Blame – One of the top contenders expected to take on the unbeaten Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Al Stall Jr. trainee turned in an easy final workout on Monday morning at Churchill Downs when he breezed 4f in 49 4/5 under jockey Garrett Gomez.
The 4yo son of Arch came onto the track accompanied by a pony around 6:10 a.m. and jogged the wrong way down the stretch to the far turn before coming back and breaking off from the pony just past the wire. He appeared eager to run and on the muscle, but settled nicely into a smooth gallop before being set down to the task along the backside. Clockers caught him galloping out 5f in 1:03 1/5.
“It was just a little maintenance work,” Stall said. “He started out comfortable, did his job, pulled up with a little buck and a squeal, and came on home. That’s him. Garrett said he’s becoming like a movie star; he loves all the cameras and attention out there. When he cut loose from the pony he tried to take off a little, but he settled down well.”
“The last time I went to work him at Saratoga before the Whitney, I had trouble getting him to the pole, he was pulling that hard,” Gomez said. “This morning he started out like that, but I was able to kind of con him around there and play with him and get him into a nice little gallop and kind of trick him that he was just going to gallop around there. Then, when we got to the backside, he started pulling and I actually broke him off at about 4 ½ furlongs. I just kind of tried to let him hit his stride and pick it up as we went along like he does in all his races. His work was just what we were looking for, just enough to open his lungs and get him a little more on edge getting closer to race day.”
Stall had talked of potentially breezing the runner, a homebred owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, on Sunday. But he decided early last week to wait until after Churchill Downs’ opening day and scheduled the work for Monday instead.
“I thought the track would be in really pristine shape after all the harrowing of opening day, and it looked really good this morning,” he said.
In his last start, Blame was runner-up to fellow Classic contender Haynesfield by four lengths in the Oct. 2 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. Before the recent loss, he carried a four-race win streak toward the Breeders’ Cup, with 2010 victories in the Aug. 7 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga, the June 12 Stephen Foster here at Churchill Downs, the May 15 William D. Schaefer Stakes at Pimlico, and a 2009 score in the Clark Handicap here last November.
Blame will be retired to stand at Claiborne Farm following his start in the Classic.
“I’m glad were considered one of the top horses,” said Stall. “It’s a tough race but I feel like we belong.”
All of the colt’s wins this year came under Gomez.
“He did what he was supposed to do and turned into a really good racehorse, and hopefully now he can turn into a great one,” the jockey said.
Espoir City – The 5yo Japanese Classic hopeful was walked in the shedrow Monday morning, the day after he worked 4f in 48 3/5.
“All is well. He came out of his breeze in good condition,” said Mikki Tsuge, West Coast Representative for the Japan Racing Association, who has been serving as the connections’ liaison at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Akio Adachi and trainer Tetsuzo Sato are scheduled to arrive in Kentucky on Monday and be at the track for training Tuesday morning. Tsuge said it is possible that Adachi may work the son of Gold Allure again on Wednesday.
Espoir City has won 11 of 20 career starts, including two Group 1 races, the 2009 Japan Cup Dirt and the 2010 February Stakes, and has purse earnings of $5.9 million
Etched – The Monmouth Cup winner galloped 1 3/8m over the Polytrack at Darley USA’s Greentree Training Center in Saratoga Springs Monday, the morning before he is scheduled to board a van bound for Churchill Downs and is expected to arrive early Wednesday.
“He’s stabled at Greentree at Saratoga, so it’d be a four-hour van ride down here and then he’d have to be boarded onto a plane,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin from Belmont Park. “We figured it would be easier for him to put him in a box stall and van him down there.”
Etched, a 5yo son of Forestry, will be ridden by Alan Garcia.
First Dude/Paddy O'Prado – First Dude, Donald Dizney’s Stephen Got Even colt who has held his own against the top 3yos this year, was feeling good Monday morning as he went to the track to jog 2m on Monday with exercise rider Tammy Fox aboard. It was the colt’s first time to the track since his 5f workout on Saturday in 1:01 1/5.
“He was saying ‘Hi ho silver and bucky, bucky, bucky’,” said Fox, a former jockey and the longtime partner of trainer Dale Romans.
“He was just playing out there,” said Romans. “He’s feeling good. He came out of the work really well.”
Jockey Robby Albarado, who was aboard Romans’ first Breeders’ Cup winner, Tapitsfly last year in the Juvenile Fillies, has the mount on First Dude in the Classic.
Paddy O’Prado, Donegal Racing’s multiple stakes-winner walked the shedrow of Romans’ barn on Monday and will return to the track on Tuesday to jog. The El Prado colt completed preparations for the Classic on Saturday with a 5f workout in 1:01 on Saturday.
Paddy O’Prado had been pre-entered in both the Turf and Classic, but his connections have opted for the Classic.
“It was a breeding decision,” said Romans. “He’s already proved he can run on turf. If he proves can run well in here on dirt, it will really increase his stud value. He ran well on the dirt in the Kentucky Derby and it’s not like the Turf was going to be an easier race. Realistically, we felt he has as good a chance in the Classic as we would have in the Turf.”
Regular rider Kent Desormeaux keeps the mount in the Classic.
Fly Down/Morning Line – Assistant trainer Stacy Prior attended to the training of Fly Down and Morning Line Monday morning at Churchill Downs as trainer Nick Zito was en route to Louisville.
“Everything’s good. Both horses galloped 1 ½ miles,” said Prior, reporting that exercise rider Carlos Correa was aboard both Classic hopefuls.
Gio Ponti – Gio Ponti's connections have decided to run him in the Mile.
Haynesfield – Turtle Bird Stable’s Haynesfield, who breezed 4f in 50 on Sunday in his final major move prior to Saturday’s Classic, is “very sharp right now” according to trainer Steve Asmussen.
“The horse is doing well, I’m very pleased,” he said. “With him, it’s all about the gate and how he acts in it, and if he doesn’t lose his race there.”
Such was the case in the Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 7 when Haynesfield broke through the gate pre-start, and wound up finishing fourth behind Blame. He would turn the tables on that Classic foe seven weeks later, wiring the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont by four lengths.
“He schools very well in the morning, it’s just the afternoon,” Asmussen said. “The gate setting on the front side is a huge concern. Ironically, you are able to school at the quarter-pole here, exactly where the gate is set for the race. Hopefully that will be the difference for him. He has given a few performances away in the past.”
Haynesfield hasn’t run in a race at Churchill before, but he’s worked three times over the track in advance of the Classic.
“We got him in here early because of his quirks, and the horse has responded extremely well,” Asmussen said. “He’s comfortable with his surroundings, and I’m very happy with the way he travels over this racetrack.”
Asmussen confirmed that Jockey Club Gold Cup winning rider Ramon Dominguez retains the call for the Classic.
Lookin At Lucky – Lookin at Lucky walked the shedrow at Hollywood Park Monday morning after working 5f in 59 3/5 Sunday.
“I asked Bodie (his son), ‘Who is the fastest in the world?’ and he said, ‘Zenyatta,’ so I guess it’s all uphill,” said trainer Bob Baffert. “Seriously, he’s doing great. We just need some racing luck.”
Musket Man – The 4yo colt, who ran third in his two starts at Churchill Downs, was scheduled to get on a van at Monmouth Park late Monday night for the trip to Kentucky, trainer Derek Ryan said. He is scheduled to arrive Tuesday afternoon.
“He had his final work at Monmouth Saturday (5f breeze in 1:00 4/5),” Ryan said, “and he’ll gallop up to the race at Churchill Downs.”
Ryan said he’ll arrive at Churchill Downs on Wednesday.
Musket Man, owned by Eric Fein and Vic Carlson, will be housed in Barn 41 on the Churchill backside, taking the same stall he occupied when he ran third in the 2009 Kentucky Derby and third in the Churchill Downs Stakes this year on Derby Day.
In his recent starts, Musket Man was third behind Blame and Quality Road in the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga in August, and last out was second by a neck behind Etched in the Monmouth Cup on Oct. 9.
He’s had two breezes since, 6f in 1:17 at Monmouth on Oct. 23, and then his 5f breeze last Saturday, which was fifth best of 21 works at the distance.
Rajiv Maragh, who was aboard for the first time in the Whitney, gets the call again for the Classic.
Pleasant Prince – With a solid 5f workout in 1:01 3/5 on Sunday at Churchill Downs, trainer Wesley Ward’s Pleasant Prince jogged 1m Monday as he continued preparation for Saturday’s Classic at 1 ¼m on the main track.
Ward said from his Florida base that the 3yo chestnut colt continues to train well and he’s encouraged about how he might run in the race. The son of Indy King, owned by Kentuckians Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, broke his maiden at Churchill Downs as a 2yo and returned to finish third the track’s Derby Trial April 24.
Pleasant Prince will be ridden in the Classic by Southern California-based Joel Rosario, who was in the irons in the colt’s victory in the Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park in his most recent start Oct. 10.
Quality Road –It was a quiet morning for the Woodward winner, who walked the shedrow after his final work on Sunday over the main track at Churchill Downs. The son of Elusive Quality went 4f and was timed in 48 3/5, seventh-best of 60 on the tab.
“I thought it was a very good work and he galloped out well,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who had the colt ready for last year’s Classic only to suffer the misfortune of having him scratched at the gate when Santa Anita’s assistant starters were unable to get him loaded.
“That was disappointing, but we were fortunate that he didn’t get injured and we’re able to come back and try again.” said Pletcher, who sent his formerly high-strung star to former NYRA starter Bob Duncan after the Breeders’ Cup to get him to learn how to relax before racing.
“Bob worked with him shortly after that, and there haven’t been any problems this year,” said Pletcher, who pre-entered 11 Breeders’ Cup runners. John Velazquez, who has been aboard in all but two of Quality Road’s 12 starts, will ride the Edward P. Evans color bearer.
Zenyatta – Two-time champion Zenyatta jogged a mile over the Hollywood Park training track on Monday morning.
This was her last training exercise before leaving California. The 6yo Street Cry mare will leave her barn at 2 am (PT) on Tuesday morning to board a chartered Tex Sutton flight to Kentucky leaving at 5 am. Owners Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs will board a private plane and hope to arrive in Louisville ahead of their prized mare.
“It was just a jog day,” said Shirreffs. “It was just something nice and easy.”
When asked what he thought of the “60 Minutes” feature about Zenyatta, which aired Sunday night, he replied, “It was very good. They did a great job with it.”
Shirreffs, who became the first trainer to win the Ladies’ Classic and the Classic in the same year, will be looking to pull a double again this year. He will also saddle Harmonious in the Filly & Mare Turf.
Crown of Thorns – see Dirt Mile
Dakota Phone – see Dirt Mile