Archive for April, 2009

Queen of the backstretch

For anyone wondering if Rachel Alexandra’s wicked four-furlong breeze in :46.40 on Monday took too much out of her, the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro answered that question with a definitive ‘No’ Thursday morning. In her first time back on the track since that move, the dark bay filly all but dragged her exercise rider around the Churchill oval this morning wanting to do much more than just her routine gallop.

“She wanted to run but couldn’t,” said owner and breeder Dolphus Morrison, who arrived in Louisville Wednesday evening. “I’m not being arrogant but I think she’d run on this pavement right here.”

In addition to her amazing ability, part of what has made the Rachel Alexandra story such a popular one is due to her connections. There are countless wonderful people who are part of this game but right now I challenge anyone to find two nicer, more genuine souls than trainer Hal Wiggins and his wife Renee. Wiggins, who has been training for Morrison for 30 years, greats everyone who stops by to glance at his star filly with a wide, welcoming smile. And no matter how many times he gets asked about ‘Rachel’, he answers every media query with a fresh response as if he is hearing all of this for the first time.

With her pink ‘Alexandra the Great’ hat now a staple in her wardrobe, Renee Wiggins is as warm a presence as her husband. She just about explodes with pride every time she talks about Hal and how hard he has worked during their 45 years of marriage to get to this point in his career.

“We talked about getting married on our first date,” Renee said. “I recognized a good thing when I saw it. It’s been very hard at times (being the wife of a trainer) but we’ve been so close, we’ve been attached at the hip.”

Post positions for Kentucky Derby, I Want Revenge to start from post 13

No. 1 West Side Bernie (30-1)

No. 2 Musket Man (20-1)

No. 3 Mr. Hot Stuff (30-1)

No. 4 Advice (30-1)

No. 5 Hold Me Back (15-1)

No. 6 Friesan Fire (5-1)

No. 7 Papa Clem (20-1)

No. 8 Mine That Bird (50-1)

No. 9 Join in the Dance (50-1)

No. 10 Regal Ransom (30-1)

No. 11 Chocolate Candy (20-1)

No. 12 General Quarters (20-1)

No. 13 I Want Revenge (3-1)

No. 14 Atomic Rain (50-1)

No. 15 Dunkirk (4-1)

No. 16 Pioneerof the Nile (4-1)

No. 17 Summer Bird (50-1)

No. 18 Nowhere to Hide (50-1)

No. 19 Desert Party (15-1)

No. 20 Flying Private (50-1)

Pill pull order for Kentucky Derby

This is the ORDER  in which the connections of the Kentucky Derby contenders will choose their post positions:

No. 1 Join in the Dance

No. 2 Regal Ransom

No. 3 Chocolate Candy

No. 4 Papa Clem

No. 5 Pioneerof the Nile

No. 6 Dunkirk

No. 7 Mine That Bird

No. 8 General Quarters

No. 9 Atomic Rain

No. 10 I Want Revenge

No. 11 Friesan Fire

No. 12 Hold Me Back

No. 13 Advice

No. 14 Summer Bird

No. 15 Nowhere to Hide

No. 16 Mr. Hot Stuff

No. 17 Desert Party

No. 18 Musket Man

No. 19 Flying Private

No. 20 West Side Bernie

Pletcher opts not to run Take the Points, Atomic Rain now in for Derby

Trainer Todd Pletcher has informed Churchill Downs officials he will not start Sham Stakes runner-up Take the Points in the Kentucky Derby and will instead point the son of Even the Score to the Preakness Stakes on May 16.

Take the Points had an opportunity to get into the Derby field when it was announced Tuesday morning that Grade I winner Square Eddie was out of the race with a shin injury.

According to racing secretary Ben Huffman, Atomic Rain – second in the Grade II Remsen Stakes last November – is now in the field and has been put on a van from Monmouth to Churchill Downs.

“They should get here at about 2 in the morning,” said Kelly Breen, trainer of Atomic Rain. Breen also conditions Derby contender West Side Bernie.

Draw for Kentucky Oaks

Here are the post positions that were drawn this morning for the Kentucky Oaks on Friday:

1. Tweeter (30-1)

2. Be Fair (15-1)

3. Stone Legacy (30-1)

4. Gabby’s Golden Gal (10-1)

5. Justwhistledixie (5-2)

6. Rachel Alexandra (3-5)

7. Nan (20-1)

8. Flying Spur (8-1)

I Want Revenge fires bullet in final work

Wood Memorial Stakes winner and likely Kentucky Derby favorite I Want Revenge tipped his hand regarding his conditioning Tuesday morning when he worked four furlongs in :47.20 just before the rains hit at Churchill Downs.

The son of Stephen Got Even worked with regular rider Joe Talamo up as owners David Lanzman and Michael Iavarone of IEAH Stables looked on. His time was the fastest of 48 moves at the distance.

“I think we accomplished what we wanted to do today,” trainer Jeff Mullins said. “I’m happy, he worked this morning like he normally does.”

Going to the track just after the renovation  break, I Want Revenge – who was wearing blinkers – clocked splits of :11 2/5, :23 1/5, :35 2/5 and galloped out in 1:00 4/5.

Pioneerof the Nile, ‘Candy’ get final tune ups; training marred by accident

It was a jam packed morning on the Churchill oval Monday as Derby contenders Pioneerof the Nile and Chocolate Candy joined Friesan Fire on the workout tab in their final serious moves before the race.

With owner and breeder Ahmed Zayat looking on, Pioneerof the Nile breezed five furlongs in 1:01, galloping out six furlongs in 1:13. The son of Empire Maker has never raced over a dirt track but trainer Bob Baffert said Monday’s effort signaled to him the colt was ready to conquer that obstacle on Saturday.

“What you want to see in that last work you to make sure they’re fluid, they’re moving, they’re hitting on all cylinders,” Baffert said. “It doesn’t matter how fast or how slow they go as long as they look like they’re hitting on all cylinders. For me, I’m happy with it. Now we just have to keep him in one piece before Saturday.”

Santa Anita Derby runner-up Chocolate Candy, with trainer Jerry Hollendorfer looking on, also looked strong as he covered five furlongs in :59.20, galloping out in 1:12 4/5.

“It was a real nice work; we’re very pleased,” Hollendorfer said. “I told (jockey) Mike (Smith) to do the same thing that he did at Santa Anita (in an April 12 workout), and he (Chocolate Candy) went in exactly the same time, :59 1/5.”

Arguably the most impressive work of the morning, however, came for likely Kentucky Oaks favorite Rachel Alexandra who sizzled four furlongs in :46.40 with jockey Calvin Borel up. Rachel Alexandra’s work was delayed, however, when the track had to be closed for training for about 20 minutes due to an accident near the finish line. According to Darren Rogers, senior director of communications for Churchill Downs, the unraced colt Doctor Rap dumped jockey Tony Farina at the top of the lane and ran full speed into Raspberry Kiss, an unraced 2-year-old filly for Ken McPeek,standing near the outside rail.

Raspberry Kiss was taken to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital with a broken hip as a result of the collision. The Associated Press reported Dr. Larry Bramlage suggested she be euthanized but that she died from shock before being administered an injection. Doctor Rap, who is trained by David Carroll, is currently being treated at Hagyard Equine Clinic in Lexington.

“The right shoulder was our concern but it x-rayed clear,” Carroll told Churchill Downs officials. “The initial diagnosis is very good. He could have a severe bone bruise and nerve damage….like a stinger in football.”

Farina was not hurt in the fall. McPeek said exercise rider Larry Lague was being treated for a possible broken foot.

Friesan Fire blazes five furlongs in final Derby move

Louisiana Derby winner Friesan Fire had his connections beaming on the backside at Churchill Downs Monday morning after turning in a bullet five-furlong move in :57.80 with jockey Gabriel Saez up in his final tune up before the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

Friesan Fire broke off sharply from trainer Larry Jones aboard his lead pony and registered splits of :11 1/5, :22 1/5, :33 1/5, :45 1/5 galloping out six furlongs in 1:14 flat.

“He was only a tick off of what (2007 Kentucky Derby runner-up) Hard Spun did here and I’d worked Hard Spun in company and this one was by himself,” Jones said after the work. “He’s telling me that we’ve done right and you can look at him and tell. He’s glistening all over.”

“He went fast,” said Tom Ludt, manager of Vinery, co-owner and breeder of Friesan Fire. “I tell you, I was over there on the front side and it didn’t look like he was working that hard to be honest with you. I have never believed he went :57 and change but he didn’t drink all that much water and is doing good. I’ve never felt so nervous in my life for a work.”

While some might perceive the move as being too quick, Ludt said the ease at which the son of A.P. Indy covered the ground spoke for itself.

“He did it so well and within himself,” Ludt. “Gabe thought he went in a minute. He came back and looked up at Larry and said ‘What’d I do boss? A minute?’ So he thought he was going easy. Larry knows what he’s doing.”

Quality Road gallops, gets new patch for quarter crack

Florida Derby winner and top Kentucky Derby contender Quality Road returned from a mile and three-quarter gallop on the Belmont Park training track with a tinge of blood from a newly-patched quarter crack, according to a release from the New York Racing Association.

Although the connections remain optimistic the son of Elusive Quality  will make the Derby, a five-furlong breeze Monday morning will be the determining factor on whether the bay colt makes the trip to Churchill Downs.
“He has to work to our liking and come out of it perfectly,” trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. “If he takes one bad step anywhere, forget it.”

At about 7 a.m. Sunday, hoof specialist Ian McKinlay replaced a set of wires, inserted a drain, and then put an acrylic patch on the quarter crack on the inside of the colt’s right-front hoof.

“He’s well on the mend,” said McKinlay, who successfully treated a quarter crack on the colt’s right-hind foot that he developed during his track record performance in the Grade I Florida Derby on March 28th. “This is live tissue – we’re not changing a flat tire, so there are a lot of judgment calls. Everything had been stabilized and when I changed the wires today, the crack opened up. There was a bit of sensitive tissue aggravated during the process. Hopefully, there won’t be a tinge of blood tomorrow when he breezes.”

“He’s got 24 hours to get better,” said Jerkens. “I would have liked to have seen no blood, but it didn’t surprise me because he was still tender. He’s sound, he galloped the way he usually does, but I would have been more optimistic without.”

Quality Road jogs, still on track for Derby

Edward P. Evan’s Florida Derby winner Quality Road appeared sound this morning, according to hoof specialist Ian McKinlay, after jogging 1 3/4-miles at Belmont Park just days after a quarter crack surfaced inside his right front hoof.

“There was no blood and he’s sound,” said McKinlay, who along with trainer Jimmy Jerkens and Evans, watched the horse train this morning. “He’s feeling good and I couldn’t be happier.”

Quality Road overcame a quarter-crack on his right-hind hoof that developed after his track-record performance in the  Florida Derby, but had his latest ailment surface this Thursday.

During a teleconference Saturday morning, Jerkens said the crack was laced and treated on Friday and that he still plans to give the colt his final pre-Derby breeze this Monday as if he continues to gallop sound on Sunday.

“Tomorrow is the big day,” Jerkens said. “If he comes out of the gallop sound, I’d be really surprised if he had a problem with Monday’s work.”

Quality Road is slated to ship to Churchill Downs on Tuesday.

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