With a stable full of Kentucky Derby contenders, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is juggling talented three-year-olds every weekend, but he's counting on the strong performances by Secret Circle and Castaway in their split divisions of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes to help him decide to whether to send them both back for the Grade 2, $500,000 Rebel at Oaklawn Park March 17.
The Jockey Club Foundation, a charitable trust that assists needy individuals throughout the Thoroughbred racing industry, has been renamed The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation, effective immediately.
Live racing will return to Monmouth Park on May 12, it was announced Thursday by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (NJTHA). With a lease from the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority (NJSEA) to the NJTHA expected in early May, the latter will take the operational helm at the historic racetrack for this year's 67th season of racing.
The good fortune continues at Oaklawn with racing and Instant Racing/gaming both seeing double-digit increases in February and as a result, the Hot Springs, Arkansas, track is announcing the third purse increase of the meet effective with Friday's nine-race card. In addition, the purses for the four remaining Arkansas-bred stakes -- the Rainbow, the Rainbow Miss and both divisions of the Arkansas Breeders' -- will be increased from $50,000 to $60,000.
Superstar Zenyatta produced her first foal, a bay colt by Bernardini, Thursday evening at Lane's End Farm near Versailles, Kentucky. Owners Jerry and Ann Moss were on hand to witness the foaling at approximately 10:10 p.m. (EST).
The Saratoga Springs community will celebrate its legendary relationship with Thoroughbreds at the inaugural Steeplechase Festival at Saratoga, a day of racing and spirited activities set for September 15. Proceeds from the first annual Steeplechase Festival at Saratoga will benefit both local and equine charities.
A strong mix of accomplished stars headed by major stakes performers Grace Hall and On Fire Baby and exciting newcomers led by the Bob Baffert-trained trio of Eden's Moon, Princess Arabella and Mamma Kimbo comprise the list of 94 three-year-old fillies nominated to compete in the 138th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Kentucky Oaks on May 4 at Churchill Downs.
On Fire Baby will return to the distaff ranks on Saturday when she faces seven rivals in Oaklawn Park's Grade 3, $125,000 Honeybee Stakes going 1 1/16 miles. The dual Grade 2 heroine, who is nominated to both the Triple Crown races and Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, could use the race as a springboard to either the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby against the boys or stay with the fillies in the Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes.
It Happened Again will need to elevate his game if he wants to defend the crown he won last year in the Grade 3, $125,000 Razorback Handicap, but the gelding's new trainer, Chris Richard, thinks he is positioned to pull it off.
Last season's Group 1 Racing Post Trophy winner Camelot heads the 143 three-year-olds going forward for this year's Group Epsom Derby following the first scratchings deadline, details of which were revealed Thursday.
Churchill Downs Racetrack will be aglow in pink again for the 138th running of the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks -- America's premier race for three-year-old fillies on May 4 and annual celebration of food, fashion and fun -- as the springtime event welcomes a new beneficiary in Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) to raise vital funds and awareness for cancer research.
Carmel Heitzmann, once a flight attendant for Emirates Airlines but in more recent times the stable foreman for her trainer-husband Eric Heitzmann at Fair Grounds, successfully completed a journey on foot around the Crescent City last Sunday by finishing the New Orleans Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in four hours and 32 minutes.
Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap lost an expected top contender when Grade 1 winner Boys at Tosconova was not entered, but the one-turn mile event still features a dynamite field of six that includes Jackson Bend and Mucho Macho Man.
A field of 10 sophomores has been entered to go 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 2, $300,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday, and trainer Bob Baffert holds a powerful hand in the form of Liaison and Bodemeister.
Ever So Lucky and Motor City established themselves as three-year-olds to watch at Churchill Downs last fall and both will launch their highly-anticipated sophomore campaigns Saturday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park. A total of 10 runners are entered, but the seven-furlong test will be lacking Thunder Moccasin, a good-looking winner of the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes on February 11.
KENTUCKY DERBY REPORT
A clear second to subsequent Grade 2 Risen Star winner El Padrino in a January 29 allowance at Gulfstream Park, Take Charge Indy could also make a successful jump into the winner's circle against graded company when he takes on 11 rivals in Saturday's Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby.
Entries were unveiled Wednesday for the opening two classics of the 2012 European flat season, the Group 1 Two Thousand Guineas and Group 1 One Thousand Guineas, both of which take place on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket during the first weekend in May.
Eclipse champion and Kentucky Derby contender Hansen will school in the paddock at Turfway Park on Friday evening between the 6TH and 7TH races, according to the colt's breeder and majority owner, Dr. Kendall Hansen.
SANTA ANITA NOTEBOOK
Churchill Downs Racetrack has looked within its organization to fill a pair of key positions on its team by naming Ryan Jordan to the post of General Manager and promoting Greg Bush to Vice President, Operations at the historic home of the Kentucky Derby.
Twelve days in advance of her 2012 debut in the $150,000 New Orleans Ladies on March 17, reigning Horse of the Year Havre de Grace worked six furlongs in company with stablemate Joyful Victory in 1:11 2/5, breezing, at Fair Grounds on Monday morning.
Grade 3 Sham Stakes hero Out of Bounds, who fired a bullet work at Hollywood Park on Monday, exited the impressive move with an injury that has knocked him off the Triple Crown trail, Daily Racing Form reports.
The 2011 juvenile champion emerged from Aqueduct Racetrack's 1 1/16-mile Gotham in good order, said trainer Michael Maker's assistant, Nelson Donis.
Soldat continued the recent trend of 2011 Kentucky Derby runners making a big impression in their four-year-old debuts. Derby hero Animal Kingdom captured a similar Gulfstream turf test on February 19; Derby runner-up Nehro crushed an optional claimer at Fair Grounds February 25; Derby third Mucho Macho Man beat subsequent Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap winner Ron the Greek in the January 28 Florida Sunshine Millions Classic; and Pants on Fire just romped in an optional claimer at Gulfstream on Saturday.
Martha Washington Stakes winner Amie's Dini showed she's ready for a showdown in the Grade 3, $125,000 Honeybee Stakes with fellow top filly On Fire Baby with a quick half-mile breeze Sunday at Oaklawn Park.
With jockey Mario Gutierrez in the irons, I'll Have Another was on the muscle while ambling and jogging alongside Lava Man. The popular 11-year-old gelding, a two-time winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap in his glory days, escorted his young companion until the time came for him to break away for his work.
Unlike the Arcadia, where Willyconker rallied too late, the Irish-bred gelding enjoyed a better tactical position for new rider Joel Rosario. Jimmy Simms carved out splits of :23, :46 4/5 and 1:10 3/5, with Compari in close attendance, and Willyconker well placed in third. Jeranimo was anchored in midpack, but Mr. Commons was unhurried near the tail of the field.
Wachtel Stable, Brous Stable and breeder Jack T. Hammer's Ron the Greek bided his time as 2-1 favorite Ultimate Eagle set suicidal fractions on the front end of Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap before putting in a furious rally down the center of the track to take the prestigious event by 3 1/2 lengths.
Eden's Moon was an easy winner of Saturday's $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita Park, but the talented bay miss had to survive an objection lodged by runner-up Reneesgotzip's trainer before she could give owner Kaleem Shah his first Grade 1 victory.
A smart ride and grit at the wire made Team Valor International's State of Play best by a head in Saturday's $75,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park. The Graham Motion trainee ran 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack in 1:46 2/5 to return to the winner's circle under jockey Victor Lebron.
Doubles Partner had not raced since his third-place finish in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day. The Grade 2 veteran was dispatched as the 7-2 third choice, with Juddmonte's French Group 1 winner Mutual Trust garnering second choice status at 3-1.
Any suggestion that Hansen was a mere a one-dimensional speedball proved unfounded in Saturday's Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham at Aqueduct, as last year's juvenile colt champion overcame an outside post, a wide journey into the clubhouse turn, and having a little dirt kicked in his face for the first time to register an emphatic three-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile inner dirt event.
Despite possessing a perfect four-for-four mark over Aqueduct's inner dirt leading into Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap, Mike Repole's Calibrachoa was let go at a nifty 7-2 going up against the likes of multiple Grade 1 winner Caleb's Posse and the imposing stakes newbie Emcee. Calibrachoa's loyal backers were rewarded when the five-year-old earned his second consecutive Tom Fool triumph, gutting out a neck victory over a fast-charging Caleb's Posse in the six-furlong contest over a tiring surface labeled good.
George and Lori Hall's Pants on Fire, who bled when ninth in the Kentucky Derby, was last seen finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational on July 31. The Kelly Breen charge had been entered, and scratched, from a couple of other potential reappearances, most recently in the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds last Saturday. Despite the fact that the speedy colt figured to get the jump on the deep-closing Dialed In, Pants on Fire was sent off as the 5-2 second choice.
It's Tricky broke a three-race streak of seconds on Saturday when making her return in the Grade 2, $196,000 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct. The Godolphin colorbearer had to work over the tiring track to get the 2 3/4-length victory in her first race since running second in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic last November, but gutted out the win under jockey Ramon Dominguez as the near 2-5 favorite.
Grade 3 Southwest Stakes runner-up Scatman, preparing for the Grade 2, $500,000 Rebel Stakes on March 17, breezed five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 over the fast track at Oaklawn Park Saturday. Michael Lauer instructed jockey Luis Quinonez to work the colt between 1:01 and 1:02, and the veteran rider executed it perfectly.
The 73rd running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup and the Grade 1 American Oaks, which was increased from $250,000 to $400,000, headline a stakes schedule worth more than $6.8 million for the 2012 Spring/Summer meet at Hollywood Park.
Five newcomers and five returning finalists comprise the National Museum of Racing's 2012 Hall of Fame ballot. The first-time finalists are trainer Roger Attfield and Thoroughbreds Ashado, Ghostzapper, Housebuster, and Xtra Heat. They join jockeys Calvin Borel, Garrett Gomez, Alex Solis, and John Velazquez, and trainer Robert Wheeler, all of whom were finalists in 2011.
The New York Racing Association (NYRA) has announced a $100,000 bonus for any two-year-old who breaks its maiden at the 2012 Belmont Park spring meet and goes on to win a graded stakes at Saratoga Race Course, Belmont or Aqueduct Racetrack in 2012.
KENTUCKY DERBY REPORT