Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®
Daily Cup Update: Classic, Wednesday, Nov. 3
Blame – The 9-2 second choice for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic took to the track Wednesday morning for an easy jog. Trainer Al Stall Jr. said everything was as it should be with the 4yo son of Arch, who will make the final start of his career against Zenyatta on Saturday before being retired to stud at Claiborne Farm.
Blame’s last work was turned in on Monday, an effortless 4f in 49 4/5 under jockey Garrett Gomez.
Espoir City – Jockey Tetsuzo Sato breezed the 5yo horse 4f in 49 3/5 Wednesday morning.
Rather than using the Japanese style of breaking off at the finish line and working around the first turn, as he had done Sunday, trainer Akio Adachi had Sato work the two-time Group 1 winner to the wire, the conventional approach in North America.
“Today was sort of the final touch-up,” he said through interpreter Mikki Tsuge, West Coast Representative for the Japan Racing Association, who has been serving as the connections’ liaison at Churchill Downs. “We had the jockey on him. There were no instructions, no specific fractions requested. I just wanted the jockey to feel how the horse was.”
Adachi was pleased with the work.
“I’m quite satisfied,” he said, adding the son of Gold Allure can handle whatever develops in the Classic.
“Espoir City is quite versatile,” he said. “No instructions will be given to the jockey. We will leave it to him. If he breaks well, he can settle wherever. If he doesn’t break well, he can cover ground. I’m not concerned.”
The Japan Cup Dirt and February Stakes winner drew post 11 in the 12-horse field.
“I actually like it,” Adachi said.
The trainer said his horse can deal with the American style of racing, with a quick early pace.
“In his recent races, he has been up front,” he said. “I’m quite certain that he has the speed to keep up with the pace here. Also, I’m not concerned with the distance. This will be his first time going a mile-and-a-quarter, but I’m quite confident that he will handle the distance as well. I really don’t have any major concerns.”
Etched – The 5yo son of Forestry arrived at Barn 40 on the Churchill Downs backstretch at 3:30 Wednesday morning after leaving his Greentree Training Center in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
“Everything went well,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin from his Belmont Park base. “He just walked this morning and will train tomorrow.”
Etched, who has won both his starts this year, will be making his Grade 1 debut while taking on Zenyatta and 10 other males in the Classic.
“We have never run against Zenyatta. I have a great deal of respect for her. Obviously she’s the one to beat,” McLaughlin said. “It would be great for racing if she could retire undefeated, but for my family, I’d like to beat her. But if we don’t win, I’d hope she does win. If we do win, I can tell you I won’t feel bad for long.”
Alan Garcia has the mount on Etched.
First Dude/ Paddy O’Prado – First Dude galloped 1 ½ m on Wednesday and was then made to stand on the track “to get a good look at Zenyatta.”
The Dale Romans-trained First Dude enters the Classic off a runner-up finish in the Pennsylvania Derby and Romans feels that race was key to him finally reaching a level of maturity.
“He just needed the time to mature and I think he’s finally coming around,” said Romans. “I honestly believe he thinks he won that race because ever since that race, he’s been real cocky. He’s never been like that before.”
Paddy O' Prado, the El Prado colt who finished third in the Kentucky Derby, galloped 1 1/2 m over the main Churchill track on Wednesday in preparation for his return to dirt in the Classic after three wins and a second on turf.
“He's never trained better than he did this morning,” said Romans. “Both my horses are coming around at the right time. We're definitely not going to have any excuses if we lose.”
Both First Dude and Paddy O'Prado will gallop up to the Classic.
Fly Down – The 3yo son of Mineshaft galloped 1 1/2m at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning under exercise rider Carlos Correa.
Fly Down, who broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last fall, has demonstrated a strong late kick that has powered him to victory in the Dwyer and second-place finishes in the Belmont Stakes and the Travers Stakes, which he lost by just a nose to Afleet Express.
“It’ll be an interesting race. I just hope the horses that are supposed to go…go, for our horse,” said Zito, obviously hoping that Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Haynesfield, Woodward victor Quality Road and others will set a strong early pace to complement his colt’s late-running effort. Zito acknowledged that Zenyatta would also be a beneficiary of a solid early pace.
“Naturally all eyes are on Zenyatta,” Zito said. “You are what your record is, and she has a perfect record. Obviously, this is her biggest test, win, lose, or draw.”
Julien Leparoux will be aboard Fly Down for the first time.
Haynesfield – In Saturday’s Classic, Turtle Bird Stable’s Haynesfield will attempt to become the first New York-bred to capture a Breeders’ Cup race. He has nine wins on his resume from 13 starts, with four of those coming against restricted company, but in his final start of 2009 the connections realized they might have something special.
“His win in the Discovery last year showed us what he could be,” Asmussen said. “His Suburban victory this year, and in his Jockey Club (Gold Cup) after that, he showed us that he’s a top class horse.”
Haynesfield has traditionally done his best running on the lead, or from just off the pace. A dry track that’s tough to close over would work to his advantage.
“Speed holds if you’re fast,” Asmussen joked. “It’s a very fair racetrack. The track was very slow opening day (Sunday), but with racing the next few days, it should tighten up a bit.”
Lookin At Lucky – The nation’s top 3yo contender got his first tour of the Churchill Downs track under exercise rider Jorge Alvarez on Wednesday morning after the renovation break, and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert declared it a “super good” trip.
“There’s ‘good,’ and then there’s ‘super good’,” Baffert said around 8:30 a.m., as the Smart Strike colt galloped once around. “I like it when it’s super good. He looks so different on dirt; he looks like he’s happier, he enjoys himself. He moves so much smoother over the dirt than he does on synthetics. He’s doing well.”
In spite of a sixth-place finish in the May 1 Kentucky Derby in his last visit to Churchill Downs, Lookin At Lucky has stamped his credentials in the division with his latest win in the Oct. 2 Indiana Derby, a score in the Haskell Invitational, and a Preakness victory earlier this spring. According to Baffert, he’s still going strong in the second part of the year.
“The Indiana Derby showed a dimension we didn’t know he had, of really having the worst of it and still coming through in such an easy manner,” Baffert said. “I thought for sure down the backside that he was finished, you know, there’s no way he’s going to run the way the track was playing that day. And he went around there and came back like it was nothing for him. Even in the Kentucky Derby after getting wiped out, he still was trying to get there. And that’s the thing about this horse – he has so much determination. So it’s exciting to come into the race the way he’s doing right now.”
Lookin At Lucky arrived at Churchill on the same Tex Sutton charter flight that brought the unbeaten Zenyatta. He’ll tangle with older horses for the first time in the Classic.
“I think a lot of us trainers, we’re all in the same boat, none of us have ever faced this kind of competition before,” Baffert said of taking on Zenyatta. “But it’s still worked out to be one of those Breeders’ Cup Classics where all the good horses have shown up, and it’s going to be a good race. It’s hard to get really excited about it because the mare’s in there, so I don’t want to get too excited. I just want to see a good run. Turning for home, I’d like to be in a spot to get a good run because every time he gets a chance to get in a good run, he wins.”
Musket Man – The 4yo colt stretched his legs with a 1m jog over the Churchill Downs main track Wednesday morning, going out for the first time since arriving late Tuesday.
Trainer Derek Ryan, who arrived in Louisville at midnight, was on hand to supervise the colt’s training. Musket Man is stabled in Barn 41, in the same stall he occupied when he ran third in the 2009 Kentucky Derby and third in the Churchill Downs Stakes on Derby Day this year. Musket Man found traffic trouble in both races or he might have fared better.
“He seems to get into trouble here,” Ryan said, “but he finds trouble everywhere. We need a clean trip in this race.”
This year, the son of Yonaguska, owned by Eric Fein and Vic Carlson, has won just once in six starts, with three seconds and two thirds. He was second to Quality Road in the Metropolitan Handicap and third behind Blame and Quality Road in the Whitney Handicap.
Last out, Musket Man was the 1-2 favorite in the Monmouth Cup, but was beaten a neck by Etched, another Classic rival.
“He should have won that race,” Ryan said. “I said he would only go to the Breeders’ Cup if he won, but I know he was much the best that day and unlucky to lose by a neck. I know he’ll run well here.”
Musket Man gets another change of riders for the Classic, with Rajiv Maragh taking over again. Maragh rode the colt in the Whitney, when he was closer to the pace than usual.
“Rajiv knows the horse,” Ryan said, explaining the switch from last out. “He chased the speed in the Whitney because he didn’t want Quality Road to steal the race on the lead.”
Pleasant Prince – The 3yo son of Indy King galloped 1 1/2m on the main track after the mid-morning break and trainer Wesley Ward continues to be encouraged about the colt owned by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey.
“He’s been training awesome for quite a while, and that’s why Mr. Ramsey paid the $100,000 to nominate him for the Classic,” Ward said Wednesday morning. “He’s just doing awesome and I think he’s going to run big enough to warrant that extra fee.”
Pleasant Prince drew post 9 at Tuesday’s post-position draw, but Ward said he’s not concerned about that. “He’ll get good position up fairly close,” the trainer said.
Quality Road – The third betting choice on the morning line went out for a leisurely gallop Wednesday morning, and trainer Todd Pletcher said he was much more concerned by his star’s post position (1) than the memory of last year’s starting gate issues that resulted in a late scratch from the Classic.
“We haven’t seen any indications it will be a problem,” Pletcher said. “I would say as far as disappointments go you could rank that one pretty high, but he’s been great ever since. When we laid out a program last fall this is what we had in mind this year. Other than finishing a head short in the Whitney, everything has gone exactly the way we planned.”
The son of Elusive Quality has lost twice at the Classic distance of 1 ¼ m, but Pletcher doesn’t believe his 4yo has distance limitations.
“This is the kind of race where you worry about everything,” he said. “If you watch his race in the Donn and the Florida Derby, I can’t see a mile-and-a-quarter being an issue as strong as he finished his mile-and-an-eighth races. Even at a mile and an eighth, you’d be concerned just with the quality of the field. There’s no margin for error. I think you have to be ready to run your best race.”
Pletcher said he has never lost confidence in the colt.
“We felt like all along we’ve got the best horse in training,” said Pletcher, who have the rare opportunity of winning the Kentucky Derby (Super Saver) and Classic at Churchill in the same year. “I think the Donn is the strongest race any horse has run this year.”
Zenyatta – The undefeated, reigning queen of Thoroughbred racing had her first gallop over the Churchill Downs track at about 9 a.m. on Wednesday, one day after arriving from California. A large crowd, including owners Jerry and Ann Moss, followed Zenyatta to the track and watched her gallop under regular exercise rider Steve Willard. Prior to the gallop, she was led to the back of the mile chute and allowed to stand and relax before her gallop.
“She did fine,” said trainer John Shirreffs with big smile on his face. “She seems very happy and really got over the track good. They say that the Churchill track is a lot like the Oaklawn track. That’s what I’ve heard, but I’m from California. She seems to like it just fine.”
“I love seeing all the people come out to see her,” said Shirreffs. “I think that’s what makes her so special and how she will be remembered. Everyone that sees her becomes a fan. We’ve all become her fans.”
“She's terrific,” added Willard. “She couldn't be training any better. She loves the dirt. I knew it two years ago and I knew it going into Hot Springs (for the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park). She drives off it. It doesn't have the trampoline effect like the synthetics. The crowd was great. They were mostly quiet, a couple yelled, but for the most part very accommodating.”
Zenyatta will school in the paddock with the horses running in the second race Wednesday.