James Covello, who owns Falling Sky as part of a partnership including Joseph Bulger, is bringing his wife and three children to Oaklawn for Saturday’s Grade I Arkansas Derby, and he’s hoping to make the Kentucky Derby for the first time.
“This is incredibly exciting. I’m not sleeping well and I can’t wait until Saturday,” said Covello, who participated in a national teleconference on Tuesday in advance of the prestigious prep race for the Kentucky Derby. “I’ve had graded stakes horses before, but I’ve never had one with a chance to run in the Derby. This is something that all of the horse’s connections are excited about and we’re going to soak up every minute of it.”
The partnership purchased the son of Lion Heart and the grandson of 1993 Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero privately this year for $425,000 in advance of his win in the $100,000 Sam Davis Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 2. His bloodstock agent/racing manager got a tip that the colt would be entered in the Ocala Breeders’ Sale Company winter sale and he and trainer John Terranova were already high on the way the horse was training and his past performances.
“Obviously we paid a premium for the fact that the horse is already a proven commodity,” said Covello, who is an analyst with Goldman Sachs. “The reason we were able to buy him and he didn’t cost more than he did was that he was unproven at two turns.”
Falling Sky will be asked to run farther than ever before in the 1 1/8 mile Arkansas Derby but his pedigree suggests the extra distance will suit him. He’ll also pick up the services of new jockey Martin Garcia, who replaces Jose Espinoza, and is based in Southern California.
Garcia will also be aboard Balance of Power, who is owned by Covello and trained by Terranova as well, on the Derby day undercard in the $100,000 Northern Spur Stakes. He and Falling Sky are scheduled to be on the grounds on Wednesday.
In other Derby news, Mike Repole’s Overanalyze arrived safely on the same flight from Florida with a contingent of runners for the week long Racing Festival of the South and Rafael Bejarano has been named to ride the colt on Saturday. Bejarano takes over for John Velasquez, who was injured in a spill last Sunday and reportedly be will be sidelined for three weeks, and he will also pilot Atigun in the Oaklawn Handicap.
“Overanalyze is feeling really good,” said Ginny DePasquale, the assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher who accompanied the $250,000 Remsen Stakes (G2) winner. “He galloped 1 ¼ miles this morning and he was on his toes. I think he’s coming up to the race in really good shape.”
Highly touted as a juvenile, Overanalyze has taken a back seat to a pair of his stable mates so far in their sophomore season. Verrazano, the undefeated winner of the Wood Memorial (G1) and Louisiana Derby (G2) victor Revolutionary currently rank #2 and #4, respectively, in the new points standings system required to get into the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. Overanalyze, currently with 10 points, could vault up the ladder with 100, 40 or 20 points earned for a top three finish in the Arkansas Derby, the second leg of the Championship Series.
“He probably has been a little overshadowed by Verrazano and Revolutionary)”, said DePasquale, who has worked for Pletcher for 16 years. “This is his time to shine.”
The locally-based Texas Bling, who finished fourth here his last time out in the Rebel Stakes (G2) behind fellow Arkansas Derby possibles Will Take Charge, Oxbow and Den’s Legacy, breezed three furlongs in 36 seconds flat over his home track on Tuesday morning and his conditioner is eagerly anticipating the rematch.
“He’s doing excellent,” Danele Durham said of the Texas-bred son of Too Much Bling. “He had an excellent work this morning at 7 o’clock under Calvin (Borel), who worked him just a couple of days ago. He’s on his toes and his stride keeps getting better and better. Borel was thrilled with him. His work was better than last time and we’re looking forward to Saturday.”
On April 3, the improving Texas Bling traveled five furlongs in 1:01.6 for the sixth fastest of 31 horses working at the distance.
“I think he’s more than held together,” said Durham “He’s training excellently. He’s thrived here in Hot Springs. He likes it here and seems to be in the best health he’s ever been in.”
In his other two races at the current meet, the dark bay colt was beaten only a neck by Will Take Charge in the $150,000 Smarty Jones on January 21 but, then clearly didn’t care for the sloppy track he caught on February 18 in the Southwest Stakes (G3), when he faded to ninth, 21 ¼ lengths behind Super Ninety Nine.