As Todd Pletcher's contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) arrived at Barn 34 from Keeneland April 30, accompanied by stakes contenders Danzon, Leah's Secret, and Garden District, the Eclipse Award-winning trainer took time to reflect upon the challenge of reaching - let alone winning - the first leg of the Triple Crown.
The Sanan family's Padua Stables' Behindatthebar will not enter the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and instead will point for the May 17 Preakness Stakes (gr. I). The decision opens the door for Mr. and Mrs. William Warren's Denis of Cork who had been 21st on the graded earnings list.
Stronach Stables' homebred Harlem Rocker caught pacesetter J Be K in mid-stretch and drew clear for a convincing 2 1/2-length victory in the $150,000 Withers Stakes (gr. III) April 26 on the Aqueduct dirt, staying undefeated in three starts.
Before the running of last year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Keeneland Race Course was overrun with trainers whose potential contenders were squeezing in final works prior to shipping up to Churchill Downs. This year, Todd Pletcher cut a lonely figure along the rail at the Lexington oval as he sent Behindatthebar to gallop and then watched Monba and Cowboy Cal complete their final preparations April 26.
Keeneland reported an average on-track attendance increase of 6.2% but a 5% drop in total handle from all sources based on preliminary figures following the conclusion of the 16-day meet April 25.
Phipps Stable's Dancing Forever came three-wide into the final turn, collared Drilling for Oil mid-stretch, and hit the wire in front to take the Fifth Third Elkhorn (gr. IIT) by a length to close out the Keeneland fall meet stakes program.
Only four other runners will go up against the Shug McGaughey-trained Criminologist in her second start of the season, but those four have solid credentials and equal chances at taking the $100,000 Beaugay Handicap (gr. IIT) at Aqueduct April 26.
Todd Pletcher will saddle half of the four-horse field in the $150,000 Withers Stakes (gr. III), but even favorable odds may not be enough to overcome the talent of J Be K, who goes for his fourth win in five starts April 26 at Aqueduct.
Edgar Prado was hospitalized, but quickly released April 23 following a spill at Keeneland Race Course. The Peruvian jockey, who will ride Adriano in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) for trainer H. Graham Motion, had been aboard another Motion trainee in the seventh race at the Lexington oval when the accident occurred.
Two weeks ago, Todd Pletcher was sitting on the outside of the Derby picture looking in. But when Padua Stables and partners' Behindatthebar followed the hard-knocking efforts of Monba and Cowboy Cal in the April 12 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) with an impressive performance of his own in the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) April 19, the venerable trainer could count not one, but three potential contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
The 7-year-old Montbrook stallion Chapel Royal was represented by his first winner April 19 when Elite Racing Partners' Royal Card won an eventful third race at Keeneland.
Trainer Todd Pletcher said April 18 that he has not decided when he will ship Monba and Cowboy Cal, his one-two finishers in the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I), to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and is considering giving the two colts their final works at Keeneland the weekend before the Run for the Roses.
For several 3-year-olds pointing toward the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland, the April 19 event offers a final chance at graded earnings and entry into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). But the horse whose form points to a likely win in the 1 1/16-mile event has no aspirations of making the Derby -- and he could spoil the plans of those who do when a field of 11 goes postward in the final Derby prep of the season.
One day after his 3-year-olds ran 1-2 in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), trainer Todd Pletcher said he will take a few days before deciding when Monba and Cowboy Cal will ship to Churchill Downs in preparation for the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Trainer Todd Pletcher had won just a single race at Keeneland going into the April 12 card. But he won again where it counted, and with Monba and Cowboy Cal finishing 1-2 in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), it looks like North America's leading trainer of 2007 will be headed to the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) after all.
During her racing days, Take Charge Lady was known as the "Queen of Keeneland." That moniker was branded as a result of the Dehere filly winning the Alcibiades (gr. II), Ashland (gr. I), as well as the Spinster Stakes (gr. I) on two occasions. So it was only fitting that the first foal out of the remarkable Take Charge Lady made her debut at the Lexington racetrack. And, it was also fitting that the regally-bred filly won.
Ariege and Golden Doc A, the one-two finishers in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) March 8, will renew their rivalry in the Midwest in the $250,000 Stonerside Beaumont Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland.
Ike and Dawn Thrash's Dawn After Dawn was a solid performer in each of her four past starts, registering two wins -- one in the La Canada Stakes (gr. II) -- under jockey Garrett Gomez.
Trainer Todd Pletcher was at Keeneland April 6 for the first time during the spring meet to oversee his horses stabled here, including the 3-year-olds Cowboy Cal and Monba. Both colts worked before sunrise, Monba in company with Ready's Image at about 6:15 a.m., and Cowboy Cal some 45 minutes later.
Elisabeth Alexander's Magna Graduate, winner of last year's $200,000 Excelsior Handicap (gr. III), will look to break a seven-racing losing streak when he returns to the 1 1/8-mile event at Aqueduct April 5.
Nick Zito has not lost faith in War Pass. True, the colt has questions to answer after finishing last as the 1-20 choice in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III). But the trainer saw his 2007 juvenile champ at his best during a five-race winning streak that carried over into this season, and he's hoping that side is revealed again when the son of Cherokee Run heads a field of 10 in Aqueduct's $750,000 Wood Memorial (gr. I).
- By Claire Novak
Robert LaPenta's War Pass has drawn post position number five in the $750,000 Wood Memorial (gr. I), an April 5 prep for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) that has drawn a field of 10 3-year-old contenders.
The unusual racing career of Dane Kobiskie reached another milestone today when the lanky jockey-turned trainer saddled his first career winner in the last race at Laurel Park March 30.
Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner War Pass, current Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) favorite Pyro, and filly sensation Eight Belles head a list of 110 nominations for the 72nd running for the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park.
Entries for the $500,000 Illinois Derby (gr. II) won't be drawn until March 31, but from the looks of the nominations, the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) prep is shaping into a deep and competitive field with many of the nation's top trainers and horses participating.
Seth Benzel, Todd Pletcher's New York assistant, will open a public racing stable of his own starting May 1.
Mid-morning on Turfway Park's backside March 21, Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) contenders were pulling at hay nets or dozing, blanketed against the morning chill. Horses and trainers alike are, as trainer Grant Hofmans said, "on cruise control" until March 22.
Zayat Stables' Halo Najib looks to the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) with a chance to punch his ticket to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Handicappers who take on the $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) will probably find their challenge not in choosing a winner, but in selecting the order of finish behind Robert LaPenta's prohibitive favorite War Pass.
Rags to Riches, champion 3-year-old filly of 2007, returned to the work tab March 11 when she breezed three furlongs for trainer Todd Pletcher in :38.40.
Trained by Michael Matz, Visionaire looks to improve upon his third-place finish in the Feb. 9 Risen Star Stakes (gr. III). He will have to beat nine others March 8 at Aqueduct, including undefeated Giant Moon.
Lawrence Goichman's homebred J'ray and Robert Scarborough's Mauralakana head a field of older fillies and mares in the $100,000 The Very One Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park March 8.
Jeff Singer's Coat the Cubes is looking to accomplish something her now-famous half-brother never did: win a race.
The $500,000 New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) is shaping up just like the Feb. 9 Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) did, and that's fine as far as Neil Howard is concerned. The trainer sends 4-year-old Grasshopper to the March 8 event looking for the same form the colt showed in his Mineshaft victory - and Howard fully expects similar results.
Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) winner Pyro and Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) winner Cool Coal Man headline a talented roster of 167 3-year-olds nominated to Keeneland's $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), to be held Saturday, April 12.
Cloverleaf Farm's homebred Bsharpsonata, winner of the Feb. 9 Forward Gal Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park, heads a field of six talented fillies in the $150,000 Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) there March 1. Other runners include Game Face, American County, Robbie's Gal, and J Z Warrior.
Amy Tarrant's 5-year-old Kiss the Kid may have gone off at odds of 46-1 in the Feb. 2 Donn Handicap (gr. I) at Gulfstream, but a strong third-place finish in that race has him looking like the favorite for the March 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II).
Three-year-olds around the country continue to get "zapped" by the Derby trail's three-headed monster. You know, zap, as in Nick Zito, Steve Asmussen, and Todd Pletcher.
Why Tonto, not favored Cowboy Cal, won the Feb. 16 Hallandale Beach Stakes at Gulfstream.
Trainer Bruce Levine has conditioned Roddy Valente's homebred Bustin Stones through four victories -- including three black type wins -- and a successful comeback from surgery on both knees. But the 4-year-old son of City Zip will have to step it up a notch to remain undefeated when he tackles graded company for the first time in the Feb. 18 General George Handicap (gr. II) at Laurel Park.
After a Feb. 14 hearing, stewards at Gulfstream Park upheld Green Girl's Feb. 3 win.
Derby prospect Cowboy Cal will start in the Feb. 16 Hallandale Beach at Gulfstream Park instead of taking a traditional route.
Grade I winner Circular Quay, a contender on the Triple Crown trail last year for trainer Todd Pletcher, kicks off his 4-year-old campaign Feb. 16 in the $150,000 San Carlos Handicap (gr. II) at seven furlongs on the Santa Anita main track.
Four runners trained by Nick Zito, all potential contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), lead the list of 52 3-year-olds nominated for the $350,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 24.
Todd Pletcher trainee Magna Graduate has not scored a win since April 2007 and the Neil Howard-trained Grasshopper has not raced since a second-place finish in the Super Derby Sept. 22. Both are looking for a return to their winning ways in the $150,000 Mineshaft Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds Feb. 9.
Headed by Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner and Eclipse Award champion 2-year-old War Pass, 448 horses were nominated to the 2008 Triple Crown during the early nomination period for the three classics. That figure ranks second behind 2007's record 450 early nominations.
Passion, under a determined ride from Rafael Bejarano, outlasted favored Ariege in a fierce stretch duel, taking the $100,000 La Habra Stakes (gr. IIIT) by a nose Feb. 2 on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita.
Brass Hat, A.P. Arrow, Fairbanks, Spring At Last, Einstein all pack into talented field for the 50th running of the $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 2.
A field of 10 3-year-old fillies is set for the $100,000 La Habra Stakes Feb. 2 at Santa Anita.
The 8-year-old horse will face 10 rivals Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park in what is likely the final start of his career.
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