Archive for April, 2010

Unrivaled Belle upsets Rachel Alexandra in La Troienne

For the second straight race, reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra suffered a stunning narrow defeat when the Bill Mott-trained Unrivaled Belle caught the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro at the wire to win the Grade II La Troienne at Churchill Downs Friday.

Rachel Alexandra had lost her seasonal bow, the New Orleans Ladies on March 13 to Zardana, in what was her first effort since defeating older males in the Grade I Woodward Stakes last September 5. Though her connections admitted she was not 100 percent fit for that effort, the champion filly had looked much stronger in her recent works and a return to her usual form was expected on Friday.

After challenging Be Fair through soft fractions of :24.79 and :48.81, Rachel Alexandra hooked up with Unrivaled Belle coming off the final turn. The two were eyeball to eyeball in the lane with Unrivaled Belle just getting up by a head on the outside in the final stride to earn by far the biggest win of her career.

“You don’t run a horse looking to get beat by any means, let alone Rachel,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “It’s hard to imagine her getting beat. I don’t think she was short. She stayed pretty steady…just the one thing we kind of discussed before is she wasn’t quite as fast as she was at one point last summer. We just hadn’t seen her quite as fast. But there are definitely a lot more positives today with how she acted, how relaxed she was and how steady she was. She just wasn’t quite as fit. But the winner was a deserving winner.”

Prior to her loss in the New Orleans Ladies, Rachel Alexandra had not suffered a defeat since November 1, 2008 when she ran second to Sara Louise is the Grade III Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill.

Owner confident Lookin At Lucky can overcome rail

For a horse that has routinely found trouble in his races, drawing the rail for the Kentucky Derby was about the worst case scenario the connections of Lookin At Lucky could have envisioned.

In the aftermath of the post-position draw for Saturday’s 1 1/4-miles test, co-owner Mike Pegram didn’t let the inauspicious starting point dampen his enthusiasm for his colt’s chances.

“We’re going to get a great trip and win the thing,” Pegram exclaimed. “No sense crying about it. All we have to do is think positive. We’ll just see what happens. That’s the good thing about Lookin At Lucky is, coming in I wasn’t apprehensive because he’s talented enough to be able to run his race from anywhere. You get lemons, you make lemonade.”

A total of 12 horses have won the Derby from the No. 1 post since 1900, but none have done it since Ferdinand accomplished the feat in 1986.

Kentucky Derby post position draw, Lucky on the rail

1. Lookin At Lucky (Gomez) 3-1

2. Ice Box (J. Lezcano) 10-1

3. Noble’s Promise (W. Martinez) 12-1

4. Super Saver (Borel) 15-1

5. Line of David (Bejarano) 30-1

6. Stately Victor (A. Garcia) 30-1

7. American Lion (D. Flores) 30-1

8. Dean’s Kitten (Albarado) 50-1

9. Make Music for Me (J. Rosario) 50-1

10. Paddy O’ Prado (Desormeaux) 20-1

11. Devil May Care (J. Velazquez) 10-1

12. Conveyance (M. Garcia) 12-1

13. Jackson Bend (M. Smith) 15-1

14. Mission Impazible (Maragh) 20-1

15. Discreetly Mine (J. Castellano) 30-1

16. Awesome Act (Leparoux) 10-1

17. Dublin (Thompson) 12-1

18. Backtalk (Mena) 50-1

19. Homeboykris (Dominguez) 50-1

20. Sidney’s Candy (Talamo) 5-1

Endorsement out of Derby with condylar fracture; Interactif also will not run

WinStar Farm’s Endorsement, winner of the Grade III Sunland Derby on March 28, will miss the Kentucky Derby after suffering a non-displaced condylar fracture of his right front ankle during a his four-furlong workout at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning.

The son of Distorted Humor worked a strong half mile in :47 2/5 but trainer Shannon Ritter, who was aboard the colt for the move, said she felt him start going lame on the walk back.

“I was just letting him cool out a little bit, I didn’t even notice it right away until we had been further down the road walking,” said Ritter, who would have been saddling her first Derby starter this Saturday.

Elliott Walden, vice president and racing manager for WinStar Farm, said he did not believe the injury was career-ending but that more would be known after the colt undergoes surgery, which is likely to take place on Thursday.

“It’s disappointing for the whole WinStar family, especially for Shannon,” Walden said. “She’s done a great job with this horse and hopefully he’ll be back. The x-rays look pretty straight forward.”

Attending veterinarian Dr. Bo Landry said if the surgery goes well, Endorsement could be healed in 3 to 6 months.

“I’m sure they will take the longer road (with his recovery) because he’s a talented horse and they want to do what is best for him,” Landry said.

The lightly-raced Endorsement had won two of four career starts. He put himself into the Kentucky Derby picture when he upset graded stakes winner Conveyance by three lengths in the $800,000 Sunland Derby.

WinStar Farm began the week with four Derby contenders but with Rule and Endorsement now out, the operation’s hopes for a first Derby victory now lay with Grade II winner Super Saver and Illinois Derby winner American Lion.

Shortly after news of Endorsement’s injury came down, trainer Todd Pletcher announced that Interactif would not run in the Derby and point for a grass campaign instead.

Interactif is a multiple graded stakes winner on the turf and his connections had been debating whether to try him in the Derby for the last several days.

Wednesday’s defections open the door for Backtalk and Make Music for Me to get into the Derby field. The post position draw for the race will take place today at noon.

Post Position draw for Kentucky Oaks, Blind Luck made favorite

1. It’s Tea Time 15-1

2. Jody Slew 30-1

3. Quiet Temper 10-1

4. Age of Humor 30-1

5. Blind Luck 6-5

6. Beautician 15-1

7. Crisp 8-1

8. Tidal Pool 8-1

9, Bella Diamante 30-1

10. Champagne D’Oro 30-1

11. Evening Jewel 10-1

12. Ailalea 15-1

13. Amen Hallelujah 8-1

14. Joanie’s Catch 30-1

Noble’s Promise scopes clean after work, on target for Derby

The odds that Grade I winner Noble’s Promise will be in the Kentucky Derby starting gate on Saturday got a significant boost Monday morning when the son of Cuvee scoped clean following a four furlong work at Churchill Downs.  Noble’s Promise had been troubled by a slight lung infection following his fifth-place finish in the Grade I Arkansas Derby.

With Willie Martinez in the irons, the bay colt covered the distance in :48.80 in company.

“He was pretty much his own pilot today,” Martinez said. “He was very forward and willing. This was just as good as you could ask for. The other horse worked good but he was just no match today for Noble’s Promise. The work could not have gone any better.”

WinStar’s Rule out of Derby; Devil May Care definitely in

WinStar Farm’s Rule, winner of the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes in February and third in the Florida Derby, was declared out of the Kentucky Derby Monday morning and will point for the Preakness instead.

Bill Casner, co-owner of WinStar Farm, said the son of Roman Ruler did not have any specific ailment troubling him but had not looked as sharp in his recent works as they would have liked.

“He’s a sound horse but I think he was telling us something in that work the other day (five furlongs in 1:00 on Saturday),” Casner said. “He just came off the bridle a bit there at the end. I think maybe it’s time to maybe freshen him a shade. You always want to listen to your horses and they will always make the decisions. I think he was telling us that he wasn’t at the top of his game and that’s what you have to have to win the Kentucky Derby.

“Right now, (the Preakness) is what we’re talking about.”

Rule’s defection opens it up for Robert LaPenta’s Jackson Bend to get into the Derby field.

While Rule will wait another day, Glencrest Farm’s Grade I winner Devil May Care will definitely take a shot at becoming just the fourth female runner to win the Derby, her connections confirmed Monday.

Trainer Todd Pletcher and owner John Greathouse said the filly would only be entered in the Derby field and not cross entered in the Oaks as had previously been discussed.

“We didn’t want to potentially hold someone else out (by cross entering in the Oaks),” Greathouse said. “We’re looking for karma.”

Likely Derby favorite Eskendereya out with leg injury

Grade I Wood Memorial Stakes winner Eskendereya, the likely favorite for this year’s Kentucky Derby, was declared out of the race Sunday morning due to an injury to his left front leg, according to trainer Todd Pletcher.

The son Giant’s Causeway reportedly has filling in that leg, an ailment Pletcher said he first noticed Saturday morning.

“We looked at it, worked on it over night and we haven’t seen an improvement,” Pletcher said. “He’s too special of a horse to take any chances with. I spoke with (owner) Ahmed Zayat this morning and we decided to stop here. The horse is not lame, he is slightly off. I haven’t felt like his last couple of gallops have been up to what we normally see. I was hoping it was attributed to the sloppy track.”

This marks the second straight year the probable Derby favorite was scratched prior to the race. Last season, I Want Revenge – who also captured the Wood Memorial in his final prep – was declared out of the Derby on the morning of the race with an ankle injury.

Eskendereya had originally been scheduled to work Sunday morning. However, when the chestnut colt failed to come onto the track with the rest of Pletcher’s contingent, it was clear something had gone amiss.

Pletcher said it was too early to tell if the injury was career-threatening.

“We’re going to some diagnostics later in the week when some of the filling goes out of his leg,” Pletcher said.

With Eskendereya now out of the Derby picture, Pletcher said there is now an increased chance that Grade I winning filly Devil May Care – who had been under consideration for both the Oaks and the Derby – would be in the starting gate on Saturday.

“The biggest impact would be potentially with the filly,” the four-time Eclipse Award winning trainer said. “I would say it swings the pendulum toward her running but that’s without confirming that with (owner) John Greathouse.”

Eskendereya was widely considered the best potential Derby contender Pletcher had ever brought to the race. After opening his season with a solid allowance victory, Eskendereya captured the Grade II Fountain of Youth by a smashing 8 1/2 lengths and then topped that effort when he skipped to victory in the Wood Memorial on April 3 by 9 3/4 lengths.

“He’s without a doubt the best horse we’ve ever brought to this stage,” said Pletcher, who is trying to break his 0-for-24 streak in the this year’s Derby. “I don’t think we’ve had one at this stage of his development that’s this good. I think his last two races were as good as any three-year-old has ever run.”

Eskendereya’s defection could clear the way for a couple other horses to make it into the Derby field. Homeboykris now moves up to 20th on the graded stakes earnings list while Wood Memorial runner-up Jackson Bend is now the first horse out in the 21st spot. However, Interactif – who was 19th on the list prior to Eskendereya being declared – is still considered doubtful to run in the Derby.

Rachel Alexandra likely to start in Friday’s La Troienne

Reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra is targeting Friday’s Grade II, $400,000-added La Troienne Stakes on the Kentucky Oaks undercard for her next start, majority owner Jess Jackson told Churchill Downs by phone Saturday.

The La Troienne, formerly known as the Louisville Stakes, is a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up.

“Right now we’re pointing there,” Jackson said. “We’d like it to be. Her workout Monday will tell us a lot more. It’ll be light; it’s not going to be a bullet. We want to see that she stays on track and improves every time she goes out and that’s what’s been happening the last two or three times. She’s getting ready.”

Jackson expressed his pleasure with Rachel Alexandra’s progress since her arrival at Churchill Downs from Fair Grounds, the New Orleans track where she finished second to Zardana in her 2010 debut in the New Orleans Ladies on March 13.

“She’s happy at Churchill,” Jackson said. “Lexington is her home, but Churchill is her favorite track and she’s surely giving us every sign of being ready to run. She’s going to need another race before she really defines herself the way she did early last year but I think she’s 85 percent to 90, maybe 95, right now.”

Entries for the La Troienne and other races on Friday’s Kentucky Oaks program will be taken on Tuesday, April 27.

Sidney’s Candy, Pletcher squad works; Devil May Care still on Derby fence

Despite intermittent rains and a soggy track surface, several key pre-Kentucky Derby works went off on schedule this morning at Churchill Downs.

If this A.M. was any indication, Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney’s Candy should not have much issue making the transition from a synthetic track to dirt. The son of Candy Ride registered an impressive move in company, covering six furlongs in 1:11.60 with jockey Joe Talamo up.

“That’s a very good work on a challenging track,” trainer John Sadler said. “This is not an easy track today. That’s a tough track. My choice was to wait and go tomorrow but with the weather they’re calling for tonight, I decided to go today.”

With the exception of Wood Memorial winner Eskendereya and Interactif – whose status for the Derby is still up in the air – all of the contenders from Todd Pletcher’s barn were putting in their final serious moves on Saturday.

Grade II winner Super Saver has, according to Pletcher, has been among the strongest of his horses since arriving at Churchill and nothing the colt did Saturday changed that.  The son of Maria’s Mon drilled four furlongs in 48.80 with Calvin Borel up.

Mission Impazible and Rule worked in company, covering five furlongs in 1:00.20 and 1:00 flat, respectively, while Discreetly Mine traveled the same distance in 1:00.40. Also on the track was the Grade I winning filly Devil May Care, who also covered five furlongs in 1:00.20.

Pletcher and owners Glencrest Farm are considering running Devil May Care in the Derby instead of the Oaks but said a decision on the matter likely won’t come before Monday.

“She was her normal exceptional self,” Pletcher said of the filly’s work. “She did it effortlessly. All the works were pretty much spot on for what we were hoping for. I didn’t see anything today that would think we couldn’t move forward and continue to look strong with all of them, including the filly. We still have to work Interactif and Eskendereya tomorrow (Sunday).”

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