debut in late January, reigning champion female sprinter Musical Romance was back in better form in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Inside Information at Gulfstream Park. Under a ground-saving ride by Juan Leyva, the five-year-old mare settled just off the leaders for the opening three-quarters, split rivals in the stretch, and drew clear to win by three parts of a length in a time of 1:21 4/5 for seven furlongs over a fast track. She returned $11.20, $6.40 and $4.60 as the 9-2 third choice.
Marilyn's Guy disposed of pacesetter San Pablo leaving the far turn, opening up a clear lead in midstretch, but nearly surrendered the advantage as that rival came again late in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Excelsior Stakes, desperately holding on by a neck over the inner track at Aqueduct. Ridden by Chuck Lopez for trainer Tony Dutrow, the six-year-old gelding was making his graded debut after notching his first listed stakes tally in his previous outing, the February 18 As Indicted Stakes.
Multiple Grade 1 winner Caleb's Posse powerfully returned to the Oaklawn workout sheet Saturday in his first drill since a close runner-up finish in this four-year-old debut in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap March 3 in New York.
Union Rags, the early favorite for Grade 1 Florida Derby, went to the track at Palm Meadows Saturday morning for an easy five-furlong workout in preparation for Gulfstream Park's signature race on March 31.
Castellano set the standard on the 72nd day of live racing. He shared the previous record of 97 with Jerry Bailey (1996 over 64 days), Wigberto Ramos (1991 over 81 days) and Julio Pezua (1987 over 50 days).
Grade 1 winner Giant Ryan had his final workout Saturday morning in preparation for the Group 1, $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen, covering a half-mile on the fast track at Calder in :47 3/5 in advance of his seasonal debut under the lights at Meydan Racecourse on March 31.
Kiaran McLaughlin reached a personal landmark Friday when Que Posse won the 8TH race at Aqueduct to give the trainer his 1,000th career North American victory.
As the connections of Alpha ponder their next step with their Kentucky Derby prospect, it is business as usual at Kiaran McLaughlin's barn at Palm Meadows Training Center.
Gemologist had not raced since November 26, when he captured the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. The Tiznow colt had recently posted a pair of bullet drills, however, and was sent off as the 3-5 favorite. Currency Swap, sidelined for more than six months since his victory in the Grade 1 Hopeful, rated as the 6-5 second choice.
John Forbes, president of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, was enthusiastic about participating in the TAKE2 program.
Eleven of the 13 contestants in Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Rebel Stakes are based locally at Oaklawn Park, but Southern California invaders Sabercat and Secret Circle are the top draws in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Derby prep race for three-year-olds.
The outcome of the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 10 did nothing to make trainer Patrick Byrne second guess the decision to skip it in favor of the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 31.
In response to its popularity among horsemen over the past three years, the Breeders' Cup board of directors has again approved an early foal nomination program deadline which allows for a $100 discount off the standard $500 nomination fee for all foals nominated electronically by August 1 to the Breeders' Cup program.
KENTUCKY DERBY REPORT
New Vocations will host "Thoroughbreds For All!" -- an evening of education and fellowship for people who favor off-the-track Thoroughbreds combined with an invitation for equestrians to shop in Kentucky for the Thoroughbred of their dreams -- on April 28 shortly following the Rolex cross country at 5 p.m. (EDT).
A total of 95 fillies have been entered for the Group 1, £350,000 Epsom Oaks, highlight of Ladies Day at the Derby Festival at Epsom Downs on June 1. The figure is two more than the 2011 entry and way ahead of the 2010 total of 77.
The 2012 Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meeting concluded on March 12 with a 35 percent increase in live handle and a 40 percent spike in daily average attendance.
Champion female sprinter Musical Romance experienced a troubled trip when opening 2012 in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint, grabbing a quarter and ripping off a shoe at the start, but the five-year-old will look to rebound when she lines up for Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Inside Information at Gulfstream Park. The Bill Kaplan-trained mare will square off against 10 rivals, including the top four finishers from the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie Stakes on February 29.
Late-blooming five-year-old Ellafitz will aim for a career high note as well as her fourth straight stakes victory Saturday when facing five challengers in Santa Anita's 75th running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes, the season's racing highlight for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles.
Only four other distaffers will line up against reigning Horse of the Year Havre de Grace on Saturday in Fair Grounds' $150,000 New Orleans Ladies going 1 1/16 miles. The Larry Jones trainee will break from post 2 with regular rider Ramon Dominguez in the saddle.
A nuclear scan has pinpointed the start of a stress fracture in Animal Kingdom's hind end that will not require surgery.
The perfect Kentucky Derby appetizer returns May 3 as Churchill Downs stages its third annual Taste of Derby -- a celebration of cuisine and racing on the eve of the Kentucky Oaks. Taste of Derby attendees will mingle with horse racing and Hollywood celebrities and savor exquisite cuisine and delectable wines from racing destinations across the country as nationally-renowned chefs serve samples of their regional specialties.