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Horse Racing, Kentucky Derby at The Downey Profile®

 


Looking Good

Kentucky Derby Starters

Complete


 
Click to go to horse; click back to return

ALWAYS DREAMING
BATTLE OF MIDWAY
CLASSIC EMPIRE
FAST AND ACCURATE
GIRVIN
GORMLEY
GUNNEVERA
HENCE
IRAP
IRISH WAR CRY
J BOYS ECHO
LOOKIN AT LEE
MCCRAKEN
PATCH
PRACTICAL JOKE
SONNETEER
STATE OF HONOR
TAPWRIT
THUNDER SNOW
UNTRAPPED

 

ALWAYS DREAMING (KY)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Owner: Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Viola Racing Stables, St. Elias Stables LLC, Siena Farm and West Point Thoroughbreds, et al.
Breeder:  Santa Rosa Partners
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Bodemeister (Empire Maker, Untouched Talent)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Above Perfection (In Excess (IRE), Something Perfect)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 3-5-4-0-0 (12) 5.00
Foal Date: Feb. 25

$350,000 Keeneland September 2015

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 25, Barn 40

In 2016, Always Dreaming failed to break his maiden sprinting once at Belmont Park in July and once at Saratoga in August. Blame Will beat him by only a neck in the race at the Spa. He took the rest of the year off.

Third time was the charm as Always Dreaming broke his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 25 in a one mile 40 yarder timed in 1:40.54. At 1-5 odds, he prevailed by 11 1/2 lengths. The chart says he "vied between rivals, raced inside on the far turn, drew off and was ridden out." John Velazquez was there to ride.

Next came a 1 1/8-mile allowance race at Gulfstream Park on March 4, and Always Dreaming was sent off at 1-10. He won easily but the time was very slow. After setting dawdling fractions of 25.52, 51.65, 1:16.82 and 1:41.17, he crossed the finish line in 1:53.44. The second finisher was 83-1 Charlie the Greek, beaten four lengths.Unbridled Holiday was a head back in third. John Velazquez was up on Always Dreaming, and he put the horse under mild urging in the last 70 yards.

March 11 NOTE: Trainer Pletcher said, “We...talked about the Florida Derby with Always Dreaming, who came out of the allowance win well, but it’s not likely we would run the two of them (referring to Battalion Runner) against each other. But depending upon the size of the field, we might consider entering them both in case one of them drew an unfavorable post. But that’s for down the road, when we have more information about how many starters there might be.”

March 18 NOTE: Trainer Pletcher said, “Always Dreaming was coming into this work two weeks after a pretty easy win in a mile-and-an-eighth allowance race, so we weren’t looking for a really stern work from him this morning, though we got a very impressive work, I thought. He did it very effortlessly. He was moving very well. I was happy the way he did it and very happy with the way he galloped out. It seems like he’s continuing to improve throughout the winter.”

March 30 NOTE: Trainer Pletcher said, “We considered and thought enough of the way he was training and doing to run in the Fountain of Youth, but we just felt like continuing to bring him along methodically was the correct approach, and he seems to be responding by training exceptionally well. We’ll hope he continues to do that.”

In the April 1 Florida Derby, Always Dreaming won, State of Honor was second, favored Gunnevera was third, Impressive Edge was fourth and Three Rules was fifth. The race began with Three Rules setting splits of 23.38, 47.08 and 1:10.75 as State of Honor, then Always Dreaming, pursued him in second a length or two back. Always Dreaming was briefly steadied in the first turn. Gunnevera departed the far outside post and headed toward the rail to prepare for a late run. Rounding the second turn, Always Dreaming began to edge up the outside of Three Rules and obtained a narrow lead. At the furlong marker they had opened up by 2 1/2 lengths. Three Rules was still second, but State of Honor, who appeared to be retreating into the turn, rallied again and soon got past Three Rules for the place. Gunnevera was 15 lengths behind after the first quarter-mile and rallied to finish third, a length-and-a-half behind State of Honor. Impressive Edge was fourth or third at every call and finished fourth, beaten seven lengths and a nose in front of Three Rules in fifth. The final time was 1:47.47.

Todd Pletcher: “I think the whole program really helped today. We brought him along gradually, opted for the allowance race on Fountain of Youth day and I think all that paid off. The horse has been training exceptionally well, and we were confident he was going to run as well as he’s capable of, and thank fully he did. I have to be honest with you, he was training so well that I would have been disappointed had he not run well, but that was a very impressive performance. Certainly, that’s why we were here today to hopefully get the points to go on. With two mile and an eighth wins and the way he galloped out today, I’m confident he’ll get the trip. Like always, you want them to stay healthy and you have to have some good luck for the next five weeks.”

John Velazquez: "I thought, if he's coming, he's going to have to run really hard to catch us."

Anthony Bonomo (Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Co-owner: “Well, I don’t know what to say because it’s so exciting. All day you’re nervous leading up to the race and it’s your dream to run a race like this and to win. It is unbelievable. I don’t know what to feel like anymore except to know I’m elated. When we saw him making the turn we knew he had a lot of horse and we knew that’s how he likes to run. We thought he had enough to come home and win, and there’s nothing like watching your horse pass the finish line. It’s exciting. It’s really a great race. I’ll think about (the Kentucky Derby) in about nine hours. Right now, this was a great win and we’re just thrilled. He’s a good horse.”

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Pletcher said, “He’s excellent. It seemed like he recuperated quickly after the race, cooled out good, looked good this morning, settled back here into Palm Beach Downs and all is well. He seems to be in excellent form. I was really pleased with the way he came back to the winner’s circle. It just seemed like he recovered quickly from the race and cooled out quickly and was bright and alert and happy back in his stall. Initially he’s showing us all the signs you’re hoping for. I’ve got to kind of map out a schedule in terms of when we’ll ship to Churchill,” Pletcher said. We’ll look to have a breeze or possibly two breezes at Churchill, but we’ll kind of play it by ear and see what the shipping arrangements look like and see what the weather’s doing in Kentucky and take all those into consideration.”

April 14 NOTE: Trainer Pletcher said, “I thought he settled well considering the first part was a little on the slow side. He finished up strongly, galloped out impressively. Based from what we were seeing in the morning the track is not super-fast. The longer you’re here, the more you kind of get used to this track. It’s a little bit quirky in some ways, in can be a little inside bias, sometimes not produce real fast times. But we like it a lot. Knock on wood, it’s been a very safe surface for us. It seems like a lot of horses thrive through the winter here. He is one of the exceptions in terms of horses who consistently win breezes whether he’s on the inside or outside of horses. It was, I thought, a very good breeze. I liked the way he finished the last quarter in 23-and-change and seemed to cool out quickly and recover quickly.”

April 15 NOTE: Tentative arrival plan pushed back and week; now will arrive at Churchill Downs April 24 or 25.

April 21 NOTE: Trainer Pletcher said after a workout by Always Dreaming, “I thought it was excellent. We were looking for a nice, steady, solid stamina-building breeze. He was very relaxed, very happy, moving well, and galloped out great. I was very happy. He’s been training great, eating well, energy level has been good. We’re really excited about how he’s doing."

In the Kentucky Derby, Always Dreaming was first, Lookin at Lee second, Battle of Midway third and Classic Empire fourth. Always created a dream trip leading to a 2 3/4-length victory. He broke cleanly from post 5 and established a forward position down the stretch for the first time. He tracked State of Honor through the first quarter-mile in 22.70 and the first half in 46.53 leaving the first turn. Up the backstretch, Battle of Midway and Irish War Cry tracked the front two in third and fourth. As the field neared the far turn, six furlongs were gone in 1:11.12 and Always Dreaming had wrested the lead from a retreating State of Honor. As Always Dreaming rounded the turn in front, he was still under pressure to his outside from Battle of Midway and Irish War Cry. When heads turned for home, Always Dreaming had covered the mile in 1:37.27.

From there to the finish line, there were no more serious challenge to Always Dreaming as he ran to victory in a time of 2:03.59. Lookin at Lee, who broke from the dreaded post 1, made a very late rally to finish second after being 16th in the 20-horse field after the first half-mile. He bested third finisher Battle of Midway by five lengths. Classic Empire, the morning line favorite, was sent off at 6-1 odds and finished another length back in fourth after having a rough start and being placed 13th after the first half-mile.

Todd Pletcher: “I knew we had a big shot with this horse, and I was hoping it would happen. The trip unfolded not exactly the way we had planned. We knew for sure we didn’t want to be behind a wall of horses and that turned out OK. Johnny of course rode him great. This is so special to win this race with Johnny. We’ve been together for all these years and this is sweet. I’m sorry I don’t have a clue about my other two horses. I was so intense following Always Dreaming up front that I never did get a chance to pick them up.”

John Velazquez: “This is the best horse Todd and I have ever come to the Kentucky Derby with. Nothing against all the others, but this was the best horse. I got a good position with him early and then he relaxed. When we hit the quarter pole, I asked him and he responded. He did it himself from there.”

WORKOUTS
Jan. 10, five in 1:01.80 Breezing 3/4 at PBD
Jan. 18, five in 1:01.60 Breezing 2/3 at PBD
Feb. 11, four in 47.80 Breezing 1/18 at PBD
Feb. 18, four in 49:20 Breezing 10/24 at PBD
Feb. 25, four in 47:80 Breezing 4/28 at PBD
March 18, four in 48:00 Breezing 1/20 at PBD
March 25, four in 48:40 Breezing 1/26 at PBD
April 14, four in 49:55 Breezing 5/18 at PBD
April 21, four in 1.01:40 Breezing 1/6 at PBD
April 28, five in 59:60 Breezing 1/35 at CD

 

 

BATTLE OF MIDWAY (KY)
Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
Owner: WinStar Farm & Don Alberto Stable
Breeder: Thor-Bred Stables, LLC
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Smart Strike (CAN) (Mr. Prospector, Classy n' Smart (CAN))
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Rigoletta (Concerto, Almost Aprom Queen)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 10-14-17-2-1 (44) 2.83
Foal Date: Jan. 30, 2014

$410,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga 2015

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 29

Battle of Midway won his debut, a seven-furlong maiden race on Jan. 21, drawing off by 3 1/4 lengths on a wet-fast and sealed track. He dueled through the opening quarter in 21.60 under Drayden Van Dyke, who was later injured. The time was 1:09.00 flat for six furlongs.

Jan. 25 NOTE: Trainer Hollendorfer said to DRF.com, “He’s one that took quite a while to get to the races. Rick Porter was very patient with the way we handled that horse. He gave us a lot of latitude. We would look at the (San Vicente). If we think it’s too much, we won’t do it.”

On Feb. 12, Iliad powered to a 3 1/2-length win in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes, and Battle of Midway finished a disappointing third. Iliad was timed in 1:21.62. Breaking sharply from his outside post position 5, Iliad was lapped on longshot stablemate Blabimir into the far turn and shook off runner-up Law Abidin Citizen three sixteenths of a mile from home. Law Abidin Citizen was clearly second best as he finished 4 1/2 lengths clear of Battle of Midway, who was heavily favored. Iliad was 2-1. The chart says "Battle of Midway pulled his way along outside a rival and was in tight midway on the backstretch, stalked outside that foe, went three deep leaving the turn and into the stretch and held third."

On March 9 at Santa Anita, Battle of Midway successfully stretched out to two turns, winning a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claiming race. Reach the World was second by a neck. Those two were fifth and seventh of eight, respectively, at the first call, after Reach the World broke in the air and was bumped. At the first call, Battle of Midway was four wide on the first turn but only 2 3/4 lengths off the pace and Reach the World was 6 1/4 lengths back. They steadily advanced on the leader separated by a length, length and a half until the eighth pole, at which point Battle of Midway, ridden by Flavien Prat, had command. From there, Reach the World and Mike Smith mounted a furious charge, but Battle of Midway held him off by a neck. The time was 1:44.16.

In the Santa Anita Derby on April 8, Gormley won, Battle of Midway was second, Royal Mo third and Reach the World fourth. Set down while a few lengths off the pace leaving the half mile pole, Gormley kept to his task through the lane and got the nine furlongs in 1:51.16. Gormley was sent off at 6-1 in a field of 13. Battle of Midway, American Anthem and Royal Mo fought for the early lead heads apart through six furlongs timed in 22.66, 46.55 and 1:10.92. Battle of Midway stayed on stubbornly to finish second by a half-length, and Royal Mo finished third, beaten a length. Reach the World, who was 10 lengths off the pace after the first half-mile, closed well to finish another half-length back in fourth, and Iliad, who finished fifth, was beaten only two lengths.

Jerry Hollendorfer, trainer of Battle of Midway: “I think he ran a pretty good race. If he didn’t get pressured so much early, I think we would have won, but that’s how things go. I’m very happy with him. He’s been progressing all along, and if he can continue, he should be a contender.”

Corey Nakatani, aboard Battle of Midway: “He ran really well. I wish we could’ve gotten a breather at some point, but it didn’t work out that way. He ran dynamite. It’d be nice (to win the Kentucky Derby).That’s what we’re here for.”

April 21 NOTE: Battle of Midway was bought by WinStar Farm and Don Alberto Stable for an undisclosed amount from Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farm. Jerry Hollendorfer will continue to train the colt.

April 22 NOTE: Trainer Hollendorfer said, “Battle of Midway started behind his workmate, had a good target, ran past him and galloped out well. He’s totally on schedule. He’ll have one more work here next week and then ship on the 29th. Flavien Prat will ride Battle of Midway in the Derby.”

In the Kentucky Derby, Always Dreaming was first, Lookin at Lee second, Battle of Midway third and Classic Empire fourth. Battle of Midway was always near the lead. Always created a dream trip leading to a 2 3/4-length victory. He broke cleanly from post 5 and established a forward position down the stretch for the first time. He tracked State of Honor through the first quarter-mile in 22.70 and the first half in 46.53 leaving the first turn. Up the backstretch, Battle of Midway and Irish War Cry tracked the front two in third and fourth. As the field neared the far turn, six furlongs were gone in 1:11.12 and Always Dreaming had wrested the lead from a retreating State of Honor. As Always Dreaming rounded the turn in front, he was still under pressure to his outside from Battle of Midway and Irish War Cry. When heads turned for home, Always Dreaming had covered the mile in 1:37.27.

From there to the finish line, there were no more serious challenge to Always Dreaming as he ran to victory in a time of 2:03.59. Lookin at Lee, who broke from the dreaded post 1, made a very late rally to finish second after being 16th in the 20-horse field after the first half-mile. He bested third finisher Battle of Midway by five lengths. Classic Empire, the morning line favorite, was sent off at 6-1 odds and finished another length back in fourth after having a rough start and being placed 13th after the first half-mile.

Jerry Hollendorfer: “I thought our horse gave a nice effort. We had a good position coming into the lane, but Todd’s horse was too good.”

Flavien Prat: “We got a good trip. He broke well from the track, took me right there. He ran a huge race. He gave me everything he had.”

WORKOUTS
Jan. 4, five in 1:00.60 Handily gate 17/150 at SA
Jan. 15, six in 1:13.40 Handily 5/36 at SA
Jan. 29, four in 48.60 Handily 26/57 at SA
Feb. 5, five in 1:04.20 Handily 85/91 at SA
Feb. 21, four in 49:80 Handily 33/36 at SA
Feb. 27, five in 59:40 Handily 2/29 at SA
March 5, five in 1.00:20 Handily 1/43 at SA
March 19, four in 47:60 Handily 3/80 at SA
March 25, five in 59:80 Handily 7/75 at SA
April 1, six in 1.11:80 Handily 1/23 at SA
April 16, four in 48:40 Handily 14/53 at SA
April 22, five in 1.00:60 Handily 14/37 at SA
April 28, six in 1.13:40 Handily 4/9 at SA

 

 

CLASSIC EMPIRE (KY)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Owner: John C. Oxley
Breeder: Steven Nicholson & Brandi Nicholson
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Pioneerof the Nile (Empire Maker, Star of Goshen)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Sambuca Classica (Cat Thief, In Her Glory)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 4-4-4-0-0 (12) 5.00
Foal Date: March 21, 2014


$475,000 Keeneland September 2015

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 17, Barn 36, Stall 26

Classic Empire won his debut sprinting at Churchill Downs.

His next outing was the Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs on July 2. Odds-on favorite Recruiting Ready flashed speed from the gate on the outside and led the field of nine through fractions of 21.76 and 45.07. Tip Tap Tapizar attempted to keep up from the inside. Classic Empire, the 9-2 second choice, broke slowly from post 1 and was eighth in the early going. Recruiting Ready opened up a 1 1/2-length lead by mid-turn as Classic Empire began to hit his best stride. The latter one  found an opening along the inside rail at the head of the stretch. Recruiting Ready had a two-length lead with 100 yards left, but Classic Empire ran him down to win by three-quarters of a length.

Assistant trainer Norman Casse: “He broke bad the other day (too), I don’t know what was up with that, but any time that you’re in the one-hole with a 2-year-old, you’re apprehensive about it. I think he’s still a little shy at horses. You can tell when he broke that he broke in a little bit and kind of ducked out, but it ended up working out to his advantage a little bit. The pace set up for him and he was able to run down a very talented horse today. I really have a whole lot of respect for the horse that he beat, and this is something we can all look forward to. I think that the way that he breezes and trains in the morning, he is more effective when he’s able to go out and relax and settle into stride. Sprinting is obviously something where you aren’t able to do that so going forward, he’s going to be more effective around two turns. He’ll go up and train at Saratoga and we’ll look for a race up there for him.”

Trainer Casse looked back on the race on Dec. 7 and said, “He broke from the one hole and he tried to make the gap. He was probably 15, 16 lengths behind, and how he won just amazed me. So many horses can win when everything goes their way, but I think it takes a great horse to win when things don't go his way. He won in 1:09-and-change. When you figure out how much he lost, he probably won in 1:08-and-change. We felt like he was a nice horse, and after the Bashford Manor, I said, ‘I think this horse could be a great horse.’ ”

Julien Leparoux: “(Recruiting Ready) never quit, but I knew that my horse was running. At the quarter pole I knew he was going to run well, but I didn’t know if I was going to catch him or not. Being in the one-hole kind of hurt us today, but I’m glad that he could win today. The first time when he won at four-and-a-half, he was almost too quick and he still won, but today at six furlongs I liked it. He was useful, but we were down inside and he’s still a baby so when he broke slow he was kind of looking at all of the horses outside of him so he was a little green, but after that he was very professional.”

The Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga was a disaster. Classic Empire broke from the gate and wheeled, causing Jose Ortiz to fall off. It was the only time Ortiz was aboard Classic Empire as a juvenile.

In the Claiborne Breeders Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 8, blinkers were added to Classic Empire, and it helped. Ridden by Julien Leparoux, the colt swept past dueling leaders Wild Shot and Blame Will at the head of the stretch and then held off a late charge by Lookin At Lee to win by three lengths. Lookin at Lee was 12th of twelve early on, 14 lengths in arrears. Wild Shot finished third, beaten four lengths, after setting splits of 23.38, 46.63 and 1:11.17. No Dozing finished another head back in fourth after being fifth, 2 1/2 lengths off the lead, after a half-mile. They wee followed in order by Gunnevera, Singing Bullet, Bitumen, Tiz Trevor, Blame Will, Perro Rojo, Holiday Bonus and Honor Thy Father.  Twelve ran, and Classic Empire was favored at 3-2. He completed the 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.41.

Norman Casse: “This is a very, very talented horse. The day after the Hopeful, we got right to work on him. We put blinkers on him; we breezed him out of the gate several times. It paid dividends today. We’ll more forward from here. You’ve got to think this horse has plenty of room to improve.”

Trainer Casse said on Dec. 7: “The blinkers made a huge difference. He breaks much faster.”

Julien Leparoux: “Today he broke sharp and was all business. He ran a big race. I was a bit surprised to be where I was, but he did it easy and he was happy where he was. He got a little bit tired at the end, but he hasn’t been running for a while, so we expected that.”

In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Nov. 5, Classic Empire disposed of Syndergaard at the head of the stretch and then held off a bid from 5-2 favorite Not This Time by a neck to win. Practical Joke finished third, 7 1/2 lengths behind the top two, followed by Lookin at Lee. Classic Empire covered the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.60. It was Classic Empire's fourth win from five starts -- his sole loss came when he threw his rider leaving the gate. Under Julien Leparoux, who rode the colt for all four of his 2016 victories, Classic Empire broke well out of post 5 and sat just off the hip of pacesetter Syndergaard through fractions of :23.05 and :46.60. Leparoux let the reins out a notch coming into the final turn and then set his mount down for a sustained drive. Not This Time stalked the early pace just behind the front runners and appeared ready to collar Classic Empire, but the latter one dug in on the rail and refused to yield.

Mark Casse: “I thought at the top of the lane he was going to win easily. Then it got pretty close, but Dale said all along it was going to be us two and it was quite a deal. We have a lot of wonderful people that we work for and we have a great team. I have been doing this 37 years and I thought his race in the Bashford Manor was as good as any 2-year-old I've ever trained. Then his deal he did in the Hopeful up at Saratoga (throwing his rider), so this is maybe even a little more rewarding because it hasn't been easy. He'll try you.

Julien Leparoux: “He broke sharp and I put him in the race right away. He took second very nice. I tried to open up coming to the quarter pole, which he did and held off Not This Time. He is a nice colt. We really love him and we knew he was going to run good, so I’m glad we got the win.”

"He hasn't necessarily been easy. He's an extremely, extremely smart horse, and he tends to see things that maybe others don't, and you never know what he's going to kind of do. But we added blinkers. We had actually wanted -- we thought after his first two performances where he ran really great, it would have been nice to put some blinkers on him. But normally they don't allow you to put blinkers on horses that are winning. So after the Hopeful, Norman and I were watching him cool out, and we looked at each other and said I think we can put blinkers on him now."

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Casse said, “I think he’s a little tired, but he ran his butt off. Julien wanted to make sure we weren’t too far away. We broke running and he looked at the opportunity and saw it. I was extremely happy going into the first turn and thought ‘well we have no excuses from here.'" Casse said Classic Empire would winter in Florida.

Dec. 7 NOTE: Trainer Casse said, “He started back today. He’s back doing some exercise under tack. He just started. If everything went right, he’d run in the Holy Bull – that’s what we’d aim for. That’s the plan right now – the Holy Bull, the Fountain of Youth. We’ll worry about those two races, but there could be a chance to run in the Florida Derby. I love the way horses do in the spring in Kentucky, and I was kind of wanting to get him to Kentucky for that reason. We’ll see. With what’s going on, we may just stay in Florida for the Derby, but we’ll worry about the first two, first.

“He’s an extremely talented horse – without a doubt the most talented 2-year-old that I’ve ever training. I think that kind of goes without saying. He amazes me. He amazes me, one, how fast he is and, then, his ability to carry it.”

Jan. 8 NOTE: Trainer Casse said, “I would have said going into this breeze (second workout since Breeders' Cup) that he was 50-50 for the Holy Bull. Now, the chances have increased. Seeing him today, if he can continue to train that way he trained today, it’s a good shot he’ll make the Holy Bull. We couldn’t be happier. I thought he worked super. He handled it well and galloped out well."

Jan. 16 NOTE: Classic Empire breezed five furlongs, and trainer Casse said, “Norman was every enthusiastic about the breeze. When you look at it from a time standpoint, it is more about what he does after the breeze. He amazes us because you can’t get him tired. There’s been a lot of discussion about the Holy Bull between Mr. Oxley, Norman, and myself. I think we’re going to make it because I just think it’s good timing. I would say today is another step closer to the Holy Bull.

“He’s a bit of a bad boy, there is no doubt about that. I was talking to Mr. Oxley this morning and said to him, ‘He’s different than most horses. He’s absolutely brilliant, but what makes him so good, also makes his bad.’ The fact that he is tireless, makes him tough. Somebody the other day said he walks like a panther, and that’s what he does — he's always ready to pounce.”

Jan. 21 NOTE: Trainer Casse said, “He worked really well. We’re excited. He worked five-eighths from the gate. We got him in a minute and four fifths. He galloped out nice; all systems are go”

Feb. 1 NOTE: Ahead of the Holy Bull, trainer Casse said, “He’s such an athlete. What makes him so good is the way he moves. A really wise, one of the smartest horsemen I know in the world looked at him and said he looked like a panther. I think that’s the best way to describe him. I’m not going to say who it was, but he’s one of the best horsemen in the world, and he described him as a panther. He’s always ready to pounce. You just don’t know what he’s going to pounce on, but so far he’s pounced on the competition. You’re always anxious off a layoff to get going. We’re ready. All systems are ‘go.’ We’re excited to get going. It’s the first step. Last week we ran in a $12 million race, but there was no pressure. Saturday it’s a $350,000 race and there’ll be tons of pressure. We’ll definitely be feeling it for sure.”

Feb. 3 NOTE: Trainer Casse probably hopes he won't regret saying this. He trains Noble Bird and started thinking about the ease with which Arrogate passed the pacesetting Noble Bird in the Pegasus Stakes. “I had this conversation with Julien. Watching Mike Smith on Arrogate, it reminded me of Julien on Classic Empire. The difference was we were Noble Bird the other day (in the Pegasus Stakes). Noble Bird was running his rear off, and Mike Smith was looking at him just waiting to go. It reminded me of when Julien was on Classic Empire and John Velazquez was on Syndergaard (in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile). Syndergaard, who was a highly rated horse, was running his butt off and Julien was sitting there looking at him, saying, ‘OK.’

“That’s what happened the other day. Noble Bird was running his butt off and Mike Smith was just sitting there. At any point in time, he had us. That’s what sticks out in my mind about Classic Empire. They were flying; they were rolling in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Classic Empire was sitting in second gear waiting.”

On Feb. 4, Irish War Cry went to a dominating, front-running victory in the 1 1/16-mile Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. At 4-1 odds, he soundly defeated Gunnevera, 1-2 favorite Classic Empire and four others, timed in 1:42.52. Irish War Cry scored by 3 3/4 lengths over Gunnevera, who finished an astonishing five lengths ahead of Classic Empire, who showed very little after getting worked up before the race. Irish War Cry looked like he could go another lap after the race.

Classic Empire was a little reluctant to enter the starting gate and broke a step slow before quickly attaining a good stalking position under Julien Leparoux. Irish War Cry broke alertly under Joel Rosario and set fractions of 24.14 and 47.92. Talk Logistics, who briefly led, tracked Irish War Cry while saving ground along the backstretch under Paco Lopez, with Classic Empire to his outside. Gunnevera sat just behind those three. Leparoux sent Classic Empire after the pacesetter on the far turn, but Classic Empire soon weakened and Irish War Cry kicked clear by 3 1/2 lengths in mid-stretch. Gunnevera surged past Classic Empire and a fading Talk Logistics to finish a clear second, well clear of Classic Empire. Talk Logistics was another 5 1/4 lengths back in fourth, followed by Cavil and Perro Rojo. Shamsaan didn't finish.

Mark Casse: “He gets a little hot, but maybe hotter than normal, so I don't know. We will regroup. He had no excuse that way (as to where he was positioned); none whatsoever. They kind of tried to pin him in a little bit on the first turn and Julien used a little bit of him. We had a good trip.”

Julien Leparoux: “We had a good trip. I got in the clear on the first turn, and there was really no excuse. He came back good and we’ll see what happens. He got a little bit warm (on the track before the race) but after that we a good trip and every chance, and he just didn’t kick at the end.”

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Casse said Classic Empire probably won't run again at Gulfstream Park.

DETAILS: Trainer Casse said, “He’s fine today. Yesterday morning (at Palm Meadows), he was as happy and good as I’ve ever seen him. He just did not take the trip down there well. He’s run in the Bashford Manor with the crowd and the lights, and we flew him to the Breeders’ Cup, and those things didn’t bother him, but yesterday was the first time he ever had to ship and run (in the same day). He’s shipped all the time and never fretted before, but yesterday he really fretted. I don’t know what was going on with him. Yesterday was also the first time I ever saw him balk about going into the gate. This horse wasn’t happy yesterday, and we really don’t have a good answer. He ate last night. He’s happy as he can be now, standing in his stall.

“I would say more than likely you won’t see him back at Gulfstream again. We’re already thinking about where we want to go, but wherever it is it will be somewhere he will train a little bit there before he runs. Yesterday came as a complete surprise to us, but the battle is far from over.”

Feb. 9 NOTE: Trainer Casse told Bloodhorse.com today that the Fountain of Youth is back in the picture now. Earlier in the week, Classic Empire popped an abscess, and Casse said this is undoubtedly why he ran so poorly in the Fountain of Youth. Casse said, "This is not something that just popped up. It had to have been brewing. I wonder if that's why he got so upset and didn't run better. Julien said he felt okay running but even in the post parade, he said he was just a bundle of nerves. So honestly, it's a great relief. We knew that his race was too bad to be true. You start grasping at straws to come up with some reason why he ran so bad. Then we got the answer."

MORE: Casse said Classic Empire could return to track by the the following day, Feb. 10.

Feb. 19 NOTE: Classic Empire will have to miss the Fountain of Youth. Trainer Casse told Bloodhorse.com, "We thought if we were going to make the Fountain of Youth, we'd have to at least breeze tomorrow, and I'm not ready to breeze him. I talked to Oxley this morning and we're going to look elsewhere. My hopes are that this thing is cleared up by mid-week and we get to breeze him next week. If that's the case, and we get to, then, we'll start worrying about what's next. If need be, we could go with one more race into the Derby. He won the Breeders' Futurity off a layoff, really, considering he didn't run at all in the Hopeful, and then came back and won the Breeders' Cup. Our thought is, here we have this horse, who is one of the best 3-year-olds in the country. It would be foolish for us to not let him be 100% before we breezed him again."

Feb. 22 NOTE: Has been galloping since Feb. 13.

Feb. 25 NOTE: Non-subscription blurb at DRF.com says Classic Empire "tentatively" set to breeze middle of next week.

March 1 NOTE: Classic Empire didn't breeze the middle of this week. He's still galloping, though.

March 3 NOTE: Today Classic Empire was set to breeze with jockey Leparoux aboard, and he refused to break off for the work. Trainer Casse said he thinks his back is sore. Casse said his feet are fine. He'll be allowed to roll in a pen, and a chiropractor was called in.

March 6 NOTE: Bloodhorse.com reported yesterday, "Casse said an equine therapist was brought in to exam Classic Empire March 4 and that 'she went over his back, found a few issues and treated him.'" No word on what was done. Here's the full quote from trainer Casse speaking yesterday. "He was really sensitive when Julien (Leparoux) went to get off him the other day. When Julien put his hands on his withers, he almost dropped to the ground so it was really weird. This morning...our main vet went over him and he couldn't believe how much better he was today. The good news is there is nothing substantial. There is a very good shot the issue with his foot ended up causing the back issue. Anyone that has had any kind of injury, when you change your gait, it can hurt your back. So possibly the foot bruise and him being off and traveling different affected his back in some way. He's a work in progress. But the good news is we still have a lot of time and I wouldn't count us out yet."

March 7 NOTE: It has now been 31 days since Classic Empire last raced or breezed.

March 12 NOTE: Classic Empire breezed today. Assistant trainer Norm Casse tweeted, "Classic Empire stupendous today - 48.4, 101.3" and told Alicia Wincze Hughes at Bloodhorse.com that it was just what he wanted.

March 20 NOTE: Refused to work again yesterday and has been shipped to Ocala Training Center. Hard to see him going forward to the Kentucky Derby now.

March 22 NOTE: Assistant trainer Norm Casse told Bloodhorse.com after a workout today,  "The time is not flashy, the way he did it was not flashy, but the work got done so we are very encouraged. That's why we came up with this Ocala deal. We had decided that if he refused to work again that we would send him to Ocala just to give him a little bit of a change of pace. It seems like it has worked so far and going forward we will probably keep him here another week. We've always referred to this horse as a bad boy. He's never been the easiest horse to train, he's always throwing little tricks at you and you kind of got to stay ahead of him. So long as he's doing well, breeze him one more time there and then decide what would be the next best thing for him. We are just trying to go day-to-day and week-to-week with this horse."

March 28 NOTE: The Blue Grass is out and now connections are hoping he can make the Arkansas Derby.

March 29 NOTE: Trainer Casse said, “It’s well documented – we’ve had some bumps in the road. But, the good news is it doesn’t matter. As I said, it’s like a baseball game. Doesn’t matter how many runs you score in the early innings, it’s how many you score in the end.”

April 3 NOTE: From a DRF free post, trainer Casse said although the final time for today's workout in company with Airoforce was similar to his workout with Airoforce six days earlier, today's move was much better. "The track was much deeper today than last week because we had a lot of wind here overnight, it ws pretty loose out of the chute," said Casse. "He took a bit of a stumble out of the gate before he got his feet under him. Last week it was a little harder for him to dispose of Airoforce. This morning, he drew away by 6 or 7 lengths and his gallop out was awesome. He got a little tired last week, but Julien said he didn't take a deep breath today. I'm really glad we made the decision to come up here. He's a smart horse, something just set him off down there (at Palm Meadows), something bugged him. And sometimes you have to change things up with him or he gets bored. I'm confident when he gets to Oaklawn, he'll go out there and everything will be great."

April 7 NOTE: Classic Empire (Worth Watching) will ship from Ocala on Monday evening to Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby, and he is expected to breeze Sunday or Monday morning at Winding Oaks Training Center.

On April 15, Classic Empire won the Arkansas Derby with Conquest Mo Money second, Lookin at Lee third, Sonneteer fourth, Malagacy fifth and Untrapped sixth. Petrov narrowly led the field into the first turn, closely accompanied by extreme longshot Grandpa's Dream and Conquest Mo Money. Malagacy, the post-time second choice, was less than two lengths back after breaking from post 12. As the field passed the next pole, Conquest Mo Money led after a first half-mile run in a sprightly 46.92. Under heavy pressure from Malagacy, Conquest Mo Money remained in charge of the field with six furlongs run in 1:11.16. Meanwhile, Classic Empire, who had been positioned in sixth or seventh place but only a couple of lengths back of the leader, encountered traffic in the turn and was taken three and four wide.

Into the stretch Conqest Mo Money and Malagacy ran one-two while heads apart and continued to engage in a battle to the wire that included some bumping. Suddenly Classic Empire appeared to their outside in third position with a fulong left to run. He outfinished them to win by a half-length. Conquest Mo Money was second. Lookin at Lee, who was 10th by five lengths after the first half-mile, got up late for third, beaten a length. Sonneteer, 11th in the early going, also closed well to finish fourth, another half-length back and a neck in front of Malagacy in fifth. It was another 2 3/4 lengths back to Untrapped in sixth. The 1 1/8-mile race was timed in 1:48.93.

Mark Casse: “He just has so much ability. I knew if we could get him here that he’d be tough. He’s been a challenge, but the last month and a half have been good — a lot of chapters to the book I’m writing (laughs). I was pretty nervous. We run a lot of places, but I was probably a little more nervous. I went and walked up and down inside, watched it on TV. About the eighth pole everybody around me started looking, because I was doing some yelling. I wasn’t sure he was going to get there. I was afraid that maybe late he’d get tired. But it was exciting. I’ll never forget it.

“(Louisville is) home for him. We’ll get him back there and come up with a game plan. I think the toughest deal is over, getting to this point. Now he won’t have to do too much going into the Derby.

"That thought went through my head about the eighth pole. I said, ‘He’s running well. If he runs 1-2-3, that’s OK, second or third.’ But I never gave up. I was still wanting him to win, but that thought did go through my head.”

Winning jockey Julien Leparoux: “He wasn’t 100% today, so I was expecting him to be a little tired. He is a nice horse. He did it today. I wanted to drive a nice race for him. Be in the Derby, so I knew I had to finish in top four. I think he is a special horse. Hopefully now there’s no more hiccups and we go to the Derby in a clear (path), and I think we can win it.”

“Much better (today than in the Holy Bull). He walked in the gate and relaxed. He took me to the race. Usually he is a little keen, and today he was, which is a good sign for him. In the Holy Bull he was just not himself, I was laying third, but I didn’t feel like I had too much horse at that time. So today I knew I was loaded. I just needed to get there.

“It was a tough winter, I am not going to lie. Come January we expected so much from him and after the Holy Bull he just went downhill from there. It was hard to see whenever we got off the wagon, but at the same time we were running out of time. Today was the last race we could get before the Derby, so it was very important for us to get in. Mark and his team did an awesome job, so the credit goes to them.

“He is a very professional animal. He was a little fresh today, pulling a little bit, but other than that he did very good.”

Owner John Oxley: “I did (have confidence) late last year because we’d just won the Juvenile and were 2-year-old champion. So there was a lot of confidence there. But we ran into a few issues, and thanks to the genius of Mark Casse — brilliant trainer — we found the solution. We had Julien aboard; he stayed with us of course. We found a rider named Martin (Rivera). I think he was the wild card. The horse respected him, he trained so well with him and here we are.

“I think people will probably stay with him. That makes it all the bigger challenge, because we sort of like to be behind the radar a little bit. But on the other hand, I’d rather win all the way into the Derby, and that’s the way we are right now.”

Owner Debby Oxley: “Oh, my knees were about ready to give out. I was standing on those stairs, watching the race and was like, ‘Oh gosh, I hope I don’t fall over and take six people with me.’ No, I was really, really nervous. We all agreed — and I think Mark said it perfectly in an interview earlier this week — everything has been done that could be done that could be done. He was either going to go out and perform, or he wasn’t. It was out of our control, our hands.”

THE NEXT DAY: Traine Casse said, "He's good, he's great this morning. What I feel good about is we were up front. We were telling everyone the truth of what was going on and so many people were like 'There is no way he will be ready.' But the key to it all is he's a really, really, really good horse. And really, really good horses can overcome a lot of things. And he was a gentleman yesterday.  We said all along how smart he is and now more than ever, I know what happened at Gulfstream was because of his foot because he was an entirely different horse yesterday. He never turned a hair. And there was plenty of reasons for him to turn hairs."

THE NEXT DAY: Confirmed that Julien Leparoux will have the Kentucky Derby mount.

April 21 NOTE: Classic Empire was on the track today at Churchill Downs for the first time this week. Assistant trainer Norm Casse said, “We brought Martin Rivera in from Florida to be Classic Empire’s main exercise rider. Martin works with a lot of our younger horses on the farm and got along well with Classic Empire when we sent him to Winding Oaks this winter.”

April 24 NOTE: Assistant trainer Norm Casse said, "Classic Empire did a little more serious gallop today and looks great following the Arkansas Derby.”

May 1 NOTE: It was reported today at DRF.com that Mark Casse said yesterday that Classic Empire has been wearing glue-on shoes since he recovered from a foot abscess that appeared on Feb. 6. He won the Arkansas Derby wearing glue-on shoes.

In the Kentucky Derby, Always Dreaming was first, Lookin at Lee second, Battle of Midway third and Classic Empire fourth. Classic Empire was bumped on each side leaving the gate. Always created a dream trip leading to a 2 3/4-length victory. He broke cleanly from post 5 and established a forward position down the stretch for the first time. He tracked State of Honor through the first quarter-mile in 22.70 and the first half in 46.53 leaving the first turn. Up the backstretch, Battle of Midway and Irish War Cry tracked the front two in third and fourth. As the field neared the far turn, six furlongs were gone in 1:11.12 and Always Dreaming had wrested the lead from a retreating State of Honor. As Always Dreaming rounded the turn in front, he was still under pressure to his outside from Battle of Midway and Irish War Cry. When heads turned for home, Always Dreaming had covered the mile in 1:37.27.

From there to the finish line, there were no more serious challenge to Always Dreaming as he ran to victory in a time of 2:03.59. Lookin at Lee, who broke from the dreaded post 1, made a very late rally to finish second after being 16th in the 20-horse field after the first half-mile. He bested third finisher Battle of Midway by five lengths. Classic Empire, the morning line favorite, was sent off at 6-1 odds and finished another length back in fourth after having a rough start and being placed 13th after the first half-mile.

Mark Casse: “We got wiped out at the start. That’s the problem with the auxiliary gate. McCraken came and nearly knocked us. Classic Empire really got clobbered. The track is impossible. Our horse ran extremely well, considering."

Julien Leparoux: “We got bumped around really hard at the start which put us in a very tough position early. He really only had one race before this, but we’ll get them next time.”

WORKOUTS
Jan. 8, four in 49.00 Breezing 14/22 at PMM
Jan. 16, five in 1:02.55 Breezing 8/11 at PMM
Jan. 21, five in 1:00.75 Breezing gate 3/18 at PMM
Jan. 28, five in 1:03.90 Breezing 25/28 at PMM
March 12, four in 48:95 Breezing 3/34 at PMM
March 22, five in 1.01:40 Breezing 1/2 at WND
March 28, five in 59:30 Breezing from gate 1/2 at WND
April 3, five in 59.80 Breezing from gate 1/4 at WND
April 8, four in 50.00 Breezing 1/2 at WND
April 28, four in 49:20 Breezing 45/82 at CD


 

FAST AND ACCURATE (PA)
Trainer: Mike Maker
Owner: Kendall Hansen, Skychai Racing, Sand Dollar Stable & Bode Miller
Breeder: John R. Penn
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Hansen (Tapit, Stormy Sunday)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Heidi's Dance (Green Dancer, Shahalo)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 4-4-10-2-0 (20) 1.86
Foal Date: March 27, 2014

$24,000 RNA Keeneland September 2015
$85,000 OBS April 2016

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: Barn K, Trackside Training Center in Louisville until going to Barn 27 on May 2.

Fast and Accurate broke his maiden in his fourth start, a $30,000 maiden claiming race on Dec. 4 at Turfway going a mile when he was the 2-1 favorite. He followed that up on Feb. 20 by winning a race at Gulfstream Park called the Sage Monticello, a 7 1/2 furlong starter stakes for 3-year-olds that had started for a claiming price of $35,000 or less. He was 7-2 in that outing.

In the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on March 25, Fast and Accurate and Blueridge Traveler, the two longest shots in the field, ran one-two at odds of 24-1 and 35-1 respectively. En Hanse took the early lead with Fast and Accurate tracking in second going into the first turn. The first quarter-mile was in the book at 23.22. En Hanse kept his foot on the gas into the backstretch with a half-mile gone in 46.36, Parlor was running second, Fast and Accurate third and Convict Pike fourth, and that's the way they wenbt into the far turn with six furlongs timed 1:10.22. Tyler Gaffalione shifted Fast and Accurate outside En Hanse in the turn, took the lead heading for home, and got to the finish line first in 1:50.96. Blueridge Traveler, ninth of 11 early and eighth after six furlongs, made a late run up the rail to get second without seriously challenging the winner, beaten three parts of a length. Convict Pike stayed on to run third, beaten 1 1/4 length, edging favorite Kitten's Cat by a half-length.

Mike Maker, winning trainer: "We had a lot of confidence. He's kind of a thin-looking horse, but he had put on some weight. (In December) we were trying to get some more winners for Hansen, and we had so many of them that we were just trying to fill in the blanks."

Tyler Gaffalione, winning jockey: "The race set up beautifully. My horse broke well. I looke to the outside and I saw Maker's other horse going to the lead, and he told me if the other one broke better to just sit behind him. We had a beautiful trip going into the far turn, I put him on the outside, and he just hit another gear. Down the lane he just kept lengthening stride."

April 21 NOTE: Bode Miller has bought part of Fast and Accurate.

In the Kentucky Derby, Fast and Accurate tried to take the lead but wasn't quick enough to do it and then faded to finish 17th, beaten 28 3/4 lengths.

Mike Maker: “All is well. Not good enough.”

Channing Hill: “He ran good and he ran his race. We wanted to make the lead but we weren’t fast enough. I thought I has a shot early on but not able to quicken him.”

WORKOUTS
Jan. 4, five in 1:02.20 Breezing 3/12 at TP
Jan. 11, five in 1:02.40 Breezing 11/20 at TP
Jan. 21, five in 1:00.20 Breezing 1/12 at TP
Jan. 28, five in 1;02.20 Breezing 3/14 at TP
Feb. 11, five in 1:00.40 Breezing 2/16 at TP
March 4, four in 47.40 Breezing 4/58 at GP
March 11, five in 1:02.40 Breezing 21/35 at GP
March 18, five in 1;01.60 Breezing 12/44 at GP
April 8, four in 47:60 Breezing 4/16 at CDT
April 15, five in 59:60 Breezing 1/15 at CDT
April 23, five in 1.00:20 Breezing good track 2/11 at CDT
April 30, five in 1.01:20 Breezing 17/32 at CD

 

 

GIRVIN (KY)
Trainer: Joe Sharp
Owner: Brad Grady
Breeder:  Bob Austin & John Witte
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Tale of Ekati (Tale of the Cat, Silence Beauty)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Catch the Moon (Malibu Moon, Catch My Fancy)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 4-2-7-1-0 (14) 2.11
Foal Date: March 31, 2014

$140,000 RNA Keeneland September 2015
$130,000 Fasig-Tipton Fall 2015


A half to Cocked and Loaded

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: Barn A at Trackside Training Center in Louisville; transferred to Keeneland April 21 until May 2, when he ships to Churchill Downs.

On Dec. 16 at Fair Grounds, Girvin debuted in a six-furlong maiden race. He showed good speed throughout, prevailing by a head in a battle with Al Stall-trained first-time starter Excitations. It was 9 1/4 lengths back to another well-regarded Stall trainee in Hold Me Black.

Joe Sharp: “He was very impressive in the mornings and hadn’t been outworked. He did everything the right way and his mentality was good. I almost ran him long first-time out, definitely feeling he was better going long, but decided to sprint him and was surprised with how much speed he showed. He has the presence of a good horse.”

On Feb. 4 as the 3-2 favorite, Cowboy Culture, ridden by Florent Geroux, won the one-mile Keith Gee Memorial on turf. He showed a good turn of foot running the final eighth-mile in 11.64. He settled in fifth of seven before moving closer at the half-mile pole, spun five-wide at the top of the stretch, then hooked and overcame Hot Dad and Girvin. The latter one, ridden by Brian Hernandez, Jr., stayed two or three lengths back of the early pace in fourth, made a move, and briefly fell behind Hot Dad and James Graham before coming again to get second, beaten 3/4 length, a head in front of Hot Dad. The winning time was 1:37.44.

Joe Sharp: He confirmed that Girvin will be wheeled back in three weeks in the Risen Star Stakes.

Brian Hernandez, Jr. “He gave a great effort. He’s not a horse bred for the grass. He just had that one solid race, and this was his first time seeing two turns. I thought he ran a great race today and his gallop out was solid. We got everything out of him we planned on today.”

With a crafty ride by Brian Hernandez, Jr., Girvin turned it on late in the stretch to win the Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 25 at 8-1 odds. Local Hero set the early pace all alone with fractions of 23.70 for the first quarter-mile and 47.02 for the half, at which point he led by six lengths. He was still in front by 3 1/2 lengths after six furlongs in 1:11.98. Mo Town, favored at 3-2,  tracked in second with Untrapped and Cool Arrow vying for third and fourth part-way down the backstretch. After breaking from the rail, Girvin began his journey by sitting midpack in the scratch-reduced field of 11. After a quarter-mile he was fifth, six lengths off the pace, and after the first half-mile he was still fifth, but over nine lengths back. At that point, Hernandez started asking Girvin and he advanced to fourth entering the far turn, about five lengths off the lead, while Cool Arrow backed off.

On the far turn, Hernandez had Girvin down in the two path. Leaving the turn, Hernandez roused him and gave him a couple of pops of the whip left-handed. As heads turned for home Local Hero kept running while Mo Town beat a hasty retreat. Hernandez switched to a right-handed whip as Girvin was switching leads, but at the furlong marker they had caught Local Hero. Girvin extended a half-length lead to a winning margin of two lengths. Untrapped, still hanging around, stayed a little longer than Local Hero, slipping by him as the finish line loomed to get second place. Local Hero hung on for third, beaten 4 1/4 lengths Guest Suite, who was ninth, 13 lengths in arrears after a half-mile, came up a neck short of getting the show spot. The 1 1/16 mile was timed in 1:43.08 on a track rated fast.

Joe Sharp: “We believed in the horse all along. I lost my voice, and we’re in shock and very excited. He will stay here and probably run in the Louisiana Derby. We’ll let him tell us, but that’s my inclination."

Brian Hernandez, Jr.: “The horse did the job for us. You have to give him the credit. He put us in a good spot the whole way and traveled like a true professional. For a horse to come out and do what he did today in just his third start, that shows what kind of special animal he truly is.”

THE NEXT DAY: Girvin is reported to be doing well today. The Louisiana Derby is confirmed as his next target.

March 18 NOTE: Trainer Sharp said, “He went great. I was on Cool Arrow again, and Rosie was on Girvin and it was even better than we expected. Unlike when they’ve worked together before, we had Girvin on the outside this time. At one point, Rosie queezed on him and he quickly opened up a little on Cool Arrow. He galloped out great, too.”

March 28 NOTE: Joe Sharp on conference call today: Girvin doing as well now as he ever has. He "exceeded our expectations in the Risen Star." He entered Hotfoot "to promote some pace" in the Louisiana Derby.

March 31 NOTE: Trainer Sharp said yesterday, “Brad was worried about pace, so we have Hotfoot in there. He’s a good horse in his own right, but the draw makes us more inclined to run (Hotfoot). I like where Girvin is drawn and would rather him outside than inside. He can dictate his position a little better and I’m not worried about him too much because he has run differently every time and just seems to be a classy horse. Brian knows what he’s doing. He seems to be more confident. He just keeps getting cooler, better and more mature. He is one of those horses who you just wait for him to have a bad day and he doesn’t, which is nice. He’s just very uncomplicated, and he knows he’s good at this point. He’s actually getting cocky and confident and realizing he’s as good as he is. I feel like we’ve put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears here in Louisiana. Even though it technically isn’t, it feels like home, so it would be great to win the race.”

In the April 1 Louisiana Derby, favored Girvin won with Patch second, Local Hero third and Hollywood Handsome fourth. Trainer Sharp entered stablemate Hotfoot to help ensure an honest pace. Hotfoot shot to the lead and set fractions of 23.46 of 47.00 as Monaco, Local Hero, Girvin and Patch pursued him around the first turn and up the backstretch. As the far turn approached, Local Hero, who is prone to run on the lead, couldn't wait any longer and was in front into the bend.  Meanwhile, Girvin was fourth, five lengths off the pace. Six furlongs were run in 1:11.15. Brian Hernandez, Jr. pulled the trigger for real going around the far turn, and Girvin, who was three and four wide, began a steady advance. Hotfoot was done, and Local Hero's lead was short-lived as Girvin was on top by a head with a furlong remaining in the race. He won by 1 1/4 length, timed in 1:49.44 after switching back to his left lead late.  Patch made a nice stretch run up the rail to get second, and Local Hero hung for third, another 1 3/4 length back, and just a nose ahead of the fourth finisher, longshot Hollywood Handsome.

Joe Sharp: “It doesn’t feel bad. He’s a talented horse. We’re enjoying the ride. It’s great connections and a great owner, and it has been a real team effort.”

Brian Hernandez, Jr.: “He’s such a talented horse. He puts a lot of confidence in you. Today my biggest thing was when I saw Local Hero settle as well as he did, I wanted to stay behind and give myself a target. Every time I needed him, he was there for me. Turning for home, he got to switching leads back and forth, but he was kind of just messing around.”

April 15 NOTE: Trainer Sharp, following a work in company with Cool Arrow: “It was a little quicker than I would have liked for his first work back. Both he and Cool Arrow were on the bridle which is good. Rosie was happy with it and he seems to be cooling out well which will set him up for his work next week.” Mike Smith will be in Louisville for next weekend's workout.

April 21 NOTE: Girvin was vanned to Keeneland today and is expected to train on the synthetic training track. A planned workout on Saturday was reset to as far off as Monday, according to trainer Joe Sharp. No word yet on where that will take place.

April 24 NOTE: Girvin was supposed to work today, but it didn't happen. Now trainer Sharp says it will take place Friday...at Keeneland. Girvin's last workout was nine days ago.

In the Kentucky Derby, Girvin had a rough trip and finished 13th, beaten 19 1/2 lengths. He was bumped at the start, and checked sharply in the far turn.

Joe Sharp: “Mike came back and said he belongs with this bunch. He hated the track, but still tried to make a run and then we got wiped out on the turn.” Mike said I should run him back in the Preakness or the Belmont.”

Mike Smith: “He felt OK but he was struggling with the racetrack early on. He was getting knocked around so many times and the poor guy just never had a shot inside. I felt like I was in the one hole. I finally get him running at the three-eighths pole and someone wiped out four of us again. The shot was over then.”

WORKOUTS
Dec. 31, four in 49.62 Breezing 31/111 at EVT
Jan. 14, five in 1:01.30 Breezing at 12/49 at EVT
Jan. 29, five in 1:00.40 Breezing 3/31 at FG
Feb. 17, 49:20 Breezing 21/56 at FG
March 11, four in 49:00 Breezing 19/86 at FG
March 18, five in 1.01:00 Breezing 8/54 at FG
March 25, five in 1.01:00 Breezing 4/23 at FG
April 15, four in 47:80 Breezing 1/30 at CDT
April 29, five in 59:60 Breezing 2/16 at KEE

 

 

GORMLEY (KY)
Trainer: John Shirreffs
Owner: Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Moss
Breeder: Castleton Lyons & Kilboy Estate
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Malibu Moon (A.P. Indy, Macoumba)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Race to Urga (Bernstein, Miss Mambo)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 7-5-12-2-0 (26) 2.25
Foal Date: March 20, 2016


$150,000 RNA Keeneland September 2015

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: May 1

Gormley won his debut for a trainer not known to crank them up for their first start.

In his second career start, Gormley went wire-to-wire to win the FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct 1. He galloped home and did it rather easily. Klimt, the favorite, was at the back of the field in the backstretch and rallied to finish second, beaten three lengths while never challenging the winner. Fractions were 23.72, 47.18, 1:11.48, 1:36.79 and a final time of 1:43.57.

Victor Esponoza: “I was really surprised. Like anything you go into it with a plan, but when that gate opens, everything can change. I originally wanted to take back a little bit and let him run in the end but next thing I know, something happened to the three horse (Secret House, who broke from the gate without rider Santiago Gonzalez and declared a non-starter.) I was on the rail and didn’t want to take him back then, so I let him run. This horse can run well wherever he runs. He’s a very talented young horse and he’s going to improve for the future.”

John Shirreffs: “You know, it’s always a surprise as you well know. You train in the morning and you hope they can improve in the afternoon. You don’t ever know until the afternoon. After you’ve won your first race you settle in and you just move on. He’s a young horse, he’s learning. He needs to focus a little bit and once he gets focused he’s got it handled. He looks like a million bucks, he’s a beautiful horse and he’s doing really well. I like that when he got into that big gear he has, he didn’t get too excited for a young horse and today he was all business.”

Gormley didn't spring from the gate to the lead in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, instead finding himself mid-pack running into the first turn. He didn't improve his position. Fifth at the first three calls, he was seventh at the final two calls, beaten 16 1/4 lengths.

Dec. 19 NOTE: Trainer Shirreffs said Gormley is set to make his three-year-old debut in the Sham Stakes at on Jan. 7.

Jan. 6 NOTE: Trainer Shirreffs said, “Condition-wise and weather-wise, it’s a go. He’s trained very well. He came out of the Breeders’ Cup in great shape and has trained well since. As to strategy, we’ll let Victor make that decision once the gates open. There’s enough speed in the race that maybe he doesn’t need the lead; I don’t know. He’s still kind of new at developing a style. Hopefully, he’ll pick a style that works.”

The Sham Stakes on Jan. 7 turned into a sloppy-track duel won by Gormley over American Anthem, the latter horse going two turns for the first time. A short head separated Gormley and American Anthem at the wire. Victor Espinoza was on the winner, who got the mile in 1:35.89. Gormley was the second betting choice, and American Anthem was favored. Mike Smith gunned American Anthem from the rail, and Espinoza sat a close second just off the leader’s right hip into and around the clubhouse turn. As the field made its way into the far turn, the top two separated themselves from the field and battled to the finish. Fractions were 22.54, 45.46, 1:10.13 and 1:22.70.

John Shirreffs: “That was a great race. He’s still young. You never know what they’re going to do so it’s always interesting. We’re very proud of him. He’s quick. He starts quick, he gets away quickly. But then he checks himself as he gets into the race and he relaxes. It was great to see him pick it back up again and get it done. Chantal (Sutherland who has been working him in the mornings) has given me a lot of confidence in how he’s doing. She’s a rider who really understands what is going on underneath her and is very expressive about it, so she’s been a big help.”

Jerry Moss: “This type of thing never gets old. He’s got a lot of heart, and I know he’ll go further than this. John’s doing all the right things as usual. This was a beautiful horse race and the fans got a thriller. No idea where we’ll run next.”

Victor Espinoza: “It was nice yes. I expected him to run the way he ran today. I know he’s still improving, but I think he only gets better and better. Hopefully, he gets a lot better, but with this race and his next, he has a lot of potential to keep growing. It didn’t surprise me how well he broke out of there today. When he’s feeling good, he breaks quickly and already running. In the Breeders’ Cup he broke slow, but today he came into the race in really good shape and got into it right away.”

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Shirreffs said, "He looked really good this morning. I’m extremely proud of the way he ran and battled it out. It was a great duel down the stretch with both horses. Two great jockeys going at it, two promising young horses going at it. That’s what racing is all about.”

Feb. 22 NOTE: Weather interfered with the normal workout pattern between Feb. 10-20, trainer Shirreffs said.

March 9 NOTE: Trainer Shirreffs said about running Gormley this Saturday instead of going out of town, “The big thing was how well Gormley worked here when he went in 1:11 and change."

Mastery was super impressive winning the San Felipe Stakes on March 11 only to be pulled up about 10 jumps past the wire by a worried Mike Smith and later diagnosed with a condylar fracture. Iliad gave chase but finished second. Term of Art came on late to get third, and Gormley, who pressed Mastery early, faded to fourth. Mastery set the pace and turned back heavy pressure from Gormley and Iliad up the backstretch and the far turn before separating himself from the field in the stretch. He galloped home under a hand ride in 1:42.38 in the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe. Mastery set fractions of 23.50, 46.79 and 1:10.48. In the run toward the far turn, Mastery, Gormley and Iliad separated themselves from the pack, and they stayed that way for a while, with Mastery just ahead of Gormley and Iliad going into the far turn. Gormley was between horses. Iliad moved on Gormley in the turn, but Mastery stayed in front and cut the corner into the stretch and began to get loose while Gormley went in the opposite direction. Iliad continued to give chase, but it was to be in vain. Smith and Mastery hit the finish line 6 3/4 lengths ahead of Iliad. Term of Art came on late to get third, another 1 3/4 length back and 1 1/4 length ahead of Gormley. It was another dozen lengths back to Ann Arbor Eddie, followed by Bluegrass Envy and Vending Machine.

Victor Espinoza, aboard Gormley: “You know, Gormley was good all the way around. He kind of surprised me at the three-eighths pole where he kind of dropped the bridle and just kept moving along with the winner and I thought he’d finish second. It seems like he’s okay, but these young horses, they’re still figuring it out. Race by race, they’re seeing what exactly they like and some little thing may not being going their way and they won’t race at their best, but he’ll recover and do better in the next one.”

In the Santa Anita Derby on April 8, Gormley won, Battle of Midway was second, Royal Mo third and Reach the World fourth. Set down while a few lengths off the pace leaving the half mile pole, Gormley kept to his task through the lane and got the nine furlongs in 1:51.16. Gormley was sent off at 6-1 in a field of 13. Battle of Midway, American Anthem and Royal Mo fought for the early lead heads apart through six furlongs timed in 22.66, 46.55 and 1:10.92. Battle of Midway stayed on stubbornly to finish second by a half-length, and Royal Mo finished third, beaten a length. Reach the World, who was 10 lengths off the pace after the first half-mile, closed well to finish another half-length back in fourth, and Iliad, who finished fifth, was beaten only two lengths.

John Shirreffs: I think the key was Espinoza rating Gormley and then making his big move. This is very exciting. Gormley is an evolving horse.He’s very precocious and very excitable. I just need to turn that energy of his into positive use. It’s a lot of growing pains with a talented horse. I think using the tongue tie certainly helped us today. We’ll see how this shakes out. We’ll see how he comes out of this race in the morning and if all is well, we’ll point to the Kentucky Derby.”

Victor Espinoza: “Today the big difference is that he was ready. Something went wrong last time, he was good but not quite where I wanted. I was a little bit disappointed, but it seems like today he was on his toes, on his game and I was really ready for it. All it takes is having a lot of confidence in him against the other horses and with John we were hoping he chose the right one.

“He’s really quick out of the gate, and today the plan was to take him back and make him run because it seemed like there was a little bit of speed in the race. I had a little bit of a hard time taking him back, but all I had to do was jerk him one time, a bit harder than I wanted, and that’s all it took. He relaxed very nice.

"Down the backside, I started laughing to myself because I knew I was in a good position, and I knew all the horses in front of me were going to stop. He showed me he’s capable of going the distance. The only problem is his size; he’s not very big but he’s tough, and that’s what I like about him. He works really hard, and that’s what it takes.”

April 15 NOTE: May not arrive at Churchill Downs until Derby week.

April 23 NOTE: Will arrive at Churchill on May 1. Here's what trainer Shirreffs said to Bloodhorse.com of Gormley's slow-early, fast-late work yesterday: "The nice thing about it was he wasn't even pulling. Before, when he'd leave the pony, he'd get right into it. Now he doesn't rush. I think that's important for high-end horses. He has so much energy; we want to tone down the speed and finish."

April 24 NOTE: Jockey Espinoza said, “I’m really looking forward to the Derby this year. I’m excited, because every year that I have a horse in the Derby, I feel I have a chance. I feel the same this year. The race is wide open, Gormley is doing well and ran a big race to win the Santa Anita Derby. Hopefully, he’ll run his race in Kentucky and I think I’ll be in good shape.”

In the Kentucky Derby, Gormley finished ninth, beaten 14 1/4 lengths, after advancing from ninth early to fourth at the top of the stretch. He was bumped by Practical Joke in mid-stretch but really had no excuse.

John Shirreffs: “Gormley came back fine. I’d really prefer not to comment on his race until I have a chance to watch the replay.”

Victor Espinoza: “I had a great trip, but not enough horse.  He never really picked up the bridle.”

WORKOUTS
Jan. 2, five in 1:00.60 Handily good track 3/9 at SA
Jan. 18, four in 51.20 Handily 112/115 at SA
Jan. 26, five in 1:00.80 Handily 30/87 at SA
Feb. 2 four in 49:60 Handily 43/73 at SA
Feb. 10, five in 1.02:40 Handily 78/101 at SA
Feb. 20, four in 47:80 Handily 8/49 at SA
Feb. 27, six in 1.11:00 Handily 1/14 at SA
March 6, five in 1.02:40 Handily 30/37 at SA
March 21, four in 48:80 Handily 21/41 at SA
March 25, three in 37:00 Handily 9/21 at SA
March 27, five in 1.02:00 Handily 32/53 at SA
April 2, six in 1.14:00 Handily 3/10 at SA
April 15, three in 37.80 Handily 14/16 at SA
April 22, six in 1.15:80 Handily 10/11 at SA
April 29, seven in 1.26:20 Handily 1/2 at SA

 

 

GUNNEVERA (KY)
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Owner: Peacock Racing Stables LLC (Solomon Del-Valle and Guillermo Guerra)
Breeder: Brandywine Farm and Stephen Upchurch
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Dialed In (Mineshaft, Miss Doolittle)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Unbridled Rage (Unbridled, Suite)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 7-8-10-2-3 (30) 2.00
Foal Date: Feb. 28, 2014

$16,000 Keeneland September 2015

Trainer Sano has been the leading trainer in Venezuela 19 times.

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 23, Barn 41

He debuted on June 10 at Gulfstream Park going five furlongs with a solid late-running second, 3 1/2 lengths behind heavily favored first-time starter Three Rules. On July 2, he finished a troubled and fast-closing fourth behind Three Rules in the 5 1/2-furlong Birdonthewire Stakes. He graduated July 16 in his third career start with a six-wide surge from seventh in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden event at Gulfstream. He was shipped to Saratoga for bigger pickings.

Sent off at 9-1 in a field of only five, Gunnevera won the Aug. 15 Saratoga Special with a strong closing move after being last in the early going. He passed 1-2 favorite Recruiting Ready in the lane. Recruiting Ready was disqualified and placed fourth. Get Lit N Get Wild set a fast pace of 21.97 under pressure from Sonic Mule, Tip Tap Tapizar and Recruiting Ready. In the turn, the latter one gained the lead after soundly bumping Tip Tap Tapizar, who in turn bumped Sonic Mule. The half went in 45.04, and Recruiting Ready was 3 1/2 lengths clear approaching the furlong marker. Gunnevera hit the wire in 1:17.00 a length ahead of Recruiting Ready. There were 14 lengths back to the third finisher.

Antonio Sano: "I liked the race, but I told Castellano, 'he's slow but the last three furlongs are strong.' I liked this horse at a longer distance. We'll see you September 5 here. He just needed more distance. It was a good job from Castellano."

Javier Castellano: "My horse is a really good horse. We came from behind, in the clear and finished really well. I think he had a really good setup today and everything went the right way. Everything worked out great, we had a perfect trip. Long term, he is going to be a really nice horse."

August 17 NOTE: Trainer Sano said, "“Edgard Zayas worked him here at Gulfstream Park West and he told me he never had been on a horse as good as this. Coming from a jockey like Edgard, that meant a lot. Even though he had never been on the horse before – because Jesus Rios was his rider – I wanted him to work him, because I value his opinion a lot. When he told me that, it was a boost of confidence for us.”

Gunnevera was an uninspiring fifth in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 8.

Next was the Delta Jackpot with its million-dollar purse. A powerful move starting at the end of the backstretch put Gunnevera last to first by 5 3/4 lengths over Hot Sean. Ridden by Javier Castellano, Gunnevera paid $7.80 as the 2.90 favorite in the 10-horse field. He was timed in a modest 1:45.15 around the bullring track. Hot Sean, trained by Bob Baffert, led the field at the quarter pole and held the advantage to the top of the stretch, but was no match for the winner. Dangerfield, 18-1, finished third, followed in order by J Boys Echo, Balandeen, Pat On the Back, Thirstforlife, Tip Tap Tapizar, Line Judge and Our Stormin Norman.

Javier Castellano: “He’s a come from behind horse, and I wanted to see how the race unfolded in the first turn. I wanted to take advantage of the early speed and save ground and it worked out perfectly. When I asked him a little bit (on the backstretch) he responded with a beautiful stride. He’s a great developing horse and the way he finished I think will get better with more distance.”

Dec. 7 NOTE: Trainer Sano said, “I want to run him in the Holy Bull, and if he runs good, I’ll go in the Florida Derby. There’s no room for the Fountain of Youth. I’ll run in the Florida Derby, and then I hope Kentucky Derby. I was very happy (after the Delta Jackpot). I really liked the horse to win the race. Castellano did a nice job in the race.”

Feb. 1 NOTE: Trainer Sano said, “I’m very happy with him. He has trained very well. The race isn’t going to be easy, but I think he can win the race. Gunnevera is a special horse. He’s done everything I’ve wanted him to do. He’s 100 percent in condition.”

On Feb. 4, Irish War Cry went to a dominating, front-running victory in the 1 1/16-mile Lambholm South Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park. At 4-1 odds, he soundly defeated Gunnevera, 1-2 favorite Classic Empire and four others, timed in 1:42.52. Irish War Cry scored by 3 3/4 lengths over Gunnevera, who finished a surprising five lengths ahead of Classic Empire, who showed little after getting worked up before the race. Irish War Cry looked like he could go another lap after the race.

Classic Empire was a little reluctant to enter the starting gate and broke a step slow before quickly attaining a good stalking position under Julien Leparoux. Irish War Cry broke alertly under Joel Rosario and set fractions of 24.14 and 47.92. Talk Logistics, who briefly led, tracked Irish War Cry while saving ground along the backstretch under Paco Lopez, with Classic Empire to his outside. Gunnevera sat just behind those three. Leparoux sent Classic Empire after the pacesetter on the far turn, but Classic Empire soon weakened and Irish War Cry kicked clear by 3 1/2 lengths in mid-stretch. Gunnevera surged past Classic Empire and a fading Talk Logistics to finish a clear second, well clear of Classic Empire. Talk Logistics was another 5 1/4 lengths back in fourth, followed by Cavil and Perro Rojo. Shamsaan didn't finish.

Antonio Sano: “I think it was a very good race. I think the last two furlongs, Castellano had a little bump, but he ran good. I’m very happy with him.”

Javier Castellano: “Unfortunately, there was no speed in the race. It didn't set up for my horse. After Todd Pletcher scratched (Fact Finding), everything changed. You can say I put him close to try to get him in the race, but that's not his style. He needs to relax and make one big run. That's best for him.”

Feb. 18 NOTE: Trainer Sano said after a workout, “He’s a very happy horse. He went very easy, very handily. He went 1 minute, 1 second and galloped out in 1:14. I’m very excited about the horse. To me, (the Holy Bull) was a winning race. On the last turn my horse was bumped and it broke the action of my horse.”

Feb. 23 NOTE: Trainer Sano said today after a session schooling in the paddock, “He looks very good. I school him today because last time when they ran the Holy Bull it was very hard by the horses. Today he is very relaxed and it’s a big difference. He’s much better than when he ran in the Holy Bull. I hope he is better next time for the Fountain of Youth.”

Feb. 25 NOTE: Gunnevera breezed five furlongs at GP West, but it was so foggy clockers couldn't time him.

In the March 4 Fountain of Youth Stakes, Gunnevera closed on the early speed to win and become a millionaire. Practical Joke finished second after also coming from off the pace, and Three Rules was the only part of the early speed to hang around, finishing third. At 94-1 odds, Talk Logistics finished fourth. And at even-money odds, Irish War Cry was far out of camera range at the conclusion of the race.

Three Rules and Irish War Cry ran one-two, separated by a length, through splits of 23.43 and 47.18. Takaful wasn't far behind in third, and Made You Look was fourth. Three Rules edged away to lead Irish War Cry by two lengths with six furlongs gone in 1:12.37. Takaful was on his way to a retreat by then, and Made You Look was already in full idle. Meanwhile, Practical Joke, who laid seventh and sixth early on after being steadied on the first turn,  was now third, two lengths behind. Gunnevera, who was 10th and last after the first quarter-mile, had advanced to fifth. As the field rounded the bend, Irish War Cry waved the white flag, and Practical Joke boldly loomed up on the leader. No sooner than that happened Gunnevera, who had picked off horses going four wide, was past both of them in upper stretch in the blink of an eye, and the race for first place was over. He got home in 1:44.25 for the 1 1/6-mile. Gunnevera's winning margin was a gaping 5 3/4 lengths. Three Rules dug in gamely but couldn't quite stay with Practical Joke, who edged him by half a length for second. Talk Logistics was fourth, beaten 12 1/4 lengths.

Antonio Sano: “I feel very happy. The last race he lost the race because he got bumped. This was different – more horses, different speed. I thought 100 percent that he would win today. Castellano told me, he did it very easy. Castellano never win the Kentucky Derby. For me, it’s the first time, This is the year. I’m very proud for my team and Peacock Racing. I’m very emotional.” On to the Florida Derby.

Javier Castellano: “There was a lot of speed in the race, and the way it set up was perfect. That’s what I was looking for. He’s the kind of horse where you have to make one run. You can’t chase the pace, because you’re not going to finish. I tried to do that a little bit last time, but I learned my lesson. I was able to learn and move forward and it paid off today.

“I took my time with him. He’s a very professional horse. He’s a 3-year-old horse but he acts like a 6-year-old. He’s an old pro. The way he was in the post parade, he was very composed and he waited in the gate. He broke from the gate and I could have been a little closer to the pace and chased a little bit to secure my spot in the first turn, but I didn’t. I took my time with him. I let him follow the pace and he started picking it up little by little. Turning for home, I knew I had it. I knew because of the way he did it when I asked him, he responded very well.

“I was very lucky and very fortunate. Last time, it was another thing. I tried to save ground and unfortunately I was completely stopped at the three-eighths pole. He lost his momentum and came back again, but it was too late.”

Peacock Racing Stable's Solomon Del-Valle (through interpreter): "I am the happiness man on earth. I thank God, Antonio Sano and Javier Castellano. All three champions. This is my biggest win. I've been around horses since I was five years old. I've had as many as 40 horses in Venezuela. Antonio bought this horse for $16,000. Incredible. I love this horse. I get up every day at 4 a.m. to see the horse. I was 100-percent sure he would win today.

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Sano said, “He’s very good this morning, 100 percent sound. ALSO: Javier is a friend of mine. He’s very confident in the horse. He’s a very strong closer.” Sano said Gunnevera was "90 percent” to run next in the Florida Derby.

March 18 NOTE: Trainer Sano said after Gunnevera breezed, “I’m very happy. The horse is 100 percent. He’s very quiet, relaxed. He’s a very happy horse.”

March 25 NOTE: Trainer Sano said, “It was very good for me. The jockey did exactly as I asked him and it went perfect. He was very calm on my horse. The last two furlongs I got him in :10 4/5 and the gallop out was very good. Last week the horse worked very slow. He is ready for the race,” he added. “He didn’t need more for the Florida Derby, so I breezed him looking ahead to the next one. It’s exciting, and it’s pressure. More people come by the barn for the horse. The owners call me every day. I think it’s normal. I feel that my horse is a good horse.”

In the April 1 Florida Derby, Always Dreaming won, State of Honor was second, favored Gunnevera was third, Impressive Edge was fourth and Three Rules was fifth. The race began with Three Rules setting splits of 23.38, 47.08 and 1:10.75 as State of Honor, then Always Dreaming, pursued him in second a length or two back. Always Dreaming was briefly steadied in the first turn. Gunnevera departed the far outside post and headed toward the rail to prepare for a late run. Rounding the second turn, Always Dreaming began to edge up the outside of Three Rules and obtained a narrow lead. At the furlong marker they had opened up by 2 1/2 lengths. Three Rules was still second, but State of Honor, who appeared to be retreating into the turn, rallied again and soon got past Three Rules for the place. Gunnevera was 15 lengths behind after the first quarter-mile and rallied to finish third, a length-and-a-half behind State of Honor. Impressive Edge was fourth or third at every call and finished fourth, beaten seven lengths and a nose in front of Three Rules in fifth. The final time was 1:47.47.

Antonio Sano: “Castellano told me the post position was a little problem, but the horse wasn’t comfortable in the beginning. He finished strong, but the horses in the front weren’t stopping. I’m happy. This is an important race to win, but it was a good race for the next one.”

Javier Castellano:  “I had a good trip. I saved all the ground in the first turn and the way he ended up, I didn’t have it today. I was riding, riding all the way in the race. He never grabbed the bit, he never pulled like he always used to. Maybe he was affected by the track. The track was speed today. I saved all the ground. I did the right thing for the horse, and I tried to develop the horse. Unfortunately, he didn’t have it today.”

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Sano said Gunnevera is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs on April 22 and, “Gunnevera is very good, very good. He was checked by the vet, and everything is very good. I’m very happy with my horse. Considering everything, it was a good race for my horse.”

APRIL 15 NOTE: Trainer Sano said Gunnevera was very relaxed during his workout today and that he is waiting for jockey Castellano to give him a decision about the Kentucky Derby after he rides Malagacy in the Arkansas Derby.

April 21 NOTE: A couple of days ago, Javier Castellano committed to stay on Gunnevera for the Kentucky Derby.

April 21 NOTE: Trainer Sano said, “The horse did it very easy. I’m very happy. He galloped out good. Never in my life have I had a horse that is like this after a race. He never breathes hard; no water. I’m nervous every day. I need to relax. I know the race won’t be easy with 20 horses, but my horse is very good. I think the mile and a quarter will be better. I think there will be a lot of speed in the race. The stretch is very long. I think it’s better for me.”

In the Kentucky Derby, Gunnevera was jammed up at the start and bumped. He finished seventh, beaten 13 1/4 lengths, after being in 14th or 15th the first six furlongs.

Antonio Sano: "He came back very well. We have no excuse."

Javier Castellano: “I didn’t think he handled the track at all. In the beginning, he was holding it together, but when asked him for speed and to pick it up, he struggled quite a bit. It was disappointing.”

WORKOUTS
Dec. 31, five in 59.85 Breezing 1/29 at GPW
Jan. 8, five in 58.80 Breezing 1/22 at GPW
Jan. 14, five in 1:01.00 Breezing 5/30 at GPW
Jan. 21, five in 1:00.85 Breezing 3/30 at GPW
Jan. 28, five in 1:00.400 Breezing 4/21 at GPW
Feb. 18, five in 1.01:00 Breezing 3/20 at GPW
Feb. 25, five furlongs at GPW, too foggy to clock
March 18, five in 1.04:60 Breezing 22/24 at GPW
March 25, five in 1.01:80 Breezing 7/21 at GPW
April 15, five in 1.00:60 Breezing 3/13 at GPW
April 21, five in 1.01:00 Breezing 3/15 at GPW
April 28, five in 1.03:60 Breezing 35/35 at CD

 

 

HENCE (KY)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Owner: Calumet Farm (Brad Kelley)
Breeder: Calumet Farm
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Street Boss (Street Cry (IRE), Blushing Ogygian)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Floating Island (A.P. Indy, Ballerina Princess)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 9-6-13-0-0 (28) 3.31
Foal Date: March 28, 2014

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 2, Barn 38

Hence finished seventh, third and second in three starts as a juvenile.  He debuted in an Aug. 27 sprint at Saratoga, and the runner-up in that race, Mo Town, went on to win the Remsen Stakes. Second time out,  Hence ran third to Guest Suite in an Oct. 8 maiden race at Keeneland at 1 1/16 mile. Guest Suite went on to win the LeComte Stakes. Third time out, Greeley and Ben barely edged him in a one-mile maiden race at Churchill Downs when they dueled the entire race.

Hence broke his maiden in his fourth lifetime start on Jan. 16 at Oaklawn Park under Ramon Vazquez on a sloppy-sealed track. Hence, Asmussen’s 500th career Oaklawn winner, stumbled at the start and found himself in fifth, 4 1/2 lengths off the pace at the first and second calls. He recovered to regain the lead on the inside in the final 50 yards and finished three-quarters of a length ahead Horse Fly, also owned by Calumet. He ducked in sharply inside the furlong marker.

Ramon Vazquez: He said Hence ducked in after seeing a reflection from an infield video board.

Steve Asmussen: “He’s caught some good company. He’s got talent, and I think he’ll run great (in the Southwest Stakes).”

In the 1 1/16-mile Southwest Stakes on Feb. 20, Hence started out in eighth, advanced to fifth and finished seventh, beaten 13 lengths by One Liner and a time of 1:41.85 on a speed-favoring track.

Ridden for the first time by Alfredo Juarez, Jr. in the Sunland Derby on March 26, Hence laid off torrid early fractions, shot to the lead leaving the far turn, and eased away to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Conquest Mo Money stayed on for second, 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Hedge Fund, who was followed across the finish line a neck behind by Irap. Hedge Fund broke well and took the field through early fractions of 22.56 and 45.72 before slowing things up with six furlongs in 1:10.22. Bronze Age, who stumbled at the start, was in closest pursuit through the first half-mile but was suddenly pulled up in the backstretch. Irap, Balandeen and Shareholder Value were left vying to get to Hedge Fund, but local hero Conquest Mo Money ran into second place going into the far turn and siezed the lead in the bend.  Hence, 10th of 11 in the early going, was also gaining momentum behind Conquest Mo Money and ran himself into fourth position going into the turn. He was first leaving it after looming wide and then opened up on the field. The race was finished in 1:48.10.

March 30 NOTE: Hence will not get another start before the Kentucky Derby, per a report at espn.com.

March 30 NOTE: Trainer Asmussen said, "I liked this horse a lot going into the Oaklawn meet. I loved him going into the Southwest, thought we had something, but he threw in a bad race. Maybe he just needed more time. Maybe he chased the speed a little too much at Oaklawn. I liked the way he finished up when he came under the wire on Sunday."

April 17 NOTE: DRF reports that the Beyer Speed Figure for Hence in the Sunland Derby has been adjusted to 97 from its original 93. No word on whether the figures for Conquest Mo Money and Irap were revised.

April 24 NOTE: Trainer Asmussen said, “The race appears to be key, since the running of it. I think from our perspective the horse has always had a lot of talent, and he’s putting things together at the right time. (He) put in a great work this morning. I’m very comfortable with (him) being here at Churchill. I think the time (he) spent last year here shows.”

In the Kentucky Derby, Hence was 19th in the early going, was still far back going into the far turn after steadying off heels, and finished 11, beaten 18 1/2 lengths.

Steve Asmussen: "Hence didn't run into the mud hitting him."

Florent Geroux: “I just couldn’t keep up. I was trying to follow Lookin at Lee but I could never catch up.”

WORKOUTS
Jan. 13, four in 52.00 Breezing 72/80 at OP
Feb. 1, five in 1:02.20 Breezing 8/23 at OP
Feb. 15, 50:00 Breezing on a muddy track 5/13 at FG
March 11, five in 1.02:00 Breezing 18/37 at OP
March 18, five in 1.01:00 Breezing 10/41 at OP
April 10, four in 47:80 6/17 at CD
April 17, five in 1.00:40 Breezing 1/16 at CD
April 24, four in 1.00:00 Breezing 3/31 at CD
May 1, four in 48:80 Breezing good track 8/22 at CD

 

 

IRAP (KY)
Trainer: Doug O'Neill
Owner: Reddam Racing LLC
Breeder: Aaron & Marie Jones
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Tiznow (Cee's Tizzy, Cee's Song)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Silken Cat (CAN) (Storm Cat, Silken Doll)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 4-2-8-0-0 (14) 2.50
Foal Date: Feb. 11, 2014

$140,000 RNA Keeneland September 2015
$300,000 OBS March 2016

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 30

Irap failed to win the first two times, but in his third start he outran his 23-1 odds when second to Mastery in the Los Alamitos Futurity. Although he was beaten 7 1/4 lengths by Mastery, he finished 5 3/4 lengths in front of the third finisher, stablemate Dangerfield.

On a sloppy track, Sheer Flattery got up by a nose under Mike Smith to break his maiden going 1 1/16 mile at Santa Anita on Dec. 31. Among those he defeated was 9-5 favorite Irap, who wound up finishing fourth, a big disappointment. Irap remained a maiden after four starts.

On Feb. 4 Royal Mo went out and won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 3-2 odds. Only five ran, but he was never threatened. Royal Mo broke well from the rail and dictated fractions of 23.86, 47.37, 1:11.50 and 1:36.84 before winning by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:43.38. Irap, one of three Doug O'Neill trainees in the race, pressed the winner through much of the race and held off favored Sheer Flattery by a neck for second money. Sheer Flattery, sent off at 4-5 from post 5, was four wide into the first turn and came under pressure by Mike Smith relatively early in the race. Third turning for home, Sheer Flattery never threatened the winner. He finished 2 1/4 lengths in front of Term of Art. Dangerfield tried to mount a far turn rally but faded to last.

Doug O'Neill: “Royal Mo just ran lights out. I think pace makes the race, and the first half wasn’t overly quick. When you give a horse like Royal Mo an uncontested lead you’re going to be in trouble. We were curious how Irap would be with the blinkers and he was rank, so we answered that question."

Irap, favored at even money, couldn't run down 6-5 Conquest Mo Money as the latter one prevailed in the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park on Feb. 26. Conquest Mo Money quickly siezed the lead from post 4 under Jorge Carreno, and Irap found himself in third heading into the backstretch. The pacesetter cut out quick fractions of 22.78 and 46.23 as he continued up the back with Irap trailing in fourth of eight runners at one point. Going into the far turn with six furlongs gone in 1:11.33, Irap, who had been moved outside runners by Mario Gutierriez, made his bid. Conquest Mo Money kept going, cutting the corner into the stretch as Irap drifted out a bit. Irap continued chasing the winner to the finish line and was beaten two lengths. Oh So Regal finished well to get third, another two lengths back, and Wine N Divine was fourth, beaten 6 3/4 lengths. Hernandez also trains Oh So Regal. The final time was 1:43.12.

In the Sunland Derby on March 26, Hence laid off torrid early fractions, shot to the lead leaving the far turn, and eased away to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Conquest Mo Money stayed on for second, 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Hedge Fund, who was followed across the finish line a neck behind by Irap. Hedge Fund broke well and took the field through early fractions of 22.56 and 45.72 before slowing things up with six furlongs in 1:10.22. Bronze Age, who stumbled at the start, was in closest pursuit through the first half-mile but was suddenly pulled up in the backstretch. Irap, Balandeen and Shareholder Value were left vying to get to Hedge Fund, but local hero Conquest Mo Money ran into second place going into the far turn and siezed the lead in the bend.  Hence, 10th of 11 in the early going, was also gaining momentum behind Conquest Mo Money and ran himself into fourth position going into the turn. He was first leaving it after looming wide and then opened up on the field. The race was finished in 1:48.10.

March 31 NOTE: “He got (to Keeneland) yesterday afternoon,” said Antonio Romero, Irap’s exercise rider. “He went to the Fair Grounds from El Paso, spent one day there and then flew in here. Mr. Reddam wants to get a horse in the Kentucky Derby."

The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes was won by maiden Irap with Practical Joke second, McCraken third, J Boys Echo fourth and Tapwrit fifth. Irap sat in second early, overtook early pacesetter Wild Shot a little under six furlongs into the race, and held off Practical Joke to win the nine-furlong race at Keeneland in 1:50.39. Wild Shot struck the early lead and cut out reasonable fractions of 23.79 and 48.34, but with six furlongs gone in 1:12.36, Irap held a one-length lead and Wild Shot was second by a length and about to fade badly. At that point, Practical Joke was only a half-length off of Wild Shot, McCraken was three lengths back of the lead, J Boys Echo was seventh but in touch with the field and Tapwrit was just in front of him. Irap forgot to quit running and prevailed over Practical Joke by three parts of a length. McCraken's usual rally didn't materialize, and he fell short of Irap by 3 3/4 lengths. J Boys Echo finished fourth, beaten 6 1/4 lengths and was followed past the finish line by Tapwrit, It's Your Nickel and Wild Shot.

A subplot of the race began at the starting gate. McCraken broke outward at the start, J Boys Echo bobbled and was bumped leaving the gate, and Tapwrit was distracted and broke slowly as well. The Equibase chart states, "Start good for all but McCraken, J Boys Echo, Tapwrit."

Doug O’Neill:  “He’s a son of Tiznow, and he has a ton of ability. The fact he was still a maiden was kind of unfortunate, but he’s always been a talented horse. Julien gave him a great ride. Unbelievable. As long as he stays injury free, (the Kentucky Derby) will be our next move.”

O'Neill assistant trainer Jack Sisterson:  “A lot of credit to the Reddams. He went to Sunland Park and didn’t run quite as well as we expected. Doug said, ‘This horse is better than this, so let’s send him to Keeneland.’ And sure enough, he showed up on the day. Julien rode him perfect, and it worked out. You have to toy with this horse. He’s such a thinker. As a 2-year-old, he always showed talent. When Julien came to gallop him Wednesday, he said, ‘This is a nice horse.

“He’ll obviously stay here at Keeneland like Nyquist did last year. They were really accommodating to us with Nyquist here. I really believe horses thrive here at Keeneland.”

Julien Leparoux:  “It’s great (for a horse to break his maiden) in the Blue Grass. The plan was to be sitting second. He was very relaxed. We had the trip that we wanted. He wanted me to start going at the half-mile pole. He said if a horse came up to him, he might back a little. I felt confident (in the stretch), but I knew they were coming. He never gave up. I knew he was going to run good. He runs good every race. We talked, and we had the perfect trip. It came to reality.”

J. Paul Reddam: "We thought, ‘Oh this is looking good’ and then in the stretch when we saw he actually had a chance, we all just started yelling and screaming. It seemed like the wire was taking forever to get there. When he made the lead, I thought that son of a gun is going to hit the board here. Then, about the eighth pole I was thinking man we have a chance to win here because McCraken had backed out of it and a couple other horses didn’t fire for whatever reason. I really have got to say Doug did a fantastic job – he and his team. It’s just fantastic feeling when you don’t think you are going to.”

THE NEXT DAY: Irap will stay at Keeneland probably until Derby week. He's doing well.

April 15 NOTE: Irap is scheduled to work April 21 and 28 at Keeneland before going to Churchill Downs.

April 21 NOTE: Trainer O'Neill said, “I thought he went great. Julien was happy with it and Irap switched leads right on cue and finished well. I do that a lot with my two-turn horses. It was a good piece of work. He looks phenomenal.  Mario will work him next week. It will be pretty much as the same as today with the two-minute lick and then three-quarters.”

In the Kentucky Derby, Irap was bumped at the break but showed little after running seventh or eighth early. He finished 18th, beaten 40 3/4 lengths.

Doug O’Neill: “Disappointing. Mario said he didn’t handle the track at all. We’ll have to talk to Mr. Reddam, but I don’t think it is likely we will go on to Maryland.”

Mario Gutierrez: “I was in a great spot going around the turn and on the backstretch. I was following the speed and my horse was moving well. Once I asked him to respond he flattened out.”

WORKOUTS
Jan. 8, four in 51.80 Handily good training track 58/64 at SA
Jan. 15, five in 1:01.00 Handily 20/122 at SA
Jan. 21, four in 48.00 good training track 2/36 at SA
Jan. 28, six in 1:14.60 Handily 13/24 at SA
Feb. 16, four in 47:80 Handily 23/146 at SA
March 10, four in 48:60 Handily 14/44 at SA
March 17, six in 1.13:60 Handily 5/19 at SA
April 21, one mile in 1:44.00 Breezing 1/1 at KEE
April 28, one mile in 1:44.20 Breezing 1/1 at KEE

 

 

IRISH WAR CRY (NJ)
Trainer: Graham Motion
Owner: Isabelle de Tomaso
Breeder: Isabelle de Tomaso
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Curlin (Smart Strike (CAN), Sherriff's Deputy)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Irish Sovereign (Polish Numbers, Irish Genius)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 5-7-12-0-0 (24) 3.00
Foal Date: May 2, 2014

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 30 or May 1

Irish War Cry turned heads when he rallied from far back to win his Nov. 11 debut by 4 1/2 lengths going six furlongs at Laurel. He returned with a gutsy, front-running nose win over O Dionysus in the seven-furlong Marylander Stakes on Dec. 31, also at Laurel. Both races came under Feargal Lynch

After heading to Florida from Fair Hill Training Center in January, Irish War Cry and Painter’s Rags breezed, in company, for the first time this year on Jan. 22 at Palm Beach Downs, going in lockstep in 48.95.

Jan. 22 NOTE: Trainer Motion said he would point Irish War Cry to the Gulfstream Park series of stakes races and added, “I’m excited about both of them, for sure. I couldn’t have predicted how easily Irish War Cry would have won first time out. Certainly they seem to be my two best colts. Irish War Cry, we’ll look at the next round of 3-year-old preps around two turns. I’m a little reluctant to throw him in the deep end at Gulfstream off of two races, but we’ll see.”

Feb. 2 NOTES: Trainer Motion considered the Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 11 for Irish War Cry’s seasonal bow but opted for the Holy Bull. He said, “This is a big step up for him, stretching out and running against these kinds of horses. I felt like both races were coming up very competitive, and I couldn’t really see any advantage to waiting another week, to be honest. He’s doing well, and he’s there. It’s not all about Saturday. I realize it’s a big step for him.

“Certainly I thought he had some talent, but I couldn’t have imagined he’d win the way he did first time out. Visually it was a very impressive win. He was pretty sharp (in the Marylander), and he kind of surprised me how he came out running, and I think he kind of surprised Feargal a little bit, but I thought he was very tenacious in the way he won. He was inexperienced and coming back in just his second start, and I thought he was very game that day. He’s a neat colt. Let’s hope he’s that good.”

On Feb. 4, Irish War Cry remained undefeated in three starts with a dominating, front-running victory in the 1 1/16-mile Lambholm South Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park. At 4-1 odds, he soundly defeated Gunnevera, 1-2 favorite Classic Empire and four others, timed in 1:42.52. Irish War Cry scored by 3 3/4 lengths over Gunnevera, who finished an astonishing five lengths ahead of Classic Empire, who showed very little after getting worked up before the race. Irish War Cry looked like he could go another lap after the race.

Classic Empire was a little reluctant to enter the starting gate and broke a step slow before quickly attaining a good stalking position under Julien Leparoux. Irish War Cry broke alertly under Joel Rosario and set fractions of 24.14 and 47.92. Talk Logistics, who briefly led, tracked Irish War Cry while saving ground along the backstretch under Paco Lopez, with Classic Empire to his outside. Gunnevera sat just behind those three. Leparoux sent Classic Empire after the pacesetter on the far turn, but Classic Empire soon weakened and Irish War Cry kicked clear by 3 1/2 lengths in mid-stretch. Gunnevera surged past Classic Empire and a fading Talk Logistics to finish a clear second, well clear of Classic Empire. Talk Logistics was another 5 1/4 lengths back in fourth, followed by Cavil and Perro Rojo. Shamsaan didn't finish.

Graham Motion: “There’s nothing quite like being involved in these 3-year-old races. It’s a great atmosphere here today. It’s what we all like to do. It’s pretty exciting. He’s a really nice horse, and I was obviously really high on him, but when you’re running against the juvenile champion, you have reservations. I was torn. I was toying with the idea of running in the Sam Davis. I thought it might be a little easier race, because he’s so lightly raced. But the more I looked at it, the way he was working, I just thought we had to take a shot today.

“I kind of thought we’d inherit the lead. I told Joel I wanted him to settle. I didn’t want to get to telling him what to do. I had a feeling we’d end up on the lead. I thought the favorite might be on the lead, but he inherited the lead and he was very confident. I really haven’t gotten beyond today. I don’t know if I want to run in every race. It will be hard enough to run back in one of them, obviously, but we’ll figure it out.”

Joel Rosario: “I had a good trip. He broke sharp, very nice, and he decided he wanted to go on and I just let him be happy where he was. He ran a big race. Graham is a very good trainer. He always wants to keep his horses happy and do whatever they want, and that’s what I tried to do. It looked like he was happy where he was. He was cruising along nicely, and he took them all the way. He broke very nice. I thought the favorite was going to show some speed, but it looked like he didn’t come out of there well and I came out of there very well, so I just kept hold of my spot where I was. Actually he really kicked on again. He was in the lead and very comfortable and turning for home I asked him a little bit and he responded. I was very happy with that.”

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Motion said, “We have to decide if we run in both races down here and how we go about it. I think there is a good shot that he will do both; I guess we’ll see how things go. I just feel like I’ve thrown a lot at this horse in a short period of time, and that is the only reason that I have some reservations about both races. But we’ll keep him in Florida because it makes sense. We’re not going to get too clever about it, and I see no reason to go anywhere else. You always hope you can win, but you don’t necessarily expect to win like that, especially when you’re running against the 2-year-old champion."

Feb. 25 NOTE: “It’s going to be a little different this time,” trainer Motion said ahead of the Fountain of Youth. “We didn’t have a target on our back last time. I couldn’t believe how comfortably he beat the 2-year-old champion (Classic Empire). That was exciting. This time it’s going to be a little bit different because people will have expectations, as they should. Look, I just would like to see him run a similar race. He’s doing great, and I see no reason not to run in the Fountain of Youth. We’re looking forward to it.”

In the March 4 Fountain of Youth Stakes, Irish War Cry was far out of camera range at the conclusion of the race, beaten 21 3/4 lengths. Three Rules and Irish War Cry ran one-two, separated by a length, through splits of 23.43 and 47.18. Takaful wasn't far behind in third, and Made You Look was fourth. Three Rules edged away to lead Irish War Cry by two lengths with six furlongs gone in 1:12.37. Takaful was on his way to a retreat by then, and Made You Look was already in full idle. Meanwhile, Practical Joke, who laid seventh and sixth early on after being steadied on the first turn,  was now third, two lengths behind. Gunnevera, who was 10th and last after the first quarter-mile, had advanced to fifth. As the field rounded the bend, Irish War Cry waved the white flag, and Practical Joke boldly loomed up on the leader. No sooner than that happened Gunnevera, who had picked off horses going four wide, was past both of them in upper stretch in the blink of an eye, and the race for first place was over. He got home in 1:44.25 for the 1 1/6-mile. Gunnevera's winning margin was a gaping 5 3/4 lengths. Three Rules dug in gamely but couldn't quite stay with Practical Joke, who edged him by half a length for second. Talk Logistics, who was beaten 12 1/4 lengths.

Graham Motion: “He felt he was in a good enough spot. I wish he had maybe settled a little more off the pace perhaps, but I don’t want to make excuses. He looked like he was going pretty nicely. I can’t really say what happened, whether he bounced or not. He ran an awfully big race last time. He looks fine. My instincts and first reaction is that possibly I ran him back too quick. It’s hard to know. He’s done so well between races.”

Joel Rosario: “I had a good trip. He broke very sharp like he did last time. I was trying to stay away from the horse that was on the lead for a little bit, and he looked very good. He looked very relaxed after that, and when I went to go get him he went for a little bit and came up a little empty in the end.”

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Motion said, “Really, he seems fine. I have no issues with him. He seemed to cool out fine and he looked good this morning. It’s a real head-scratcher. The one thing I blame myself for perhaps is not telling Joel he should have taken a hold of him and taken him back. I think to compete in these races, at some point you’ve got to be able to be adaptable to different scenarios. This horse, if he’s going to compete at this level, he’s got to be able to relax. I think it was a combination of maybe laying a little too close to a pretty good pace on what was a drying-out, cuppy racetrack and maybe just regressing off his last race when he ran such a big race.

“I certainly considered not running him yesterday. From a handicapping point of view, he jumped so far forward in the Holy Bull there was every opportunity he was going to regress in this race, but I felt that his regression would still be good enough to be very competitive, and he certainly trained so well I had no reason to think that he couldn’t run on Saturday. He was in such great form in everything he’d done since the Holy Bull.

“I’ve got to sit on him for a couple of weeks and see where we’re at. My instant gut reaction is I would have a hard time running this horse back in four weeks off of that kind of a race,” he said. “I don’t want to make a hasty decision. Whatever the decision, he’s not going anywhere for a couple of weeks. I’ll keep him down here while we try to figure out the next step.”

March 28 NOTE: Saw on Twitter that Rajiv Maragh has picked up the mount on Irish War Cry for the Wood Memorial.

April 2 NOTE: Trainer Motion said, “I wanted to get him home and give him the extra week. I just didn’t feel like I could run back in the Florida Derby off that performance. For me it was getting him home and getting him relaxed. The biggest factor was probably the extra week, to be honest. It’s also running in a grade two as opposed to a grade one. That was a solid group, and the winner looked very impressive, I thought.”

In the Wood Memorial on April 8, Irish War Cry won by open lengths, Battalion Runner was second, Cloud Computing third and True Timber fourth. Irish War Cry contended for third and fourth place into the first turn, then found himself in second position up the backstretch as Battalion Runner set a pace of 23.50, 47.34 and 1:11.83 to the second turn. True Timber was second early in the run up the backstretch but yielded to Irish War Cry further up and into the second turn. Cloud Computing, who broke slowly, was hustled up into fourth as the turn loomed. In the far turn, Irish War dueled with Battalion Runner to his outside and emerged as the narrow leader into the stretch before drawing away to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Battalion Runner finished easily second, and Cloud Computing was third, albeit beaten seven lengths. True Timber was another 3 1/2 lengths back in fourth.

Graham Motion: "I think it's so good that Rajiv came to the barn and has been on him the last few mornings to see how he is. He's not a difficult horse. He's not a rank horse; he's a very classy horse. We both thought it was a good idea for Rajiv to get on him in the mornings. I thought he won pretty comfortably, and it doesn't seem like distance of the Derby will be an issue.

"I haven't spoken to Rajiv yet, but he looked like he was pretty confident. He probably could have waited a little longer, if he had needed to. It seemed like he had a lot of horse. I think the equipment change (to a figure 8 bridle) probably helped. It gives you a little more control. But he had the perfect trip today. I don't know what happened last time. It's just a complete puzzle to me.

"It's extremely gratifying to get this horse back on track. That was huge. I don't remember having a situation like this, when I felt so much was on the line. I think Rajiv must have felt like he had a lot of horse because he moved to the leaders so confidently. It's also gratifying to win this race for Mrs. de Tomaso."

Rajiv Maragh: "The race went well. We had a great post. He broke good out of the gate. He was sharp into the first turn. There was a little pace in front of him, which is what we were hoping for to get in a good tracking positon. He was always in a smooth rhythm.
 
"He relaxed real easily. He did everything I wanted him to do without a lot of effort. He did it all in rhythm. He wasn't rank at all. He settled beautifully. By getting on him in the mornings, I didn't think I'd have a hard time getting him to settle because he goes so easy and comfortable. We ran good together today.

"When I was down and out (from a serious injury), these are the days I dreamed about. These are the days that made me feel I wanted to ride. You never know if you'll get them again after being off so long. I can't be more thankful for everyone who has been there for my recovery and supporting me now that I'm back. I've never been so emotional after a race in my life as I was after this."

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Motion said, "He seems good this morning. He's obviously a little tired. It was a long day, shipping back last night and everything. He didn't eat up everything last night, but otherwise he seems absolutely fine. He's perky and looks nice. Things pretty much went as we hoped they would go. He settled just off the pace, and I guess I was a bit concerned on the backside because he kind of moved up quite early to the leader and, from what Rajiv told me, he felt like he had so much horse underneath him. My big question for him was how he thought about how he won, and he said he felt like he did it pretty comfortably really.

"I think it's going to be advantageous to him to keep him (at Fair Hill) as long as I can. Right now, that's my gut feeling. I can certainly change my mind, but I'd probably keep him at Fair Hill and give him his one work before the Derby there."

In the Kentucky Derby, Irish War Cry bore in at the start and created a chain reaction of problems. He finished 10th, beaten 16 1/2 lengths, after closely pursuing winner Always Dreaming during the first mile of the race.

Graham Motion: “Rajiv said he was cruising at the top of the stretch. He said he kind of went from having a lot of horse to not having a lot of horse in three strides. Could it be the mile and a quarter? Maybe, but I think it’s too early to say. He just didn’t finish up. Rajiv thought he was really traveling at the top of the stretch.”

Rajiv Maragh: “My trip was ideal, what I was hoping for.  He broke well out of the gate and got a good position. He relaxed beautifully off the pace. Going into the turn, I seemingly had a lot of horse. I was ready to engage the five horse, he just kind of quit running on me.”


WORKOUTS
Dec. 8 five in 1:01.60 Breezing 4/5 at FAI
Dec. 14, five in 1:02.40 Breezing 1/4 at FAI
Dec. 23, six in 1:15.60 Breezing 1/1 at FAI
Jan. 22, four in 48.95 Breezing 4/28 at PMM
Jan. 28, five in 1:01.00 Breezing 3/28 at PMM
Feb. 25, five in 1.01:65 Breezing 14/17 at PMM
March 25, five in 1.01:10 Breezing 14/34 at PMM
April 2, six in 1.13:40 Breezing 1/3 at FAI
April 30, six in 1.13:20 Breezing 1/2 at FAI

 

 

J BOYS ECHO (KY)
Trainer: Dale Romans
Owner: Albaugh Family Stable
Breeder: Betz/Blackburn/J. Betz/Ramsby/CNHHNK
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Mineshaft (A.P. Indy, Prospector's Delite)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Letgomyecho (Menifee, Echo Echo Echo)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 8-9-11-0-0 (28) 4.09
Foal Date: April 21, 2014


$485,000 Keeneland September 2015

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 2, Barn 4, Stall 20

J Boys Echo raced three times in 2016, winning once.

He debuted on Oct. 2 sprinting at Chuurchill Downs and lost by less than two lengths to Totality after starting slowly, swerving around and being 10th of 11 in the early running. Robby Albarado was up.

Second time out was on Oct. 27, and he broke much better going two turns at Keeneland. Timed in 1:45.37 for the 1 1/16 mile, he blew away a field of 12 with a 5 1/2-length margin at the finish despite a rough trip under Albarado. The chart call: J Boys Echo stalked the pace early, angled off the rail entering the lane, was bothered and steadied sharply, altered to the rail and drew away late in the stretch under a steady drive."

On Nov. 19, J Boys Echo was shipped to Cajun country for the Delta Jackpot and was ridden by Kent Desormeaux. He finished fourth of 10, beaten 10 lengths. He was right in the mix early, lost ground on the last turn of the bullring, dropping back to seventh, and then passed three horses in the final furlong. Gunnevera won, followed by Hot Sean and Dangerfield. The chart call isn't exactly on target because he lost a half-length against the pace in the final furlong. "J Boys Echo pressed the early pace from the outside, dropped back, responded and was gaining late."

The Feb. 4 Withers Stakes was the first start of 2017 for J Boys Echo, and Robby Albarado was back aboard. After running in sixth place early, he finshed with interest to get third behind El Areeb and True Timber, beaten 4 3/4 lengths. He was third, five lengths behind, at the furlong marker.

In the Gotham Stakes on March 4, J Boys Echo came from off the pace to win, Cloud Computing did the same to finish second, and El Areeb led up the backstretch before finishing third. El Areeb and True Timber broke well and ran into the first turn together, with Cloud Computing and J Boys Echo chasing them. Those four went up the backstretch with El Areeb in front after a quarter-mile in 23.58 and a half in 47.70. The three chasing closest to El Areeb began closing the gap approaching the far turn and six furlongs was in the books in a moderate 1:13.59.

On the turn, True Timber was the first of the four to give way. Cloud Computing made a move at El Areeb in the latter part of the turn and briefly took command. J Boys Echo and Robby Albarado came on too and grabbed the lead in upper stretch. They went on by to win by 3 1/2 lengths, with Cloud Computing second and El Areeb a badly fading third, another 7 1/2 lengths back, and a half-length ahead of fourth-place finisher Action Everyday.

Dale Romans: "Last time, he drew the ten-hole here, and everyone was bunched up and not spreading out. He was wide all the way around and still ran a nice starter race. We took it as the first step and he came back today and was very impressive. This horse hasn't been the easiest of horses. He's been a project for Tammy,and she's done a great job getting him around and getting us here.
 
"I think it's great to win in New York. If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere. I said that one time and got me a song out of it. This was a lot of fun to come up here. Doesn't matter if it's winter or summer, New York drives the whole racing world, and it's great to come in here and win a big race like this, a very prestigious race. Anybody who's a racing fan loves this race and knows it from a long time ago and I wanted it on my resume.
 
"We'll have to talk about where we go next. It's hard for me to skip the Blue Grass and both races (referring to the Wood Memorial) unjustly downgraded to Grade 2's. Whoever did that doesn't know the history of horse racing, but we'll get into one of the two obviously.
 
"I wasn't paying attention up front as much as my horse was moving down the backside. I was just focused on him and when we got the gap between both groups just sitting open and I knew Robbie could go around or inside whatever he felt like doing and he looked like he was moving comfortable at the half-mile pole we just started gaining on them and I knew he wasn't going to back up.

"I felt pretty good going into the last turn. He geared down, it was a pretty good move and he saved a little more for the next spot. He's coming around at the right time and the right way.... (Tammy has) been on him every day since we've had him and done a great job bringing him around. He just needed to grow up. He was a big clown and fun to be around but he just never figured out what racing was about until late. His race at Keeneland was huge and he still didn't know at Delta but you could see him coming around when he ran here. His numbers from last time put him in contention with all the best horses. It was a big jump forward, and that's what we were waiting on to see. We have to jump one more hurdle and we don't have to win it now so a little bit of pressure is off so we need a performance worthy of going to the Derby next out and keep him together for a couple more months."
 
Robby Albarado: "They were moving pretty quick up on the back side. I swung him out and he took off and I hand-rode him home. He was really impressive. "He was a good horse today. It was only his second start of the year. There's room for him to be better. I don't want to say too much, but he's a nice horse. He's a good colt."

THE NEXT DAY: "He came back really good," said co-owner Loutsch. "He's on his way back to Florida now. We're obviously really thrilled with the result and very proud of him. It's really humbling. We didn't know if we could beat the 4 horse yesterday and fortunately we got a good set up and he ran the race we thought he could. We've been waiting for that race for him to break out and kind of grow up, and he did that yesterday and we're thrilled. We love New York and we love what we did up there. The good news is that we're not under pressure to win the next race, so we want to get a good out and wherever we feel is best for him is the one we'll probably point to."

March 18 NOTE: J Boys Echo breezed today, but track publicity, which had information about other 3-year-old works today, either didn't or couldn't get a quote from trainer Romans. Note the slow time.

March 21 NOTE: He isn't the best work horse when going solo. Connections are thinking about the Florida Derby.

March 31 NOTE: J Boys Echo is set to arrive at Churchill Downs on April 2, becoming along wiith Hence the first Kentucky Derby prospect of the year on the grounds.

The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes was won by maiden Irap with Practical Joke second, McCraken third, J Boys Echo fourth and Tapwrit fifth. Irap sat in second early, overtook early pacesetter Wild Shot a little under six furlongs into the race, and held off Practical Joke to win the nine-furlong race at Keeneland in 1:50.39. Wild Shot struck the early lead and cut out reasonable fractions of 23.79 and 48.34, but with six furlongs gone in 1:12.36, Irap held a one-length lead and Wild Shot was second by a length and about to fade badly. At that point, Practical Joke was only a half-length off of Wild Shot, McCraken was three lengths back of the lead, J Boys Echo was seventh but in touch with the field and Tapwrit was just in front of him. Irap forgot to quit running and prevailed over Practical Joke by three parts of a length. McCraken's usual rally didn't materialize, and he fell short of Irap by 3 3/4 lengths. J Boys Echo finished fourth, beaten 6 1/4 lengths and was followed past the finish line by Tapwrit, It's Your Nickel and Wild Shot.

Dale Romans:  “I thought we’d win the race, but he ran a credible race. You can go back in history and look at horses that run third or fourth in this race and come back and do well. I was hoping he would move forward off the other race. We’re gonna go. He’s a good horse, and we’ll see what happens. Twenty horses in a mile and a quarter race; a lot of stuff can go right.”

Robby Albarado:  “He got bumped around some, but he ran a decent race.”

THE NEXT DAY: Back at Churchill Downs.

April 23 NOTE: Trainer Romans said, “It was a really solid work. We’ll come back next Saturday and go a little faster. Only one hurdle left until the first Saturday in May."

April 23 NOTE: Robby Albarado took a hard spill in the 8th race at Keeneland and broke his left ankle. He had feared a broken leg. Albarado will miss the Kentucky Derby.

In the Kentucky Derby, J Boys Echo finished 15th, beaten 23 lengths. He was jostled at the start but otherwise had an uneventful trip.

Dale Romans: "He just had an awfully rough trip. I came back to the barn to check on him and he seems to be walking fine."

Luis Saez: “Everybody came from the outside and killed us. I tried to rush him and see what we got, but by the half-mile everybody’s gone.”

WORKOUTS
Jan. 7, five in 1:01.20 Breezing 7/51 at GP
Jan. 14, five in 59.60 Breezing 8/48 at GP
Jan. 21, four in 50.60 Breezing 63/80 at GP
Jan. 31, four in 51.60 Breezing 32/34 at GP
Feb. 19, four in 51:95 Breezing 42/43 at GP
Feb. 25, five in 1.01:82 Breezing 4/21 at GP
March 18, four in 52:51 Breezing 66/66 at GP
March 25, five in 1.02:89 Breezing 19/24 at GP
April 1, five in 1.00:69 Breezing 7/20 at GP
April 17, four in 49:20 Breezing 6/10 at CD
April 23, five in 1.02:20 Breezing 26/38 at CD
April 29, five in 1.01:00 Breezing good track 5/21 at CD

 

 

LOOKIN AT LEE (KY)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Owner: L and N Racing
Breeder: Ray Hanson
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike (CAN), Private Feeling)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Langara Lass (Langfuhr (CAN), Capilano)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 5-7-10-0-0 (22) 3.40
Foal Date: March 7, 2014

$70,000 Keeneland September 2015

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 17, Barn 38

Looking at Lee was a winner at second asking in a six-furlong race at Ellis Park. He returned to win the seven-furlong Ellis Park Juvenile in August before finishing second in the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs in September and Keeneland's Breeders’ Futurity in October. The winners of those races, respectively, were Not This Time and Classic Empire who would go on to complete the exacta in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the latter victorious.

In the Claiborne Breeders Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 8, blinkers were added to Classic Empire, and it helped. The colt swept past dueling leaders Wild Shot and Blame Will at the head of the stretch and then held off a late charge by Lookin At Lee to win by three lengths. Lookin at Lee was 12th of twelve early on, 14 lengths in arrears. Wild Shot finished third, beaten four lengths, after setting splits of 23.38, 46.63 and 1:11.17. No Dozing finished another head back in fourth after being fifth, 2 1/2 lengths off the lead, after a half-mile. They wee followed in order by Gunnevera, Singing Bullet, Bitumen, Tiz Trevor, Blame Will, Perro Rojo, Holiday Bonus and Honor Thy Father.  Twelve ran, and Classic Empire was favored at 3-2. . Meanwhile, Lookin at Lee outran his 18-1 odds. Classic Empire completed the 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.41.

Ricardo Santana Jr.: “He ran hard. He’s a really nice horse. He kept running. He tried. The track is really fast today, so that didn’t help us either.”

Lookin At Lee was a a respectable fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Nov. 5, Classic Empire disposed of Syndergaard at the head of the stretch and then held off a bid from 5-2 favorite Not This Time by a neck to win. Practical Joke finished third, 7 1/2 lengths behind the top two, followed by Lookin at Lee. Classic Empire covered the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.60. It was Classic Empire's fourth win from five starts -- his sole loss came when he threw his rider leaving the gate. Under Julien Leparoux, who rode the colt for all four of his 2016 victories, Classic Empire broke well out of post 5 and sat just off the hip of pacesetter Syndergaard through fractions of :23.05 and :46.60. Leparoux let the reins out a notch coming into the final turn and then set his mount down for a sustained drive. Not This Time stalked the early pace just behind the front runners and appeared ready to collar Classic Empire, but the latter one dug in on the rail and refused to yield.

Steve Asmussen: “He tried. I thought he ran well. Two horses we've chased the last two times finished one-two, so he's been keeping good company. Obviously, he looks like a horse where more distance will help him. We'll evaluate how he's doing and try to figure out how to get a good 3-year-old.”

Lookin at Lee was shipped to Fair Grounds after Breeders' Cup.

Jan. 7 NOTE: Trainer Asmussen texted to the FG pressbox: "Nice horse. Doing well off of his freshening.” Asmussen said a February return is most likely. Likely targets could be the Southwest Stakes on Feb. 20 or the Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 25.

One Liner won the Southwest Stakes his first time going two turns. The 3 1/2-length victory was timed in 1:41.85, by far the fastest this race has been run since the distance was increased from a mile to 1 1/16 mile in 2013. Gun Runner won the Razorback Handicap, two races prior on the card, by three lengths in a time of 1:40.97. The track was speed-favoring. With John Velazquez in the irons, One Liner was fourth early, three lengths back, as even money favorite Uncontested set early fractions of 22.93, 46.55 and 1:10.98. Petrov tracked in second for six furlongs about a length or length and a half back and took over as the horses turned into the stretch. He opened up a 1 1/2-length advantage at the furlong marker before being collared by the winner. Petrov finished 8 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Lookin at Lee, who bobbled at the start and had to weave his way through traffic from 10th place. Silver Dust was another length back in fourth after running sixth or seventh at each previous call. They were followed by Dilettante, Uncontested, Hence, P C Cowboy, Rowdy the Warrior, Chief Know it All, Warrior’s Club and Cu Rahy. Cool Arrow scratched.

Steve Asmussen: "I think that's where we're at with him. At a mile and sixteenth, that's who he is. It's a good starting spot for the year."

In the March 18 Rebel Stakes, Malagacy won by two lengths, 112-1 Sonneteer was second, Untrapped third and Petrov fourth, the latter three separated by three noses. Lookin at Lee was sixth, beaten 3 3/4 lengths. He was last of 11 at the first three calls, almost 14, then 8 3/4 lengths off the lead. He made a strong bid into the speed the last 5/16 mile, making up five lengths in the process under Ricardo Santana, Jr.

Steve Asmussen: Lookin At Lee, I’ll weigh between the Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass, with him having run well in the Breeders’ Futurity there last fall. (He has) been very durable and sound to this point. He just needs more ground.”

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Asmussen said, “We’re not out of the game, but...(he needs) to improve. ’m a little disappointed with Lookin At Lee’s race yesterday. I thought he would run sharper because he had trained well. Possibly, we’ll just change surfaces with him and go to the Blue Grass. I don’t think he’s shown his best. We might do that but we’ll see how we train out of this race."

March 30 NOTE: Trainer Asmussen said in an espn.com report, "I'm looking forward to running Lookin At Lee a mile and an eighth. He'll benefit more from going a mile and a sixteenth to a mile and an eighth (than) most of all of our 3-year-olds."

April 2 NOTE: Trainer Asmussen said, "That’s as good as Lookin At Lee’s ever worked. Laid-back horse. Maybe the timing is great.”

On April 15, Classic Empire won the Arkansas Derby with Conquest Mo Money second, Lookin at Lee third, Sonneteer fourth, Malagacy fifth and Untrapped sixth. Petrov narrowly led the field into the first turn, closely accompanied by extreme longshot Grandpa's Dream and Conquest Mo Money. Malagacy, the post-time second choice, was less than two lengths back after breaking from post 12. As the field passed the next pole, Conquest Mo Money led after a first half-mile run in a sprightly 46.92. Under heavy pressure from Malagacy, Conquest Mo Money remained in charge of the field with six furlongs run in 1:11.16. Meanwhile, Classic Empire, who had been positioned in sixth or seventh place but only a couple of lengths back of the leader, encountered traffic in the turn and was taken three and four wide.

Into the stretch Conqest Mo Money and Malagacy ran one-two while heads apart and continued to engage in a battle to the wire that included some bumping. Suddenly Classic Empire appeared to their outside in third position with a fulong left to run. He outfinished them to win by a half-length. Conquest Mo Money was second. Lookin at Lee, who was 10th by five lengths after the first half-mile, got up late for third, beaten a length. Sonneteer, 11th in the early going, also closed well to finish fourth, another half-length back and a neck in front of Malagacy in fifth. It was another 2 3/4 lengths back to Untrapped in sixth. The 1 1/8-mile race was timed in 1:48.93.

Steve Asmussen: “He’s a tremendous horse. He’s just been so fun. He just shows up. He’s sixth 70 yards from the wire. I mean, he never quits trying, and you’d love to see him rewarded for that effort. The good news is we’re stabled at Churchill. He will fly to Louisville on Monday.”

Luis Contreras: “Well yeah he got up perfectly so nice and comfortable. I swinged to the outside and I didn’t want to lose momentum so I didn’t drop inside.  I thought I was going to get to the inside but he was kind of dead.  I pulled outside and he started to run again, I don’t know. It was a perfect race, he tried so hard.”

In the Kentucky Derby, Always Dreaming was first, Lookin at Lee second, Battle of Midway third and Classic Empire fourth. Looking at Lee worked out a difficult, closing trip after breaking from post 1. Always created a dream trip leading to a 2 3/4-length victory. He broke cleanly from post 5 and established a forward position down the stretch for the first time. He tracked State of Honor through the first quarter-mile in 22.70 and the first half in 46.53 leaving the first turn. Up the backstretch, Battle of Midway and Irish War Cry tracked the front two in third and fourth. As the field neared the far turn, six furlongs were gone in 1:11.12 and Always Dreaming had wrested the lead from a retreating State of Honor. As Always Dreaming rounded the turn in front, he was still under pressure to his outside from Battle of Midway and Irish War Cry. When heads turned for home, Always Dreaming had covered the mile in 1:37.27.

From there to the finish line, there were no more serious challenge to Always Dreaming as he ran to victory in a time of 2:03.59. Lookin at Lee made a very late rally to finish second after being 16th in the 20-horse field after the first half-mile. He bested third finisher Battle of Midway by five lengths. Classic Empire, the morning line favorite, was sent off at 6-1 odds and finished another length back in fourth after having a rough start and being placed 13th after the first half-mile.

Steve Asmussen: "I'm definitely proud of 'Lee.' He just keeps coming. Drawing the one was tough. He's the first horse in 20 years to run in the top three from the one hole. A lot of credit goes to Corey for navigating a very good course from there. To me, the Kentucky Derby, everything about it is a thrill. I'm just proud of the effort of Lookin at Lee and the whole team. Hats off to the winner. He ran an incredible race."

Corey Lanerie: “My horse ran great. I’m caught with seconditis – second in the Preakness and now second in the Derby. I’m still very happy.”

WORKOUTS
Dec. 24, four in 52.20 Breezing 129/146 at FG
Dec. 31, four in 50.00 Breezing 57/140 at FG
Jan. 6, five in 1:02.80 Breezing 18/27 at FG
Jan. 13, five in 1:01.60 Breezing 11/27 at FG
Jan. 20. five in 1:02.00 Breezing 9/34 at FG
Jan. 27, six in 1:13.40 Breezing 3/4 at FG
Feb. 3, five in 1.01:00 Breezing 3/53 at FG
Feb. 13, four in 50:20 Breezing 26/35 at OP
March 9, five in 1.01:00 Breezing 8/40 at OP
March 15, four in 50:00 Breezing 14/26 at OP
March 27, four in 52:00 Breezing good track 15/19 at OP
April 2, five in 1.00:40 Breezing 2/26 at OP
April 9, four in 51:00 Breezing34/39 at OP
April 24, four in 51:20 Breezing 48/51 at CD
May 1, four in 50:20 Breezing sloppy 15/22 at CD


 

McCRAKEN (KY)
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Owner: Whitham Thoroughbreds LLC (Janice Whitham et al)
Breeder: Whitham Thoroughbreds, LLC
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Ghostzapper (Awesome Again (CAN), Baby Zip)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Ivory Empress (Seeking the Gold, Madame Pandit)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 7-4-12-0-1 (24) 2.43
Foal Date: April 13, 2014

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 10, Barn 26, Stall 2

McCraken raced exclusively at Churchill Downs in 2016. He won his debut by 2 1/2 lengths going 6 1/2 furlongs in October and followed that with a win in the one-turn, one-mile Street Sense Stakes four weeks later. Trainer Wilkes, not to get ahead of himself, said after the Street Sense, “One day at a time."

On Nov. 26, McCraken was reserved early and rallied from far back to take the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club. He split horses on the far turn and won by 1 1/4 length. In the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club, McCraken was the 4-5 favorite and unleashed a powerful run on the far turn under Brian Hernandez Jr. He rallied from 11th of 12 to catch Wild Shot in the final sixteenth of a mile and pulled away to a 1 1/4-length victory timed in 1:44.15. He broke from post 11. Wild Shot, the 4-1 second choice ridden by Corey Lanerie, finished 3 3/4 lengths clear of Warrior's Club, who just got by Uncontested near the wire. Uncontested, who started in the outside post, was hustled to the early lead by Channing Hill and was pursued by Wild Shot, Romeo O Romeo and Warrior’s Club through fractions of 23.46, 47.38 and 1:12.01. McCraken was ninth after six furlongs and went six wide in the far turn and surged to the lead in the stretch under a hand ride.

Silent Decree, 11th through much of the opening six furlongs, rallied to finish fifth, and was followed at the wire by Shareholder Value, Just Move On, Perro Rojo, Jocker Justice, Han Sense, Total Tap and Romeo O Romeo.

Ian Wilkes: “He is as good as I thought he was and he handled it well. He needed that race tonight, he needed a little test. He had to really run tonight, they didn’t hand it to him. It wasn’t easy. He came through for us. He had to really belly down and run, so that was good. He’s got a tremendous turn of foot. He was in a great spot, and I thought that Brian rode him well, and I was very pleased with his performance tonight. He’s got a great mind, a great turn of foot and he has the ability. I’m going to enjoy tonight, the hype around him has been unbelievable all week. The hype has been tremendous, but I just want to enjoy this one and map out a plan with Mrs. Whitham and just not get ahead ourselves.”

Brian Hernandez, Jr.: “Anytime you get a good 2-year-old like this you start thinking Derby, but we’ll just sit down with Ian in the morning and we’ll map out a plan from here. He’s a boy, but he’s growing up and he’s getting it all together. He was a lot more settled today, and in his last race he hadn’t run in a while, but today he did everything the right way.”

Clay Whitham, co-owner: “He’s named after a small town in Kansas. We just drive through there a lot. It’s super exciting to have a good 2-year-old, it’s very exciting. We’ve raced a lot of nice horses but we’ve never had one that we had considered a Derby prospect since Mud Route, and that was a long time ago. I believe we are getting Derby fever. Winning this race definitely gives us expectations that he’s a good horse. We’ll see how it goes. Obviously you don’t want to get too far ahead in this business, but he’s a very nice horse.”

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Wilkes said, “It’s a relief. With the anticipation and hype around a 2-year-old, you don’t want to let anyone down and you always want him to run well. He made real good progression, so it’s a good relief and we’re just happy to see the horse win. He looked good this morning. He jogged and was bucking and playing around. He needed a little test. He had to really run, they didn’t hand it to him. It wasn’t easy. He came through for us. He had to really belly down and run, so that was good.”

Jan. 10 NOTE: McCraken is reported to be training forwardly at Palm Meadows Training Center. He shows four half-mile works since mid-December at Palm Beach Downs. Trainer Wilkes said, “It’s amazing, isn’t it? Everyone gets excited when you have a 2-year-old turning three. He’s exciting. He’s a very talented horse. He’s always showed that talent in the mornings. He’s three-for-three and done everything right. He’s doing well and, touch wood, everything’s great. (His next race) just depends. We’ll see. I’ll watch and see how the track is playing. He is a bit of a closer. Starting early next month, we’ll look for a race.”

Jan. 15 NOTE: Channing Hill, who rode fourth-finisher Uncontested in the Kentucky Jockey Club, said this about McCraken: “I know the horse that won it, he’s the real deal."

Feb. 8 NOTE: Trainer Wilkes said ahead of the Sam F. Davis Stakes, “He’s right where I want him. He’s a little stronger and bigger than he was last year and he has trained very forwardly, and he’s sharp. He’s ready to run. Any time you’re in a Kentucky Derby prep, it’s not going to be an easy race. I expect my colt to run well, but it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t win. He’s got to face a little adversity. As long as we get a good race and are moving forward, that’s the important thing. The Kentucky Derby is where I want to have him at 110 percent. Is he 110 percent now? No, but he’s ready to run, he’s doing well and I’m happy with him.”

On Feb. 11 at 3-2 odds, McCraken set a track record winning the Sam F. Davis Stakes in 1:42.45. Tapwrit was second by 1 1/2 length, followed another length back by State of Honor and another length to Wild Shot. State of Honor set fractions of 23.63, 47.15 and 1:10.90 and led into the stretch. Wild Shot, never more than three lengths back and to the outside of the ground-saving Tapwrit, was asked going four wide on the far turn and briefly seized the lead at the furlong marker. Seventh of nine after a half-mile, and sixth after six furlongs, McCraken started his closing run four wide on the far turn and passed State of Honor and Wild Shot in the stretch to win. Tapwrit finished best of the others to get second, and State of Honor came back on Wild Shot to get the show. The fifth finisher, Fact Finding, was beaten nine lengths, followed by No Dozing, Six Gun Salute, Chance of Luck and King and His Court. NOTE: Tapwrit outgalloped McCraken past the wire.

Ian Wilkes: “I don’t know how good (he is). But there have been some nice horses that have run a mile-and-a-sixteenth here. We’ve got a long way to go. This is not a one-race program, I want two more races for him, then the Derby. This is just one stepping stone, and we keep building. Let’s pay all credit to the horse. He’s taking us there. Let’s pay attention to him.”

Brian Hernandez, Jr.: “He puts a lot of confidence in you, that’s for sure. You’ve just got to go with it and ride him with confidence. I asked him at about the half-mile pole, and he hesitated a bit, but I think that was his way of telling me ‘Don’t worry. We’re going to get the job done.’ ”

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Wilkes said to DRF.com, “He’s good. He got through a lot of things yesterday. He was giving six pounds to most of the other horses. He was racing on a different surface. He was going from two to three. You always want to see them run the way he did. The timing is right (for the Tampa Bay Derby). That’s the important thing. I’ve got to stay in rhythm with him. You can’t totally commit because you always need room to change if you want to adjust something, and you can’t be locked in. But yes, if everything goes right, we’ll plan to come back here.”

MORE NEXT DAY: Trainer Wilkes said, “It’s just a good thing to get him back in action and get him going as a 3-year-old, and the way he ran makes you feel like he proved a little more. A lot of 3-year-olds on the Derby trail keep getting better and bigger and stronger this time of year, so we have to keep going. I’ve always said he’s going to take me to it if he’s good enough, and it’s exciting any time you have a horse with Derby potential.”

Feb. 27 NOTE: Jockey Hernandez flew in for today's workout. All is well for McCraken.

Feb. 28 NOTE: Turns out that McCraken was a little off on Tuesday, has an ankle sprain and will miss the Tampa Bay Derby on March 11. Now the Toyota Blue Grass on April 8 is the target.

March 6 NOTE: McCraken galloping again.

March 11 NOTE: Trainer Wilkes said after McCraken worked, "Oh yeah, it's just good to get that work in and get back to a routine. The best thing is he got better, he galloped out in :12 flat which is great."

March 20 NOTE: Trainer Wilkes said today after McCraken worked at Keeneland: “Maybe missing that race (in Tampa) was a blessing. He’s a different horse. He’s filled out, stronger. Things happen for a reason. You may not agree at the time; you may not want it to happen. But things happen for a reason. I think he’s a bigger, stronger horse right now. Just in that short time, he changed on me. Maybe it was a good thing.”

March 27 NOTE: Keeneland clockers timed a six-furlong work in 1:13.40 with splits of 25.20, 38.00, 50.00, and 1:01.60, out seven in 1:25.40. Trainer Wilkes said, "I needed a longer work to put a bottom in him today. This is the type of horse I could work a half-mile and run him and he'd be fine, just a nice solid work. Didn't need anything fast, fast. But just a solid work and a strong gallop out."  Jockey Hernandez said, "It was a great work for him. He finished up through the wire really good and galloped out really good for the full mile. He did it the right way, like he always does."

April 2 NOTE: Jockey Hernandez said, “He does everything right on cue now. He goes around in perfect 12's and gets faster as he goes. He’s an amazing horse. Last year he worked five-eighths before the Kentucky Jockey Club and just went out there, but now he is focused on the job like he wants to do it. I don’t have to force him to do anything.”

The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes was won by maiden Irap with Practical Joke second, McCraken third, J Boys Echo fourth and Tapwrit fifth. Irap sat in second early, overtook early pacesetter Wild Shot a little under six furlongs into the race, and held off Practical Joke to win the nine-furlong race at Keeneland in 1:50.39. Wild Shot struck the early lead and cut out reasonable fractions of 23.79 and 48.34, but with six furlongs gone in 1:12.36, Irap held a one-length lead and Wild Shot was second by a length and about to fade badly. At that point, Practical Joke was only a half-length off of Wild Shot, McCraken was three lengths back of the lead, J Boys Echo was seventh but in touch with the field and Tapwrit was just in front of him. Irap forgot to quit running and prevailed over Practical Joke by three parts of a length. McCraken's usual rally didn't materialize, and he fell short of Irap by 3 3/4 lengths. J Boys Echo finished fourth, beaten 6 1/4 lengths and was followed past the finish line by Tapwrit, It's Your Nickel and Wild Shot.

Ian Wilkes: Declined to comment immediately after the race.

Brian Hernandez Jr.:  “We had a good trip. He ran his race, and it was a good third today. He ran with some well proven horses. We will just go on from here.”

THE NEXT DAY: McCraken will be shipped to Churchill Downs on Monday. Trainer Wilkes said, “I thought he was too fresh and too much on the bit, and that is where missing that race showed up. He was a little too keen. I wanted to get a good race, and I was very pleased with the race. He didn’t back down. He didn’t quit. You want to see what happens when he gets in against the big boys, and he pushed back. We wanted to win, but maybe he learned something yesterday.”

April 24 NOTES: Jockey Hernandez said, “Everything went great. He sat back and didn’t go until I asked him. He made up a lot of ground from the eighth pole to the wire. Before, he was like the football player in high school beating up on the high schoolers and then he gets to college where the talent is deeper and he might not be as tough as he thought. Now I’m going to start paying attention.”

Trainer Wilkes said, “It was a good, solid work and he galloped out strong. It shows he had something left in the tank. I am going to enjoy it. Take it one day at a time and don’t get in front of the horse. Let him take you there.”

In the Kentucky Derby, McCraken came over on Classic Empire and bumped him hard leaving the gate. He sustained a puncture wound, but nothing serious, during the race. He finished eighth, beaten 13 1/4 lengths, after running 10th or 11th early and surging to sixth at the top of the stretch.

Ian Wilkes: “I got a great ride. He got knocked around a bit leaving there but that’s the Derby. I thought he got him in a good rhythm, got him in a good position. He made his move and I got a little excited, but he didn’t finish it off. The winner was too good.”

Brian Hernandez Jr.: “We got knocked around a little bit leaving there but from that point on we had a pretty uneventful trip. Turning for home we just weren’t on the best horse today.”


WORKOUTS
Dec. 15, four in 50.80 Breezing 31/44 at PMM
Dec. 22, four in 49.75 Breezing 18/41 at PMM
Dec. 30, four in 50.50 Breezing  31/49 at PMM
Jan. 9, four in 50.50 Breezing 16/18 at PMM
Jan. 13, five in 1:01.95 Breezing  1/13 at PMM
Jan. 18, five in 1:02.20 Breezing 9/11 at PMM
Jan. 25, five in 1:00.45 Breezing 1/10 at PMM
Jan. 31, five in 1:01.10 Breezing 2/15 at PMM
Feb. 6, four in 49:60 Breezing 18/24 at PMM
Feb. 27, four in 48:90 Breezing 6/27 at PMM
March 11, four in 50:20 Breezing 62/76 at PMM
March 20, five in 1:00 Breezing 1/7 at KEE
March 27, six in 1.13:40 Breezing 1/2 at KEE
April 2, four in 49:40 Breezing 14/35 at KEE
April 18, four in 47:80 Breezing 2/17 at CD
April 24, five in 1.00:60 Breezing 6/31 at CD
April 30, five in 1.00:80 Breezing 10/32 at CD

 

 

PATCH (KY)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Owner: Calumet Farm (Brad Kelley)
Breeder: Calumet Farm
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Union Rags (Dixie Union, Tempo)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Windyindy (A.P. Indy, Unbridled Wind)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 6-10-13-1-0 (30) 3.00
Foal Date: March 18, 2014

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 25, Barn 40

Patch debuted on Jan. 15 at Gulfstream Park and finished second to Impressive Edge, who wasn't early-nominated to the Triple Crown, by 4 3/4 lengths after showing no early speed. In this six-furlong race, he was 10th of 12, 11 lengths off the pace, after a half-mile and finished the the last quarter-mile in about 23 and 4. The winner was timed in 1:11.01.

On Feb. 18, Patch broke his maiden in a one-mile race at Gulfstream. This time he was in contention early, never more than a couple of lengths back, and seized command in deep stretch. Johnny V was on board. The time was 1:37.82, Patch was the 3-1 second choice in a field of 14. The chart call: "Patch was close up early toward the inside, came out three wide nearing the stretch to go after the leaders, caught Meantime in deep stretch and drove clear."

March 31 NOTE: Assistant trainer Adele Bellinger said,  “The first day they (Patch and Monaco) were both a little nervous, but they have trained well. Today they have settled in beautifully and I couldn’t ask for more. Patch has a nice turn of foot and a lot of talent. It’s not easy to jump up into a Grade II out of a maiden race, but I feel like we have a sound, happy horse and that gives me confidence going into the race. This is both horses’ first time shipping far from home and they’re both doing well, especially (Friday) morning.”

In the April 1 Louisiana Derby, favored Girvin won with Patch second, Local Hero third and Hollywood Handsome fourth. Trainer Joe Sharp entered Girvin's stablemate Hotfoot to help ensure an honest pace. Hotfoot shot to the lead and set fractions of 23.46 of 47.00 as Monaco, Local Hero, Girvin and Patch pursued him around the first turn and up the backstretch. As the far turn approached, Local Hero, who is prone to run on the lead, couldn't wait any longer and was in front into the bend.  Meanwhile, Girvin was fourth, five lengths off the pace. Six furlongs were run in 1:11.15. Brian Hernandez, Jr. pulled the trigger for real going around the far turn, and Girvin, who was three and four wide, began a steady advance. Hotfoot was done, and Local Hero's lead was short-lived as Girvin was on top by a head with a furlong remaining in the race. He won by 1 1/4 length, timed in 1:49.44 after switching back to his left lead late.  Patch made a nice stretch run up the rail to get second, and Local Hero hung for third, another 1 3/4 length back, and just a nose ahead of the fourth finisher, longshot Hollywood Handsome.

Tyler Gaffalione: “We had a great trip. He’s still young and learning, but today he really ran a big race. There was a lot of traffic out there. Once we dove inside and found a path, he really accelerated and finished up really good. He’s pretty handy, and you can do whatever you want with him. He listens very well.”

April 15 NOTE: Tentative arrival plan pushed back and week; now will arrive at Churchill Downs April 24 or 25.

April 21 NOTE: Trainer Pletcher said after a workout by Patch, “He’s not as impressive a work horse as Always Dreaming. He’s more of a workmanlike breeze horse. I thought it was a good, steady five-eighths, typical of what we saw from him all winter and spring. I was very pleased for him to go to Fair Grounds and finish a good quality second, closing ground at the end and galloping out in front. I don’t think with his pedigree, being by a Belmont winner (Union Rags) and out of an A.P. Indy mare (Windyindy), that distance should be an issue. I’m a little concerned about his lack of experience, lack of seasoning, but so far he’s handled everything really, really well.”

In the Kentucky Derby, Patch broke from post 20, was bounced around in the far turn and finished 14th, beaten 21 lengths.

Tyler Gaffalione: “We had a good trip. We came into the stretch and got behind a couple of tiring horses, but he came back well and move on to the next race.”


WORKOUTS
Jan. 1, five in 1:04.00 Breezing 3/4 at PBD
Jan. 9, four in 49.80 Breezing gate 4/16 at PBD
Feb. 4, four in 48.00 Breezing 1/14 at PBD
Feb. 11, four in 48.00 Breezing 2/18 at PBD
March 4, four in 49:00 Breezing 1/20 at PBD
March 11, five in 1.02:00 Breezing 2/4 at PBD
March 18, five in 1.01:00 Breezing 1/8 at PBD
March 25, four in 49:20 Breezing 5/26 at PBD
April 14, four in 49:45 Breezing 3/18 at PBD
April 21, five in 1.01:45 Breezing 2/6 at PBD
April 28, four in 1.00:20 Breezing 3/35 at CD

 

 

PRACTICAL JOKE (KY)
Trainer: Chad Brown
Owner: Klaravich Stables, Inc. & William H. Lawrence
Breeder: Whispering Oaks
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Into Mischief (Harlan's Holiday, Leslie's Lady)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Halo Humor (Distorted Humor, Gilded Halo)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 1-1-2-0-0 (4) 3.00
Foal Date: April 15, 2014

$135,000 Keeneland January 2015
$240,000 Keeneland September 2015

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 24, Barn 42

Practical Joke won his debut going six furlongs at Saratoga on Aug. 6 and then went into stakes company.

In the Hopeful Stakes on Sept. 5,  6-5 favorite Classic Empire left the gate and veered out, losing jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. and leaving Royal Copy and Pretty Boy Flash to duke it out on the lead through fractions of 23.80 and 47.69. Jose Ortiz, meanwhile, saved ground aboard Practical Joke in third, angling out when the field straightened out at the top of the lane. The colt responded with a solid late run to nab the embattled pacesetters in the final jumps and win by a neck. His time was 1:23.39.

Chad Brown: "It's been a pleasure to train him. That first race I thought he ran well and his second time here he also came back to run a huge race. He was able to sit off and track the pace. Jose gave him an unbelievable ride and he looked like he was extending away in the stretch so I don't think any added distance will be an issue. It's been a pleasure to train for these guys Seth Klarman and William Lawrence. Next out, we'll probably point to the Champagne.

Jose Ortiz: "Chad is a great guy, a great person and a great trainer. He proved it to everyone at Saratoga. I'm very grateful to win the Hopeful, it's a grade 1, on a promising 2-year-old like Practical Joke. I want to thank them for giving me the opportunity to ride him. I think he's a pretty nice horse. He's got tactical speed, he can run close to the pace, and he fired when I asked him to run. The pace was pretty slow. I thought about taking the lead as soon as we broke because I knew we were going so slow. But something told me, don't do it, and the trip worked out perfect. He was running the whole way. He gave me a great turn of foot when I got him in the clear but the other two horses were in front and they kept fighting a little bit. As soon as he put a head in front, he kept going.

On Oct. 8, Practical Joke got his nose down at the wire to upset 9-5 favorite Syndergaard with a neck victory in the one-turn Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. Joel Rosario was up. Practical Joke broke awkwardly and trailed in the field of six as Syndergaard zipped through fast splits of 22.74 and 44.63 with Big Gray Rocket nipping at his heels and Favorable Outcome close to them. Practical Joke was 8 1/2 lengths back through the first half-mile but quickly regrouped and steadily picked off rivals as the field moved through the turn. Cutting the corner into the stretch, Practical Joke angled to the outside of Syndergaard, caught him at the eighth pole, and outdueled him to the wire. The final time for the mile was a brisk 1:34.68. Favorable Outcome finished third. Big Gray Rocket, Thirst for Victory and Lookin At Blessing completed the order of finish.

Chad Brown: "I've got to look at the replay to see what happened (at the start), but Joel quickly moved inside of horses, which I thought was smart, and set himself up for a clear run when he tipped him out. They were obviously going very fast in front, not only the two leaders, but my other horse (Favorable Outcome) in close pursuit behind, so the race set up beautifully for this horse. He's undefeated, he's a really good horse. He's handled the distance increases every time we've asked him to, and we're looking forward to getting to run him a little bit further. The runner-up is a very good horse as well, and deserves a lot of credit for fighting as well as he did."

Joel Rosario: "He kind of broke awkward on the inside and I had to use him a little through the chute. He was looking around, and it took him a little time to get back in the race but he was fine after that. They were going really fast up front but it looks like the more distance he gets to run into the better he gets. For a second when I got to (Syndergaard), he waited a little bit. He's still a young horse if anything but looks good going forward."

In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Nov. 5, Practical Joke was bumped around a bit at the start and had a wide trip in the first half-mile. He was never far back until the end of the race. Although seventh after a half-mile, he was only 2 1/2 lengths off the pace. He advanced to third in the stretch, four lengths back of the lead, but he lost ground from the furlong marker on. Classic Empire disposed of Syndergaard at the head of the stretch and then held off a bid from 5-2 favorite Not This Time by a neck to win. Practical Joke finished third, 7 1/2 lengths behind the top two, followed by Lookin at Lee and others. Classic Empire covered the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.60. Under Julien Leparoux, Classic Empire broke well out of post 5 and sat just off the hip of pacesetter Syndergaard through fractions of :23.05 and :46.60. Leparoux let the reins out a notch coming into the final turn and then set his mount down for a sustained drive. Not This Time stalked the early pace just behind the front runners and appeared ready to collar Classic Empire, but the latter one dug in on the rail and refused to yield.

Chad Brown: “No excuses. He had good position throughout. Joel gave him a good trip. He seemed to handle the track fine. We were simply third best today.”

Joel Rosario: “I had a good trip. On the first turn, I had to take hold just a little bit, not much. Turning for home we went for it but the two in front were probably best today. In the last sixteenth, they kind of got away from me.”

Dec. 8 NOTE: Trainer Brown said, “Practical Joke is in light training at Palm Meadows. I haven’t mapped out a schedule yet, but I will have a clearer picture of what I might want to do in a couple of weeks."

In the March 4 Fountain of Youth Stakes, Gunnevera closed on the early speed to win and become a millionaire. Practical Joke finished second after also coming from off the pace, and Three Rules was the only part of the early speed to hang around, finishing third. At 94-1 odds, Talk Logistics finished fourth. And at even-money odds, Irish War Cry was far out of camera range at the conclusion of the race.

Three Rules and Irish War Cry ran one-two, separated by a length, through splits of 23.43 and 47.18. Takaful wasn't far behind in third, and Made You Look was fourth. Three Rules edged away to lead Irish War Cry by two lengths with six furlongs gone in 1:12.37. Takaful was on his way to a retreat by then, and Made You Look was already in full idle. Meanwhile, Practical Joke, who laid seventh and sixth early on after being steadied on the first turn,  was now third, two lengths behind. Gunnevera, who was 10th and last after the first quarter-mile, had advanced to fifth. As the field rounded the bend, Irish War Cry waved the white flag, and Practical Joke boldly loomed up on the leader. No sooner than that happened Gunnevera, who had picked off horses going four wide, was past both of them in upper stretch in the blink of an eye, and the race for first place was over. He got home in 1:44.25 for the 1 1/6-mile. Gunnevera's winning margin was a gaping 5 3/4 lengths. Three Rules dug in gamely but couldn't quite stay with Practical Joke, who edged him by half a length for second. Talk Logistics was fourth, beaten 12 1/4 lengths.

Chad Brown: “I was feeling pretty good around the turn there. I thought the horse ran a great race considering the layoff. Gunnevera was much the best today -- hats off to them. That horse was really impressive. I'm happy with my horse. I think I got the race I needed into my horse. Jose is very happy about the race. He continues to learn a little bit about this horse. He was happy with his effort, as I was. He's in play now. He has a race under his belt. He should move forward off of it. Everything is on the table. A lot of it is going to depend on how the horse is training, who is running where, and what I'm most comfortable with."

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Brown reported that Practical Joke “looks good so far” on Sunday morning at Palm Meadows. Brown wouldn't commit Practical Joke to the Florida Derby.

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Brown said, "I thought he ran very well. Coming off a six-furlong maiden race and coming back to face winners in a graded stakes while stretching out to two turns, he handled it very well." Brown said the Wood Memorial on April 8 is possible, but he wouldn't commit to the race.

March 18 NOTE: Trainer Brown said, “The horse worked super. He got a lot out of that race. I was very happy with his first race back. I’ve narrowed it down the either the Florida Derby or the Blue Grass. I sort of want to see where everybody’s going in. I’m going to go as far as to enter him in the Florida Derby and see where he draws and how it shapes up. I’m not going to totally commit to that until I see all that."

March 25 NOTE: Trainer Brown said, “I want to speak to the owners and come up with a final decision … weigh our options. It’s probable I will run (in the Florida Derby), but it’s not certain. We’ll see how the horse comes out of his work. The other idea is maybe running in the Blue Grass.”

March 28 NOTE: Going to the Blue Grass with Joel Rosario to ride.

The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes was won by maiden Irap with Practical Joke second, McCraken third, J Boys Echo fourth and Tapwrit fifth. Irap sat in second early, overtook early pacesetter Wild Shot a little under six furlongs into the race, and held off Practical Joke to win the nine-furlong race at Keeneland in 1:50.39. Wild Shot struck the early lead and cut out reasonable fractions of 23.79 and 48.34, but with six furlongs gone in 1:12.36, Irap held a one-length lead and Wild Shot was second by a length and about to fade badly. At that point, Practical Joke was only a half-length off of Wild Shot, McCraken was three lengths back of the lead, J Boys Echo was seventh but in touch with the field and Tapwrit was just in front of him. Irap forgot to quit running and prevailed over Practical Joke by three parts of a length. McCraken's usual rally didn't materialize, and he fell short of Irap by 3 3/4 lengths. J Boys Echo finished fourth, beaten 6 1/4 lengths and was followed past the finish line by Tapwrit, It's Your Nickel and Wild Shot.

Chad Brown: “He showed a lot of heart. I was disappointed with the trip but that was due to the (outside) post. Joel really didn’t have a chance to tuck him in. The winner really ran a courageous race. He really ran fantastic, and I thought my horse did, too. Post is so important and today even though it was a short field, it hurt us because he had to go wide. I am proud of his effort.”

Joel Rosario: “It was nice where I was, and he responded very well turning for home, but it was too tough to beat the horse on the lead. I thought for a second I was going to get him, but the winner kept on fighting and had another gear.”

THE NEXT DAY: Practical Joke will remain at Keeneland for the time being. Trainer Brown said, “Practical Joke ran terrific. He had a little bit of a wide trip but really ran well. I was encouraged to see him in a two-turn race with a sustained run, making up ground in the lane, not losing ground. He gives me some optimism to keep going forward towards the Derby.”

April 14 NOTE: Trainer Brown said Practical Joke will remain at Keeneland until about April 24 and have one work at the track. “He’s doing so well I don’t want to move him quite yet," Brown said.

April 21 NOTE: Trainer Brown said, “He worked fine He worked an easy half, and I was happy with what I saw. He’s moving sound and happy. He’ll have a serious work next Friday at Churchill, weather permitting. “The horse is full of himself. His energy level is great. Since he arrived at Keeneland, he’s loved it here. That’s why we kept him here a little longer after the (Blue Grass).”

In the Kentucky Derby, Practical Joke broke from post 19 and was seventh or eighth during the first six furlongs. He ran on to finish fifth, beaten 9 1/2 lengths.

Chad Brown: “We got a beautiful trip from the 19 hole. I thought Joel did as well as he could. My horse really got a dream trip, I thought. He even got to the inside where it appeared the track had been better the last two days. He cut the corner and he just couldn’t sustain his run. I thought he handled the conditions well and so did Joel. Can’t blame the track. I think today he showed he just has a limit to how far he can run. He’s a fine racehorse, he’s a grade 1 racehorse. He just can’t go this classic distance. I’ll talk to the owners, we’ll give him a little bit of a breather, and we’ll focus on races a little bit shorter than this.”

Joel Rosario: “Going into the final turn I thought we were in a great spot but turning for home my horse just stayed in the same spot.”

WORKOUTS
Jan. 17, three in 37.75 Breezing 3/6 at PMM
Jan. 24, four in 48.25 Breezing 2/35 at PMM
Jan. 31, four in 48.00 Breezing 1/41 at PMM
Feb. 6, four in 49.00 Breezing 11/24 at PMM
Feb. 13, five in 1.00:90 Breezing 1/5 at PMM
Feb. 19, five in 1.00:45 Breezing 1/9 at PMM
Feb. 26, four in 48:00 Breezing 3/41 at PMM
March 18, four in 48:75 Breezing 9/61 at PMM
March 25, five in 1.00:90 Breezing 6/34 at PMM
April 4, five in 1.00:45 Breezing 4/14 at PMM
April 21, four in 49:80 Breezing 39/67 at KEE
April 28, five in 1.01:60 Breezing 19/35 at CD (w blinkers)

 

 

SONNETEER (KY)
Trainer: Keith Desormeaux
Owner: Calumet Farm (Brad Kelley)
Breeder: Calumet Farm
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Midnight Lute (Real Quiet, Candytuft)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Ours (Half Ours, Classy Mirage)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 2-2-2-0-0 (6) 5.00
Foal Date: March 1, 2014

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 29

Sonneteer did not win any of his first eight races, which spanned a period starting July 30 and ending Feb. 25. He didn't win his ninth race either, the Rebel Stakes, but he finished a good second. Before the Rebel, his highest Brisnet figure came when running second by 2 1/4 lengths to Royal Mo several months before, but that figure didn't measure up to others in the Rebel. When Brad Kelley sets out to accomplish something, he almost always succeeds, but this horse needed to step up big time.

Going into the Rebel, Sonneteer had been working well at Santa Anita, and he was carrying only 115 pounds.

In the March 18 Rebel Stakes, Malagacy won, 112-1 Sonneteer was second, Untrapped third and Petrov fourth, the latter three separated by three noses. Malagacy sat off opening fractions of 23.03, 47.04 and 1:11.35 set by a seemingly easy-running Uncontested into the far turn. Royal Mo and Petrov vied for third position and were in close contact up the backstretch. In the far turn, Royal Mo began to falter and Petrov began a short-lived bid. Uncontested led coming out of the turn, but he quit in the stretch. Malagacy kept firing, and he crossed the finish line best by two lengths in a time of 1:43.00.  Untrapped raced in fifth or sixth place into the far turn. He surged within a head of Malagacy mid-stretch and at the wire looked like he might have finished second again -- but Sonneteer nosed him out at odds of 112-1.  Sonneteer and Richard Eramia had come from 10th of 11 after the first half-mile, almost seven lengths off the pace. Petrov, who was third or fourth at each call, ran on evenly to get fourth.

Keith Desormeaux: “I’m not going to stand here and say that I knew he could do it when he’s sitting there at 100-1, which I can understand. But, the horse has been running quality races in California against quality competition. I love the setup, backing up to seven-eighths and then stretching out again. And physically he was doing so well, I had to give him a shot. Plus with the encouragement of Mr. Brad Kelley with Calumet Farm, we had to do it. He showed glimpses with his physical appearance and the way he works effortlessly in a class manner. There’s only one Derby, only one time of year to prep them for the Derby. It was time to prove it.”

“We got a favorable trip along the rail. It looks like Eramia thought about coming out and opted to stay on the rail. He was getting kind of bogged down, and then the horse to his outside bumped him. Richard said he rebroke when he got bumped, so that’s a nice sign. We just improved the value of the mare that I’m sure Mr. Kelley owns. She’s now graded-stakes placed. Thing is, she was a nose of being away from being fourth. So we got lucky. There’s a lot of luck involved, but the horse also earned it. There is going to be some discussion. We’ll see how he comes back. But the horse has always been very resilient. He holds his weight and is a good doer.”

Richard Eramia: “This horse ran big. The race set up perfect for him, because there was a lot of speed in the race and it was a really tough race. I watch all the replays of this horse and he tries hard every race, and when you get a horse that will try this hard, he will run some good races.”

THE NEXT DAY: Assistant trainer Julie Clark said,” We are definitely proud of our horse and the way he ran. I was talking with Rich (Eramia) and he said he’s still a little green. He’s still a maiden but he said he did everything right. When Rich asked him to do something, he followed through. He felt like he had a lot of horse under him. He was a little hesitant down on the rail, but he kept pushing through, and when the horse came to him about a sixteenth out, he pushed on. This was a big step forward for him, a giant step. There’s a good chance he’ll be back for the Arkansas Derby. He ships really well, and obviously, the surface here agrees with him."

On April 15, Classic Empire won the Arkansas Derby with Conquest Mo Money second, Lookin at Lee third, Sonneteer fourth, Malagacy fifth and Untrapped sixth. Petrov narrowly led the field into the first turn, closely accompanied by extreme longshot Grandpa's Dream and Conquest Mo Money. Malagacy, the post-time second choice, was less than two lengths back after breaking from post 12. As the field passed the next pole, Conquest Mo Money led after a first half-mile run in a sprightly 46.92. Under heavy pressure from Malagacy, Conquest Mo Money remained in charge of the field with six furlongs run in 1:11.16. Meanwhile, Classic Empire, who had been positioned in sixth or seventh place but only a couple of lengths back of the leader, encountered traffic in the turn and was taken three and four wide.

Into the stretch Conqest Mo Money and Malagacy ran one-two while heads apart and continued to engage in a battle to the wire that included some bumping. Suddenly Classic Empire appeared to their outside in third position with a fulong left to run. He outfinished them to win by a half-length. Conquest Mo Money was second. Lookin at Lee, who was 10th by five lengths after the first half-mile, got up late for third, beaten a length. Sonneteer, 11th in the early going, also closed well to finish fourth, another half-length back and a neck in front of Malagacy in fifth. It was another 2 3/4 lengths back to Untrapped in sixth. The 1 1/8-mile race was timed in 1:48.93.

Julie Clark, assistant trainer to Keith Desormeaux: “Still a maiden, but he's knocking on the door. He keeps improving and keeps showing a little bit more. Kent was ultra-impressed. He hasn't been on him for a race or two, and he was super impressed with him.”

In the Kentucky Derby, Sonneteer was very far back early and finished 16th, beaten 26 1/4 lengths.

Keith Desormeaux: "He obviously didn't like the track because Kent was having to ride him the whole way. He usually takes a hold and relaxes, but today Kent had to ask him and that tells me he didn't like the track. That simple."

Kent Desormeaux: “I had no horse. I had no horse, never had a chance.”

WORKOUTS
Jan. 14, five in 1:02.00 Handily good track 6/19 at SA
Feb. 20, four in 47.40 Handily 3/49 at SA
March 11, five in 1:00.00 Handily 8/65 at SA
April 1, four in 47.80 Handily 9/52 at SA
April 9, six in 1:13.00 Handily 1/11 at SA
May 1, four in 47:00 Breezing good track 1/22 at CD

 

 

STATE OF HONOR (ON)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Owner: Conrad Farms
Breeder: Manfred Conrad & Penny Conrad
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): To Honor and Serve (Bernardini, Pilfer)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): State Cup (Elusive Quality, Avie's Fancy)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 2-4-6-0-0 (12) 3.00
Foal Date: Feb. 25, 2014

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 7, Barn 36

He ran six times on synthetic at Woodbine as a juvenile. Fifth time was the charm as he won facing maidens at a distance of seven furlongs.

In his final race of 2016, State of Honor showed good early speed for the third time in his career and finished second in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity won by King and His Court by 2 1/2 lengths in a time of 1:50.76. The chart call: "State of Honor showed speed and set the pace, took no early pressure, saved ground on the turns, began to be pressed late on the far turn but was clear again in early stretch, still had the lead a furlong out but was outfinished."

State of Honor made a credible transition from synthetic to Gulfstream’s dirt track on Jan. 7 in the one-mile, one-turn Mucho Macho Man Stakes. Fifth at the first call, he picked up the pace and made an impressive, battling run to take the lead into mid-stretch before grudgingly settling for second by a head to Sonic Mule. Talk Logistics was a closing third, beaten 1 1/4 length.

On Feb. 11 at 3-2 odds, McCraken set a track record winning the Sam F. Davis Stakes in 1:42.45. Tapwrit was second by 1 1/2 length, followed another length back by State of Honor and another length to Wild Shot. State of Honor set fractions of 23.63, 47.15 and 1:10.90 and led into the stretch. Wild Shot, never more than three lengths back and to the outside of the ground-saving Tapwrit, was asked going four wide on the far turn and briefly seized the lead at the furlong marker. Seventh of nine after a half-mile, and sixth after six furlongs, McCraken started his closing run four wide on the far turn and passed State of Honor and Wild Shot in the stretch to win. Tapwrit finished best of the others to get second, and State of Honor came back on Wild Shot to get the show. The fifth finisher, Fact Finding, was beaten nine lengths, followed by No Dozing, Six Gun Salute, Chance of Luck and King and His Court.

Julien Leparoux: “He ran a good race. From the 1 hole, I kind of had to send him a little bit, and he relaxed good for me on the lead. He was trying hard. He ran a big race in his first try at two turns.”

In the Tampa Bay Derby on March 11, Tapwrit made a devastating turn move to win, pacesetter State of Honor was second, a closing Wild Shot was third and a stalking No Dozing was fourth. Beasley was a nose back in fifth. Tapwrit broke mid-pack from post 5, was three wide on the first turn and found himself eighth after the first quarter-mile, six lengths off a 23.42 pace set by State of Honor. State of Honor continued to lead through a half-mile gone in 46.65, with Tapwrit five lengths behind, and three furlongs in 1:10.57. State of Honor had a two-length lead over a tracking No Dozing entering the far turn, but Tapwrit had already begun advancing and was fourth, 3 1/2 lengths back. Running in the clear three wide under Jose Ortiz, Tapwrit made quick work of his remaining rivals and was three lengths ahead at the furlong marker. He kept extending with Ortiz applying the whip and won by 4 1/2 lengths over State of Honor.  Wild Shot, who was ninth in the early going and sixth after six furlongs, finished third, another 1 1/2 length back. No Dozing faded a bit to finish a half-length back in fourth, only a nose in front of Beasley. The time of 1:42.36 for the 1 1/16-mile is a new stakes record, eclipsing the mark of 1:42.82 set last year by Destin. A track record was set earlier in the day by 5-year-old Stanford.

March 25 NOTE: Assistant trainer Norm Casse said, “We were looking for a more conservative work today. He’s been a little too keen in his previous two races. We worked him without company today — he has never done that before. We wanted him to relax a little bit. If he’s going to have a chance to win the Florida Derby, he is going to have to relax a little more.”

In the April 1 Florida Derby, Always Dreaming won, State of Honor was second, favored Gunnevera was third, Impressive Edge was fourth and Three Rules was fifth. The race began with Three Rules setting splits of 23.38, 47.08 and 1:10.75 as State of Honor, then Always Dreaming, pursued him in second a length or two back. Always Dreaming was briefly steadied in the first turn. Gunnevera departed the far outside post and headed toward the rail to prepare for a late run. Rounding the second turn, Always Dreaming began to edge up the outside of Three Rules and obtained a narrow lead. At the furlong marker they had opened up by 2 1/2 lengths. Three Rules was still second, but State of Honor, who appeared to be retreating into the turn, rallied again and soon got past Three Rules for the place. Gunnevera was 15 lengths behind after the first quarter-mile and rallied to finish third, a length-and-a-half behind State of Honor. Impressive Edge was fourth or third at every call and finished fourth, beaten seven lengths and a nose in front of Three Rules in fifth. The final time was 1:47.47.

Julien Leparoux: “I had a really good trip. We took the blinkers off. He was a little keen the last time at Tampa, so we took the blinkers off and tried to rate him a little bit. He was a little keen on the first turn but he switched off on the backside and he was just second-best. We got through on the fence and he gave me all he’s got. He was just second-best.”

Mark Casse: “He was rank, and he calmed down a little bit. Maybe off of this race he will relax a little bit more. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw him in Kentucky.”

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Casse said State of Honor will ship to Churchill Downs this week and, “The winner was very impressive. Was there anything we could have done to change the outcome? No. I think if he had settled a little better . . . you know, he’s still learning to settle, which we’re trying to achieve. I think he did that in the middle of the race, he didn’t do it early. He was probably a little bit intimidated down inside, turning for home, where (Always Dreaming) kind of got first kick on him, where we had to play catch-up. I was actually, after watching the replay, more impressed with his performance than initially. He’s a very consistent horse and ran well, so I think he deserves a shot. The owners are excited, we’re excited, and he’s going to Kentucky.”

April 19 NOTE: With Julien Leparoux committed to Classic Empire, Jose Lezcano has been named to ride State of Honor in the Kentucky Derby

April 21 NOTE: Assistant trainer Norm Casse said, “State of Honor breezed very well. I’m very happy with how he looked on the track, and he’s developing well for the Derby.”

In the Kentucky Derby, State of Honor led early, relinquished the lead after six furlongs, and stopped. He finished 19th, beaten 45 3/4 lengths.

Mark Casse: "State of Honor didn’t like the track. I should have told Jose to go right to the rail because the track has been so speed favoring, especially on the rail.”

Jose Lezcano:  “I think my horse didn’t like the sloppy track. He broke good, I put him in a good position and let him go a little early. He stopped early but I think he can go longer.”

WORKOUTS
Jan. 21, four in 48.00 Breezing 6/55 at PMM
Jan. 28, five in 1:01.10 Breezing 5/28 at PMM
Feb. 3, four in 47.00 Breezing 1/29 at PMM
Feb. 24, four in 47:15 Breezing 1/48 at PMM
March 3, four in 47:75 Breezing 7/38 at PMM
March 25, four in 48:30 Breezing 13/97 at PMM
April 16, four in 49:80 Breezing 28/44 at CD
April 21, five in 1.01:60 Breezing 21/40 at CD
April 28, four in 48:80 Breezing 32/82 at CD

 

 

TAPWRIT (KY)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Owner: Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners & Robert LaPenta
Breeder: My Meadowview LLC
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Tapit (Pulpit, Tap Your Heels)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Appealing Zophie (Successful Appeal, Zophie)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 6-9-12-1-0 (28) 3.00
Foal Date: March 28, 2014

$1,200,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga August 2015

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 24, Barn 40

Tapwrit debuted amidst fanfare but with a 10th-place finish at Saratoga on Sept. 3.

He returned to break his maiden at Gulfstream Park West while equipped with blinkers for the first time on Nov. 6.

Tapwrit and Master Plan finished one-two in the one-mile, off-the-turf, one-mile Pulpit Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 10. Tapwrit, the 3-2 favorite, was a main-track-only entrant. He stalked a contested pace involving Hey Mike and Salute With Honor along the backstretch before sweeping three-wide on the far turn to easily take the lead under Eddie Castro. He opened up a five-length lead in mid-stretch and held on to win by a length over closing stable mate Master Plan. Master Plan finished 12 1/4 lengths clear of Hey Mike. The winner was timed in 1:37.65. NOTE: Tapwrit outgalloped McCraken past the wire.

Todd Pletcher: “I think everything is in play now. We’ll see how he comes out of it. He’s seems to be going the right way. We’ll target one of these stakes. I’m not sure which one yet. He’s suited to two turns, but we didn’t have too many options. So we took a shot in a main-track-only and it worked out well for him. He’s certainly improved off his first start. He didn’t behave well in his first start. He kind of missed the break and didn’t know what to do after that. Subsequently, he’s trained well and has become much more professional. I think the blinkers have helped. We’re very pleased with his last two runs.”

Feb. 10 NOTE: Trainer Pletcher texted to the Tampa press office:  “The Sam F. Davis has been a good launching pad for a number of our horses on the Derby trail. The timing of the race, the distance and the surface are attractive to bringing a good 3-year-old along. Tapwrit continues to develop and mature. He tends to idle on the lead, but we think there could be more in the tank.”

On Feb. 11 at 3-2 odds, McCraken set a track record winning the Sam F. Davis Stakes in 1:42.45. Tapwrit was second by 1 1/2 length, followed another length back by State of Honor and another length to Wild Shot. State of Honor set fractions of 23.63, 47.15 and 1:10.90 and led into the stretch. Wild Shot, never more than three lengths back and to the outside of the ground-saving Tapwrit, was asked going four wide on the far turn and briefly seized the lead at the furlong marker. Seventh of nine after a half-mile, and sixth after six furlongs, McCraken started his closing run four wide on the far turn and passed State of Honor and Wild Shot in the stretch to win. Tapwrit finished best of the others to get second, and State of Honor came back on Wild Shot to get the show. The fifth finisher, Fact Finding, was beaten nine lengths, followed by No Dozing, Six Gun Salute, Chance of Luck and King and His Court.

Jose Ortiz told DRF.com, “It was a great effort. I got into a little bit of trouble at the quarter pole, trying to get out, but as soon as I put him in the clear, he gave me a great run.”

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Trainer Pletcher texted track publicity, saying Tapwrit could return for the Tampa Bay Derby: “He’s improving all the time. I will get with the connections.”

March 9 NOTE: Trainer Pletcher said, “Tapwrit has done very well physically since the Sam Davis. For him, I think the most important thing he got from that race was the experience and education. He got hemmed up inside and had to wait for room, but when he got clear he closed well and galloped out strongly. I think he and Jose both learned enough to hopefully bring forth an improved effort.... Sonic Mule might be more of a pace presence, but Tapwrit has tactical speed, so I’ll let the jocks sort it out and see how the race develops as they come out of the first turn.”

In the Tampa Bay Derby on March 11, Tapwrit made a devastating turn move to win, pacesetter State of Honor was second, a closing Wild Shot was third and a stalking No Dozing was fourth. Beasley was a nose back in fifth. Tapwrit broke mid-pack from post 5, was three wide on the first turn and found himself eighth after the first quarter-mile, six lengths off a 23.42 pace set by State of Honor. State of Honor continued to lead through a half-mile gone in 46.65, with Tapwrit five lengths behind, and three furlongs in 1:10.57. State of Honor had a two-length lead over a tracking No Dozing entering the far turn, but Tapwrit had already begun advancing and was fourth, 3 1/2 lengths back. Running in the clear three wide under Jose Ortiz, Tapwrit made quick work of his remaining rivals and was three lengths ahead at the furlong marker. He kept extending with Ortiz applying the whip and won by 4 1/2 lengths over State of Honor.  Wild Shot, who was ninth in the early going and sixth after six furlongs, finished third, another 1 1/2 length back. No Dozing faded a bit to finish a half-length back in fourth, only a nose in front of Beasley. The time of 1:42.36 for the 1 1/16-mile is a new stakes record, eclipsing the mark of 1:42.82 set last year by Destin. A track record was set earlier in the day by 5-year-old Stanford.

Todd Pletcher: “We were looking for a big effort from him, and this was everything we could hope for. He won pretty convincingly, and we’re very pleased. He had kind of a rough trip around the first turn and got shuffled around a little, but he handled it professionally and steadied himself and got in good stride up the backstretch/. After he made the lead, Jose kept him occupied down the lane because he has a tendency to idle when he gets ahead. This was everything we could have hoped for.”

Jose Ortiz: “When I asked him between the half-mile and 3/8 poles, he let me know he was going to win the race right away. He’s really scary, and I think he is going to keep improving. I really like him a lot, and I think he can go a mile-and-an-eighth and a mile-and-a-quarter. If he has competition beside him, I think he is going to get much and much better.”

Aron Wellman, President of co-owner Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners. “He just exploded. That was what we were hoping for, and he delivered.”

Robert LaPenta: “This was a breakout race for him. I really felt he stepped up today. This is such a tough sport, and a win like this brings you to the moon.”

THE NEXT DAY: Tapwrit is doing well today. Trainer Pletcher said, “It just depends on the horse, and Tapwrit is getting better with each race. He’s still learning how to compete and how to win, and the experience of a mile-and-an-eighth race might give him a better chance moving forward. We’ll see how he bounces out of it and see how he trains and evaluate our options."

March 16 NOTE: Wood Memorial or Toyota Blue Grass or Arkansas Derby is next.

March 27 NOTE: It's going to be the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. Jose Ortiz will be back up.

The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes was won by maiden Irap with Practical Joke second, McCraken third, J Boys Echo fourth and Tapwrit fifth. Irap sat in second early, overtook early pacesetter Wild Shot a little under six furlongs into the race, and held off Practical Joke to win the nine-furlong race at Keeneland in 1:50.39. Wild Shot struck the early lead and cut out reasonable fractions of 23.79 and 48.34, but with six furlongs gone in 1:12.36, Irap held a one-length lead and Wild Shot was second by a length and about to fade badly. At that point, Practical Joke was only a half-length off of Wild Shot, McCraken was three lengths back of the lead, J Boys Echo was seventh but in touch with the field and Tapwrit was just in front of him. Irap forgot to quit running and prevailed over Practical Joke by three parts of a length. McCraken's usual rally didn't materialize, and he fell short of Irap by 3 3/4 lengths. J Boys Echo finished fourth, beaten 6 1/4 lengths and was followed past the finish line by Tapwrit, It's Your Nickel and Wild Shot.

Todd Pletcher: “He seemed to run kind of flat. I thought he saddled beautifully and behaved really well in the post parade and the gate. He had his head in the air a little bit and missed the break a touch. Then he got stuck four or five wide all the way around there. It seemed like he struggled with the race track a little bit. He just ran kind of evenly and flat the whole way. We'll see how he comes out of it and talk to everyone, but we feel like he's that caliber of horse. As long as we don’t find any major reasons, we'll certainly take him to Churchill and see how he trains there.”

Jose Ortiz: “He broke well, maybe a step behind. Going into the first turn I was in a good spot behind Rosario (on Practical Joke), so I tried to follow him the whole way. When I tried to keep up with a half-mile remaining, I didn't have too much horse. I don’t think he liked the track too much. When I hit the backside I was kind of nervous already.”

THE NEXT DAY: “He is good this morning and will stay here for awhile,” said Todd Pletcher assistant trainer Ginny DePasquale. “He may go over to Churchill Downs; I don’t envision him going back to Florida. He just didn’t show up yesterday. He was totally different compared to Tampa where he was on the muscle.”

APRIL 15 NOTE: Tapwrit was scheduled to move to Churchill Downs Sunday but will remain at Keeneland a little longer. “Todd has some horses flying in here Monday from Arkansas, and Tapwrit will go to Louisville with the horses that are going there,” assistant Ginny DePasquale said.

April 21 NOTE: Trainer Pletcher said, “He got hung out pretty wide on the turn (in the Blue Grass) and ran kind of a flat race, but he seemed to come out well. Hopefully, he trains accordingly and comes back to his Tampa form."

April 21 NOTE: Todd Pletcher assistant Ginny DePasquale said: “We were looking for a good maintenance drill. He galloped out very well and Jose was very pleased. He had to keep him focused a little bit, but that is just him. That is why he was tapping him at the end. He has come a long way, but you have to tell him, ‘This is what we are doing today.’ You have to keep him focused.”

In the Kentucky Derby, Tapwrit was 14th or 15th during the first six furlongs after being in tight during the early going. He continued to run to finish sixth, beaten 10 1/4 lengths.

Jose Ortiz: “In the beginning the 17 hole (Irish War Cry) came over on me. I got in good position behind Classic Empire, but he didn’t respond today.”


WORKOUTS
Dec. 31, four in 48.60 Breezing 1/30 at PBD
Jan. 7, four in 48.60 Breezing 1/25 at PBD
Jan. 14, five in 1:03.20 Breezing 19/20 at PBD
Jan. 21, five in 1:01.40 Breezing 3/8 at PBD
Jan. 28, five in 1:01.80 Breezing 5/9 at PBD
Feb. 4, four in 48.60 Breezing 3/14 at PBD
Feb. 25, four in 47:80 Breezing 4/28 at PBD
March 4, four in 50:80 Breezing 17/20 at PBD
March 25, four in 49:20 Breezing 5/26 at PBD
April 21, five in 1.01:40 Breezing 7/14 at KEE
April 28, four in 1.00:20 Breezing 3/35 at CD

 

 

THUNDER SNOW (IRE)
Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor
Owner: Godolphin
Breeder: Darley
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Helmet (AUS) (Exceed and Excel (AUS), Accessories (GB))
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Eastern Joy (GB) (Dubai Destination, Red Slippers)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index: 2-1-11-4-0 (18) 0.89
Foal Date: March 24, 2014

LATE-NOMINATED TO THE TRIPLE CROWN

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 30, (Quarantine) Barn 17

As a juvenile, Thunder Snow's resume included a win of his debut; a win of the seven-furlong Group 1 Criterium International on turf at Saint-Cloud; and second-place finishes in the seven-furlong Group 2 Vintage Stakes on turf at Goodwood and the seven-furlong Group 2 Champagne Stakes on turf at Doncaster. He finished fourth in the seven-furlong Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes on turf at Newmarket.

His chart call for each of those stakes:

His third career start: War Decree won the Vintage by 1 3/4 length over Thunder Snow in 1:25.75 on good to firm turf. Thunder Snow chart call: "Pressed leading pair until went 2nd 4f out, upsides leader and ridden 2f out, driven to lead just over 1f out, soon headed, no extra and stayed on same pace final 100yds."

His fourth career start: Rivet won the Champagne by a head over Thunder Snow in 1:26.63 on good turf. Thunder Snow chart call: "Close up on inner, led 2f out, ridden over 1f out, driven inside final furlong, headed and no extra last 75yds."

His fifth career start: Thunder Snow finished fourth to Churchill, Lancaster Bomber and Blue Point in the Dewhurst by two lengths on good turf. Winning time was 1:23.80. The chart call: "Chased leaders, every chance 2f out until unable to quicken under pressure just inside final furlong, stayed on same pace final 150yds."

His sixth career start: Thunder Snow won the Criterium Stakes in 1:28.20 on soft turf. South Seas was second by five lengths. The chart call: "Led early, headed after 1f and chased new leader, led entering straight over 2 1/2f out and took field to stands' side, ridden 1 1/2f out, driven clear inside final furlong, won easing down."

His final race last year, the Criterium, was on Oct. 30. Christope Soumillon rode him for the first time.

He made his 2017 debut on Feb. 17 on the dirt track at Meydan and easily won the one-mile Group 2 UAE 2000 Guineas. It was his first start on dirt. He prevailed over second finisher Bee Jersey by 5 3/4 lengths on a track rated fast. His time was 1:38.48. The chart call: "Tracked leader, led 4f out, ran on well, easily." Christope Soumillon was on board again.

March 24 NOTE: Trainer bin Suroor told godolphin.com, "Thunder Snow has done well since winning the UAE 2000 Guineas. He worked nicely on Sunday and is ready to go again. This step up in distance will be something new for him, but everything is going well and I am hoping for another good result."


In the UAE Derby on March 25, Thunder Snow got by Epicharis at the wire by a short head after a thrilling stretch duel, with Master Plan third and Lancaster Bomber fourth. Epicharis broke from post 10, ran 150 meters to the first turn, and led Adirato and Qatar Man into the bend. Heading up the backstretch, those same three were on top. Thunder Snow, who wasn't as quick as the pacesetter breaking from post 13, and Fawree vied for fourth. The first half-mile was timed in 48 2/5. Up the backstretch, Epicharis and Adirato still controlled the pace, and Thunder Snow was fully engaged in third, with Qatar Man still going along in fourth. As the field rounded the far turn, Adirato began to fade, and Thunder Snow threw down the gauntlet to a stubborn Epicharis. Qatar Man was still third but about to be surpassed. With Thunder Snow to the outside of Epicharis, the outcome was in doubt until the last jump. Master Plan, who was eighth and wide leaving the turn, got by five horses in the stretch to finish third, beaten 1 1/4 length. Lancaster Bomber, who was fifth out of the turn, got by Qatar Man for fourth. The final time for the 1,900 meter UAE Derby, which is about 1 3/16 mile by U.S. standards, was 1:57.76. The track record for the distance is 1:56:51.

John Ferguson, Godolphin chief executive: "It was a very good performance and a really international race. You have a winner from Dubai and a horse from Japan and an American horse. It just shows how international the whole thing is. From Thunder Snow's point of view, he did it in a good time, he showed he is very brave and it was a great performance. And His Highness has just mentioned that the Kentucky Derby is a possibility. It could be a great idea."
 
Christophe Soumillon: “He got scared twice of the screen. I could feel when we came into the last turn, he put his nose completely on the left. He did not turn left. And when I came into the straight, he was just waiting for that screen. So I was trying to get him to concentrate. And fortunately when I arrived at the 150m marker, he just saw the marks from the gates on the ground. He got scared, he changed legs and he stopped.  He hangs and I tried to keep him to concentrate. I knew it wasn't finished. I thought ‘you are doing it to me again’, he was really giving it hard to me. I thought you never know, he might come back again. And he did. Today he showed me he was still a bit immature."

April 15 NOTE: Saw a tweet a day or two ago that the Sheik hasn't decided whether to compete in the Kentucky Derby.

April 22 NOTE:  Saw this tweet by Laura King today: "Saeed Bin Suroor said it's 'likely' that Thunder Snow goes to Kentucky but Sheikh Mohammed to decide. 'The race won't be a problem for him.'" And this one from Geoffrey Riddle: "Neither Bin Suroor nor Ferguson would confirm but I understand there are plans in place to fly Thunder Snow to Kentucky on Apr 30!"

April 25: Thunder Snow set to arrive at Churchill Downs on Sunday, April 30 and will be taken to quarantine in Barn 17.

In the Kentucky Derby, Thunder Snow left the gate and immediately started jumping up and down and never ran a step. He did not finish.

Dr. Keith Latson, AAEP On Call Veterinarian on Thunder Snow: “Thunder Snow galloped back to the paddock comfortably under his own power. He was examined by Dr. Jennifer Kaak and was found to have no injuries and walked back to his barn under his own power.”

Christophe Soumillon: -- “I don’t know what happened at the start.”

 

 


UNTRAPPED (KY)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Owner: Michael Langford
Breeder:  Indian Creek & Jonathan Sheppard
Sire (Sire’s Sire, Dam): Trappe Shot (Tapit, Shopping)
Dam (Dam’s Sire, Dam): Exit Three (Giant's Causeway, Castanea)
Dosage Profile (Points) Index:2-5-13-0-0 (20) 2.08
Foal Date: April 19, 2014

$97,000 Keeneland January 2015
$150,000 Keeneland September 2015
$125,000 OBS April 2015

ARRIVAL AT CHURCHILL DOWNS: April 17, Barn 38

Untrapped raced twice as a 2-year-old, winning the second time out by 5 1/4 lengths in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race under Ricardo Santana, Jr. at Churchill Downs on Nov. 20. After ducking out at the start, he wasn't too far back at any point but was very wide on the turn. Still, he won easily. Adulation was second, Hay Liston Up third. The chart chall: "Untrapped ducked out sharply at the start, stalked the pace early, swung into the six path in the turn, took over command in the stretch and drew off late under a steady drive."

On Jan. 21, Untrapped was second best while Guest Suite, the 5-2 favorite, showed professionalism and class with a 1 1/4-length victory in the LeComte Stakes. Eleven ran, going a mile and 70 yards on a sloppy-sealed track. After breaking from post eight of 11, Guest Suite sat comfortably in mid-pack in sixth while longshot Phat Man and 4-1 second choice Running Mate carved out solid fractions of 23.42 and 46.47. Launching a bid leaving the turn under Robby Albarado, Guest Suite swept past those two, as well as eventual third-place finisher Takeoff, to hit the front with more than an eighth of a mile remaining. He was timed in 1:43.20. Untrapped, five lengths back early, got into better position soon and rallied well for the place, a half-length ahead of Takeoff. Arklow and Shareholder Value rallied well to finish a head and half-length back in fourth and fifth, with an 8 1/2-length gap back to Phat Man and the remainder of the field. The chart call: "Untrapped raced in the two path on the first turn, settled towards the front, was urged along in the two path on the far turn, waited behind horses turning into the stretch, shifted out from behind rivals at the three-sixteenths, chased into the final sixteenth, drifted out late and finished with good courage to get the place."

Steve Asmussen: “I love how he fought on late for his first two turn race.”

Ricardo Santana, Jr.: “Running first time long, I’m happy with him. He ran big and we tried to teach him something. He finished really good.”

Feb. 23 NOTE: Trainer Asmussen said, “Untrapped has trained really nicely and I’m very anxious to see how he runs back. We did a little bit of an adjustment with his training and it seems to have gone well. Originally, I was going to go to Oaklawn with him, but with the way he ran last time in the Lecomte, I wanted to give him a chance to run back here. I’m excited to see where it puts him.”

Untrapped was always around and finished second, but it was Girvin turned it on late in the stretch to win the Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 25 at 8-1 odds. Local Hero set the early pace all alone with fractions of 23.70 for the first quarter-mile and 47.02 for the half, at which point he led by six lengths. He was still in front by 3 1/2 lengths after six furlongs in 1:11.98. Mo Town, favored at 3-2,  tracked in second with Untrapped, ridden by Ricardo Santana, and Cool Arrow vying for third and fourth part-way down the backstretch. After breaking from the rail, Girvin began his journey by sitting midpack in the scratch-reduced field of 11. After a quarter-mile he was fifth, six lengths off the pace, and after the first half-mile he was still fifth, but over nine lengths back. At that point, Girvin advanced to fourth entering the far turn, about five lengths off the lead, while Cool Arrow backed off.

On the far turn, Girvin was down in the two path. As heads turned for home Local Hero kept running while Mo Town beat a hasty retreat. Girvin was switching leads, but at the furlong marker he had caught Local Hero. Girvin extended a half-length lead to a winning margin of two lengths. Untrapped, still hanging around, stayed a little longer than Local Hero, slipping by him as the finish line loomed to get second place. Local Hero hung on for third, beaten 4 1/4 lengths Guest Suite, who was ninth, 13 lengths in arrears after a half-mile, came up a neck short of getting the show spot. The 1 1/16 mile was timed in 1:43.08 on a track rated fast.

Ricardo Santana: “He had no excuse. He ran his race and he ran hard and maybe got a little tired. He was running long for only the second time, and I was proud of how he ran.”

Feb. 27 NOTE: Untrapped to be wheeled back in March 18 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn.

March 5 NOTE: Irad Ortiz, Jr. has been booked to ride Untrapped in the Rebel Stakes.

In the March 18 Rebel Stakes, Malagacy won, 112-1 Sonneteer was second, Untrapped third and Petrov fourth the latter three separated by three noses. Malagacy sat off opening fractions of 23.03, 47.04 and 1:11.35 set by a seemingly easy-running Uncontested into the far turn. Royal Mo and Petrov vied for third position and were in close contact up the backstretch. In the far turn, Royal Mo began to falter and Petrov began a short-lived bid. Uncontested led coming out of the turn, but he quit in the stretch. Malagacy kept firing, and he crossed the finish line best by two lengths in a time of 1:43.00.  Untrapped raced in fifth or sixth place into the far turn. He surged within a head of Malagacy mid-stretch and at the wire looked like he might have finished second again -- but Sonneteer nosed him out at odds of 112-1.  Sonneteer and Richard Eramia had come from 10th of 11 after the first half-mile, almost seven lengths off the pace. Petrov, who was third or fourth at each call, ran on evenly to get fourth.

Steve Asmussen, third-place trainer of Untrapped: “Untrapped looked like he showed the effects of me wheeling him back. He got a little light late, but he’s a good horse. We’ll plan on staying here for the Arkansas Derby with him. Part of it is it’s hard to be good enough, and it’s really hard to stay around. (He has) been very durable and sound to this point. I think Untrapped will appreciate a little more time between races, but you watch the replay and I’ll debate whether putting blinkers on him or not. You can see where he dropped the bridle down the backside, and it forced him to start holding position. But it was his first race here, and the kickback being different. I’ll see how he trains, (blinkers) is an option."

Irad Ortiz, Jr.: “He ran well. He ran so well. He got beat by a good horse, but he was moving well and did everything right. He is a nice horse I think.”

Mike Langford, owner: “I think three weeks is what got us. We did a lot in three weeks. He ran a career Beyer and came back here. That’s asking a lot. He ran great. At the top of the lane, I thought he was going to win, to be honest with you.”

THE NEXT DAY: Trainer Asmussen said, “Untrapped ran okay. He’ll need a little more time between races between now and the Derby, so hopefully, he’ll respond to that. Obviously, he’ll need to find a little more.” Blinkers might be added.

On April 15, Classic Empire won the Arkansas Derby with Conquest Mo Money second, Lookin at Lee third, Sonneteer fourth, Malagacy fifth and Untrapped sixth. Petrov narrowly led the field into the first turn, closely accompanied by extreme longshot Grandpa's Dream and Conquest Mo Money. Malagacy, the post-time second choice, was less than two lengths back after breaking from post 12. As the field passed the next pole, Conquest Mo Money led after a first half-mile run in a sprightly 46.92. Under heavy pressure from Malagacy, Conquest Mo Money remained in charge of the field with six furlongs run in 1:11.16. Untrapped made an unsustained run at the leaders. Meanwhile, Classic Empire, who had been positioned in sixth or seventh place but only a couple of lengths back of the leader, encountered traffic in the turn and was taken three and four wide.

Into the stretch Conqest Mo Money and Malagacy ran one-two while heads apart and continued to engage in a battle to the wire that included some bumping. Suddenly Classic Empire appeared to their outside in third position with a fulong left to run. He outfinished them to win by a half-length. Conquest Mo Money was second. Lookin at Lee, who was 10th by five lengths after the first half-mile, got up late for third, beaten a length. Sonneteer, 11th in the early going, also closed well to finish fourth, another half-length back and a neck in front of Malagacy in fifth. It was another 2 3/4 lengths back to Untrapped in sixth. The 1 1/8-mile race was timed in 1:48.93.

Steve Asmussen: “Disappointed with the end result. Had a little bit of a wide trip and didn’t stay on.”

April 24 NOTE: Trainer Asmussen said, “(He) went five-eighths and galloped good with the blinkers off of him. I thought he was too aggressive and pulled up into a fast pace in the Arkansas Derby. His breeze today was beautiful. He’s such a gorgeous moving horse.”

In the Kentucky Derby, Untrapped saved ground early but was seven wide on the far turn and finished 12th, beaten 19 1/4 lengths.

Steve Asmussen: "With Untrapped, Ricardo found a really good spot with him. It just ran away from him in the middle.

Ricardo Santana Jr.: “It’s a tough trip but it’s the Derby. I wish we could’ve gotten a better trip.”

WORKOUTS
Jan. 7, six in 1:13.60 Breezing 3/5 at FG
Jan. 15, four in 50.00 Breezing 38/70 at FG
Feb. 6, five in 1:02.40 Breezing 7/15 at FG
Feb. 13, five in 1.01:60 Breezing 11/23 at FG
Feb. 20, four in 50:00 Breezing 29/47 at FG
March 11, five in 1:01.00 Breezing 3/37 at OP
March 27, four in 51:40 Breezing good track 14/19 at OP
April 2, five in 1.00:40 Breezing 2/26 at OP
April 9, four in 51:00 Breezing 34/39 at OP
April 24, five in 1.01:60 Breezing 16/31 at CD
May 1, four in 50:40 Breezing sloppy track 17/22 at CD

 

 

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