Several of the connections of this year's Derby horses have more than one shot of winning the big prize.
The countdown to the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) is on and the connections of the 14 fillies expected in the starting gate are eager to race for the lilies on the First Friday in May at Churchill Downs.
Although trainer Doug O'Neill has played a significant role in some of racing's biggest days, on May 5 he will experience saddling a Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) contender for the first time. After the defection of his trainee Cobalt Blue, O'Neill will be saddling two horses in the Derby, Great Hunter and Liquidity
The $1-million Yum! Brands bonus that will be offered to this year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) victor if he posts a margin larger than Barbaro's 6 1/2-length triumph in 2006 received cautious responses from Derby-bound trainers Tuesday morning on the backstretch at Churchill Downs.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas holds court for an assembling of media in front of his spotless barn. He's the only trainer without a Derby horse who can still provoke a good half-hour worth of questioning.
Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) contender High Again breezed a strong half-mile in :47 4/5 at Churchill Downs Monday for trainer Bill Mott. Jockey Larry Melancon deputized for Cornelio Velasquez in the saddle.
To aid in unscientific handicapping (and for the entertainment of trivia aficionados), here are the stories behind the titles of this year's contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Doug O'Neill ruled the Derby roost Friday morning, sending out seven workers at Keeneland, including his three starters for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). When it was over, O'Neill and exercise rider Tony Romero were all smiles.
Great Hunter, Liquidity, and Cobalt Blue all worked sharply at Keeneland Friday in their last major preps for the May 5 Run for the Roses.
Liquidity and Cobalt Blue, two Doug O'Neill horses that are being pointed toward the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), breezed Friday over the Polytrack surface at Keeneland.
Florida Derby (gr. I) runner-up Notional suffered non-displaced condylar fracture of his left ankle Saturday morning at Keeneland and will not run in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), owner J. Paul Reddam said.
Last year's champion sprinter Thor's Echo will be returning to Southern California and trainer Doug O'Neill's care, the conditioner's brother, Dennis, said Wednesday.
Lava Man is scheduled to return to his Hollywood Park base Wednesday night after his trip to Dubai, and trainer Doug O'Neill said it's "reasonable to say" the gelding won't be leaving his home state again.
Octave and Mistical Plan are set for a rematch in the $500,000 Ashland Stakes (gr. I) April 7, going 1 1/16 miles over the Polytrack surface at Keeneland Race Course. In addition to Octave and Mistical Plan, seven other fillies, including High Again and Christmas Kid, are expected in the starting gate.
Garrett Gomez may be best known internationally for his association with Discreet Cat but was in the winner's enclosure after the $1 million Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) which he won impressively on the Doug O'Neill trained Spring At Last.
There's a palpable feeling of optimism around the connections of Lava Man who have observed his initial gallops and overall demeanor since he arrived in Dubai last week for the US$5 million Dubai Duty Free on March 31.
Whatsthescript, an Irish import making his first start for Santa Anita's leading trainer Doug O'Neill, was a dominant winner of Friday's $81,400 Pasadena Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile on turf.
J. Paul Reddam's Mistical Plan emerged from a strong pace battle with the lead and was never headed while leaving the field behind in the stretch run of the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) for 3-year-old fillies Saturday.
With several major prep races for the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) rapidly approaching this weekend, three prominent trainers discussed Tuesday how their contenders are progressing toward their next start and the first Saturday in May.
Merv Griffin's Cobalt Blue may have raced himself back onto the Triple Crown trail Wednesday with an eye-catching victory in a $53,000 allowance event while returning from five months on the sidelines at Santa Anita.
Paul Reddam's Liquidity, who nearly pulled off a 15-1 upset in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) Dec. 16, takes on a strong group of up-and-coming 3-year-olds in Saturday's $100,000 Sham (gr. III) at Santa Anita.
Lava Man, who was on the verge of Horse of the Year honors last year, kicked off his 2007 campaign with a sparkling two-length win in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino Turf Saturday at Santa Anita.
J. Paul Reddam's favored Mistical Plan, in spite of lugging in through the lane, got the nod by a nose over outsider Tiz Elemental to win the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Oaks at Santa Anita Saturday.
Hold on to your hats. The Todd Pletcher and Doug O'Neill express trains are about to start rolling toward Louisville and should reach breakneck speed by early to mid-February. With Pletcher expanding to California this winter, and both trainers expected to make stops in New Orleans, we can expect some early collisions on the Derby trail.
Notional, sent off at odds of 3-5, proved a punctual four-length winner of Saturday's $150,000 San Rafael (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at one mile at Santa Anita Park.
Sheikh Rashid, who campaigned dual grade I winner Henny Hughes last year and has said he hopes to become the world's leading owner, has completed extended negotiations to purchase potential champion sprinter Thor's Echo.
Ron Crockett's homebred Harvard Avenue finished with a flurry under a perfectly timed move by jockey Garrett Gomez to nose Areyoutalkintome at the wire and give trainer Doug O'Neill the first two finishers of the $110,900 El Conejo Handicap (gr. III) on New Year's Day at Santa Anita Park.
The multifaceted Lava Man, a grade I winner on dirt and turf, could remain on turf after his next start in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf at Santa Anita on Jan. 27.
Thor's Echo, who became just the second California-bred to win a Breeders' Cup race when he captured the 2006 TVG Sprint (gr. I) Saturday at Churchill Downs, is to remain in the East in quest of an Eclipse Award.
Thor's Echo rolled to the lead reaching the stretch and shook loose for a four-length upset in the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Churchill Downs Saturday.
Two days before the Breeders' Cup World Championships, Doug O'Neill, trainer of Lava Man, Sharp Lisa, and Great Hunter; and Tom Albertrani, trainer of Bernardini and Balletto, discussed the chances of their stars leading up to their respective races.
Lava Man, a leading contender for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I), and Great Hunter, winner of Keeneland's Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) and a major contender for the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I), led the Doug O'Neill contingent that arrived at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
After shipping into Kentucky Oct. 10, the California-based Lava Man is adjusting well to his new surroundings at Keeneland Race Course as he preps for the $5- million Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) at Churchill Downs Nov. 4. According to trainer Doug O'Neill, the 5-year-old gelding settled in without a problem and is galloping daily over Keeneland's new Polytrack synthetic surface.
Breeders' Cup officials have confirmed that Lava Man, the 5-year-old gelding who is the top contender for the $5-million Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) has been nominated to the Breeders' Cup program as a horse of racing age.
Cambiocorsa, queen of Santa Anita's downhill turf course, extended her reign Wednesday to eight consecutive victories when she dominated Oak Tree's opening day feature, the $100,000 Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap (gr. IIIT).
Lava Man, the 5-year-old son of Slew City Slew on Saturday added the trophy from the Pacific Classic -- which began in 1991 -- to his victories in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 8 and the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 4.
For Lava Man, it's time to go with the flow. A victory in the $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I) Sunday at 1 1/4 miles will make Lava Man the first horse to sweep Southern California's "Big Three" grade I handicaps in the same year.
Lava Man, unbeaten in five races this year, including victories in the Santa Anita Handicap and Hollywood Gold Cup (both gr. I), has been installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite in Sunday's 16th running of the $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar.
The Merv Griffin Ranch Co.'s champion Stevie Wonderboy worked on Monday for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair a condylar fracture to his left front leg in February, logging an unofficial quarter-mile over a fast track at Santa Anita.
Lava Man and Super Frolic, first and third in July 8's Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) finished their work for Sunday's $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I) with solid six-furlong drills Sunday morning over Del Mar's main track.
Lava Man, a former claiming horse, became the first runner since Native Diver in 1967 to win back-to-back editions of the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) when he won a heart-pounding finish by a nose Saturday over the longest shot in the field, Ace Blue.
Dynamic California-bred Lava Man, on a four-race winning streak, was assigned 124 pounds for Saturday's $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I). But after everything the 5-year-old gelding has accomplished this year, that probably wasn't enough -- just four rivals are signed on to challenge him.
Doug O'Neill, Hollywood Park's leading trainer, will run his horses out of a detention barn for the next 30 days because one of his starters tested over the permitted level for total carbon dioxide in May.
Trainer Doug O'Neill keeps throwing bigger challenges at the multi-dimensional Lava Man, but nothing seems to faze the 5-year-old California-bred gelding. Winner of both the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) and Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) in the last 11 months, Lava Man led gate to wire to register his first grade I win on the turf in the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park.
Lava Man's return to grass was such a smashing success with a Hollywood Park course-record effort in the $150,000 TVG Khaled Stakes on Sunday that the 5-year-old horse may remain on turf for his next start, trainer Doug O'Neill said Wednesday.
Santa Anita Park concluded its 86-day winter/spring meeting Sunday with double-digit gains in on-track attendance and handle.
There wasn't much speed signed up for Saturday's $200,000 Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT), and jockey Corey Nakatani took full advantage to drive Sharp Lisa to a crafty front-running victory by a nose over Eternal Melody at 10 furlongs on the Santa Anita lawn.
Rail-skimming Pure as Gold slipped through an opening on the inside for jockey Patrick Valenzuela to gain the lead in mid-stretch and coasted to a 1 3/4-length upset in the $109,400 San Simeon Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the Santa Anita hillside turf course Saturday.
Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) and Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) winner Lava Man is expected to be among the starters for trainer Doug O'Neill on the Cal National Gold Rush program April 30 at Hollywood Park.
Cambiocorsa's love affair with Santa Anita's downhill turf course deepened Sunday when the 4-year-old gray filly extended her unbeaten streak over the layout to seven with a three-quarter length victory over hard-charging Lock And Key in the grade III, $100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap.
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