Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®
Daily Cup Update: Dirt Mile, Wednesday, Nov. 3
Aikenite – Trainer Todd Pletcher admitted he was stunned when he heard the odds of 50-1 announced Tuesday at the draw for his 3yo son of Yes It’s True.
“I thought that was a little out of whack,” said Pletcher after Aikenite returned from a routine jog on the main track Wednesday morning. “He’s coming off a big win at Keeneland. He needs to step up and run the race of his life, but based on his last race it seems like he’s ready to do that.”
Sent off at odds of only 6-1 in last year’s Juvenile, Aikenite finished a close fifth in that race at Santa Anita. This year he’s won only twice in 10 starts as Pletcher has tried different distances and surfaces hoping to find his niche.
“It seems like seven-eighths to a mile is his preferred distance,” he said. “He had a good race here in the Derby Trial (second to Hurricane Ike) in the spring.”
Cool Coal Man – The post position draw may not have been overly kind, but trainer Nick Zito expects Cool Coal Man and jockey Julien Leparoux to be able to overcome any disadvantage post 13 may pose in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
“Thirteen is pretty far out, but I’d rather have that than ‘one,’ obviously,” said the Hall of Fame trainer, whose 5yo son of Mineshaft galloped 1 ½ m at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning. “But Julien’s a great rider. I’m sure he’ll have a chance to place him; he’s good at that. Julien loves this track; he’s the leading rider.”
Cool Coal Man has finished second twice under Leparoux in the Kelso Handicap at Belmont last time out and an optional claiming race at Saratoga.
Crown of Thorns – The 5yo horse by Repent has raced only eight times over four seasons, but trainer Richard Mandella leaves big allowances for his talented charged.
“He’s been a bit of an accident-prone horse, a bit of an unlucky one,” the Hall of Fame conditioner said Wednesday morning at Barn 41 after he’d watched his Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile entrant gallop 1 3/8 m under exercise rider Nestor Capataine.
“But he sure is a talented one. He has speed and you can run him short (the Florida-bred was beaten a nose in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Sprint). And if I had been able to get one more race into him this year, I’d probably have run him the mile-and-a-quarter (Breeders’ Cup Classic, for which he also was pre-entered). I know that’s some field (Classic), but he’s the kind of horse that I think can fit there.
“The plan pretty much all along was to run him in this race (Dirt Mile), because of where I was going to be with his conditioning. And as far as him running on the dirt for the first time (he has started only on California’s synthetic tracks thus far), I don’t think it is an issue. He’s the kind of horse who’ll run on anything. He’ll try his best no matter where you run him or who you run him against. He’s going good now and we’re here and ready to run Saturday.”
Crown of Thorns will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano and they’ll break from post 8 in the 13-horse lineup.
Dakota Phone – Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s 5yo gelding Dakota Phone did his last bit of work for the Dirt Mile on Wednesday when he blew out 4f with jockey Joel Rosario up just after the break. Hollendorfer timed him going 3f in 36 3/5 and 4f in 48 3/5, and watched him gallop out saying,
“He looks great. He’s doing really good right now.”
Dakota Phone has made 31 starts over dirt, synthetic, and turf with a record of 5-7-9, including a win in the San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16m to earn his way into Saturday’s race. Hollendorfer is pleased with his horse at this time, and feels he will do well in the race.
“He’s a decent miler, he really is, and he has the speed to set that up well,” he said. “He’s earned more than $700,000.”
Gayego/Vineyard Haven – Gayego went to the track with Sprint contender Girolamo early Wednesday morning around 6:00, taking his first trip across Churchill’s surface after arriving from Belmont Park on Tuesday. He jogged 1m with his stablemate and the pony and then broke off to gallop 1 1/4m.
The 5yo son of Gilded Time won the Presque Isle Mile, his most recent start, in a record time of 1:34 4/5, on Sept. 10. He finished his serious preparations for the Dirt Mile on Oct. 31 at Belmont, when he worked 4f in 48 4/5.
“That was the usual routine, trot a mile and gallop a mile-and-a-quarter,” said Rick Mettee, U.S. assistant to Godolphin Stable’s trainer, Saeed bin Suroor. “It’s a little different here because the track configuration is a little different than Belmont, but they all did well. We sent them out there early; they’re all used to training early, so it was a good day. We got good weather to ship in, too, so it really couldn’t have gone any better.”
Vineyard Haven went to the track in the second set at 6:40 a.m., joining Filly & Mare Sprint contender Sara Louise under the supervision of Mettee. He also jogged 1m and galloped 1 ¼ m like all of his fellow Godolphin stablemates.
The 4yo son of Lido Palace comes off a third-place finish in the Sept. 4 Forego Stakes at Saratoga and turned in his final preparations for the Dirt Mile at Belmont Park, where he went 1:01 2/5 on Oct. 31, fourth fastest of 23 at the distance. He will break from the complete outside in the Dirt Mile, having drawn post 12.
“What are you going to do?” Mettee said. “I wouldn’t have wanted him to be stuck right down on the inside either, and he probably is a little better outside of horses, so maybe in the end, it won’t be that much trouble. I don’t watch enough mile races out of the chute at Churchill to know if that really is a disadvantage or not, but I think he settles a little better outside of horses and his natural speed should put him in a good spot.”
Here Comes Ben – The Forego winner had his final exercise at his home track of Keeneland on Wednesday and then traveled the 90 minutes to Churchill Downs, arriving just before 10 a.m. Here Comes Ben and his stablemate Wise Dan, entered in the Sprint, both galloped 1 ½ m while being allowed to pick things up through the lane “to put some wind in their lungs.”
“Everything has gone as planned,” said trainer Charles Lopresti. “They did really well this morning. They were coming down the lane and hitting 12s all the way.”
Here Comes Ben and Wise Dan will both school in the paddock on Wednesday with the horses running in the third race.
Hurricane Ike – The Graeme Hall 3yo went to the track Wednesday morning at 6:30 to jog 1m under exercise rider Jose Alferez.
Trainer John Sadler likes the way his colt is coming up to his Saturday start in the Dirt Mile and notably points to two items that bode well for the Florida-bred.
Other than a victory in the first start of his career in July 2009, Hurricane Ike has won only one other race – the Derby Trial here at Churchill Downs April 24. That race was run at the one-turn 1m distance he’ll be asked to navigate on Saturday and his rider that afternoon was Calvin Borel, the local favorite who’ll be back aboard for their start out of post 9 in the 13-horse field.
Mad Flatter – Following four consecutive less than stellar performances this spring, Bonnie Heath Farm LLC and Holiday Stable’s Mad Flatter was offered up for a $40,000 claiming price on May 29 at Arlington. A confidence building win put the 5yo son of Flatter back on track, and a little more than five months later he’s slated to enter the starting gate for the Dirt Mile.
“That was a turnaround race, he really needed that,” trainer Jeff Thornbury said of the win. “He found a soft bunch, and he dominated. The way things turned out, we’re sure glad we didn’t lose him, but hindsight is 20/20. We felt it (dropping him for a claiming tag) was the right move at the time. It got him over the hump. He was a nice horse who was just underperforming.”
A third at Arlington in the Washington Park Handicap over 1 3/16 m followed, and a return to dirt last out for Calder’s Spend A Buck on Oct. 16 produced a 6 ¼ length score.
“The way he won on dirt got us thinking about this race”, Thornbury said. “Three weeks (between starts) is a little tight for me, hopefully it’s not for him.”
Mine That Bird – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas sent Mine That Bird for a 1 ½ m gallop Wednesday morning as the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner moved along toward Saturday’s Dirt Mile.
The trainer said he has tried to sharpen up the 4yo gelding since Mine That Bird joined his stable early in the year. “I think I’ve helped,” Lukas said, adding, “It’s been a noble experiment. The horse just doesn’t seem to want to finish like he used. It’s almost like professional athletes who lose some of their desire as they move on in their careers.”
Even so, Lukas said he is confident he has the horse as good physically as he can be, “though mentally he may not be at his best.
Morning Line – The morning-line favorite for the Dirt Mile galloped 1 ½ m under exercise rider Carlos Correa Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Nick Zito was caught by surprise when the Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable decided Tuesday morning to forego an expected meeting with Zenyatta in the Classic in favor of a start in the one-turn Dirt Mile.
“I was surprised. I wanted to go for the Classic. He’d just run a mile-and-an-eighth and I wanted to go forward. But they thought it was too tough. They just wanted to take the more conservative route,” Zito said.
Zito also was taken by surprise when Churchill odds-maker Mike Battaglia installed Morning Line as the 7-2 favorite for the Dirt Mile.
“Mike Battaglia is a good handicapper, but I hope he’s a really good handicapper for this race,” Zito said. “I’m surprised he’s the favorite, but he’s doing super.”
Morning Line, who captured the Pennsylvania Derby in his most recent start, will be ridden by Javier Castellano.
Thiskyhasnolimit – A Graded stakes winner at Churchill at age two, Bob and Cathy Zollars and Mark Wagner’s Thiskyhasnolimit did not participate in any of this year’s Triple Crown races. The connections decided to take a different path to the Dirt Mile, and on Saturday they hope their patience pays off.
The winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes two starts back at Parx Racing, the sophomore son of Sky Mesa was last seen finishing second behind Breeders’ Cup Classic contender Lookin At Lucky in the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park. He won the Kentucky Jockey Club last November at Churchill, and in his sophomore debut, he took down the Matt Winn Stakes here. He carries a 5-3-1-0 Churchill record into Saturday’s Dirt Mile.
“This is what we were hoping for,” trainer Steve Asmussen said of the colt’s progress. “You’re aware of the circumstances that the Breeders’ Cup is being run here (Churchill) and he has won at a mile on this racetrack. We talked about some different scenarios to get here, and we’re very comfortable with the path we’ve taken.”
Tizway – Exercise rider Julio Salas brought the son of two-time Classic winner Tiznow to the Churchill Downs track Wednesday morning for some rather leisurely exercise.
“He jogged twice around the wrong way,” said Kevin Bond, trainer Jim Bond’s son and assistant. “He’ll be on that schedule up to the race. Pops just wants to keep him nice and relaxed. All the hard work was done up at Saratoga.”
Tizway has given jockey Rajiv Maragh a lot of confidence in his abilities following a victory in the Kelso Handicap.
“He’s got a lot of natural speed. He has a high cruising speed and he can sustain his speed for a long distance,” Maragh said. “He’s a determined horse and very consistent. He shows up big every race.”