Archive for April, 2011

Animal Kingdom impresses in final move

After a disappointing move at Keeneland last Saturday, Team Valor’s Animal Kingdom got the workout his connections were hoping to see this morning.

The Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes winner had his first move over the Churchill Downs track and final serious work before the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, covering six furlongs in company in 1:13.

Animal Kingdom’s breeze at Keeneland last week did not go as planned when his stablemate Meistersinger struggled over the synthetic surface and didn’t break off as necessary, resulting in a slower time of 1:02 2/5 for five furlongs.

Things were much more pleasant in the aftermath of the colt’s latest move, however. With Robby Albarado up, Animal Kingdom registered splits of 12 2/5, 24 4/5, 37 1/5, 49 1/5 with a gallop out in 1:26 2/5.

“As screwed up as everything was last week, I thought everything went perfectly today,” trainer Graham Motion said. “I feel about 98 percent better than I did a week ago.”

Animal Kingdom has not started on the dirt before, so Saturday’s work was also crucial in terms of getting a sense of how he would handle the surface on Derby day.

“I don’t see an issue now, not with the way he just worked,” Motion said. “The whole thing with having Robby work him is he’s a professional, he knows this track, and no one is going to know better than him how a horse is going to handle it. He actually looked for things he could knock about the breeze and he couldn’t find one.”

Borel works Derby mount Twice the Appeal

Three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel got acquainted with the horse he hopes will give him a fourth triumph in the first leg of the Triple Crown, working Sunland Derby winner Twice the Appeal six furlongs in 1:15 3/5 at Churchill Downs early Saturday morning.

Borel – who guided Street Sense to victory in 2007, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Super Saver in 2010 – picked up the mount on Twice the Appeal on Wednesday. After heading to the track shortly after 6 a.m., Borel and Twice the Appeal clocked splits of 13 2/5, 26, 38, 50 2/5 and 1:02 4/5 while galloping out in 1:29 1/5.

“I really liked the way he galloped out, I’m very happy,” Borel said. “That’s what I was looking for. When I stood up on him, he took off again. I had horse under me and he was hitting the ground good. I’m satisfied, very satisfied. With the quality of horses (in the Derby field) I think he fits.”

Liable, dam of Blame, named 2010 Broodmare of the Year

The centennial year of Claiborne Farm had yet another milestone added to it today as Liable, dam of champion and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame, was named the 2010 Broodmare of the Year during the annual Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders awards luncheon at Keeneland.

Claiborne, which enjoyed its 100th year of operation in 2010, bred Liable in partnership with Nancy Perry Gorman and campaigned the daughter of Seeking the Gold through a career that saw her win six of 15 career starts.

Liable made her greatest mark this past year, however. Her bay son Blame won three Grade I races in 2010 and became the only horse to defeat the champion mare Zenyatta when he bested the daughter of Street Cry by a head in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Although Blame fell just short of Zenyatta in Horse of the Year balloting, he was a unanimous pick for champion older male following a campaign that saw him win four of five starts including the Grade I Whitney and Stephen Foster Handicaps.

Liable has had five winners from as many foals to race and has another stakes winner in the Dynaformer gelding, Tend. Liable produced a Tiznow foal in 2010 who later died and she was barren this season. The bay mare has been bred this season back to Tiznow.

Gomez picks up Derby mount on Master of Hounds

Eclipse Award winning jockey Garrett Gomez has secured himself a mount for the 137th Kentucky Derby eight days out from the race. Gomez’s agent, Tony Matos, informed Churchill Downs officials his rider would pilot Coolmore’s Master of Hounds in the first leg of the Triple Crown.

Master of Hounds most recently ran second in the UAE Derby at Meydan on March 26 and was sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs last November. The son of Kingmambo will be trying dirt for the first time in the Kentucky Derby.

Gomez was the regular rider of champion and 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame, but is still seeking his first career Kentucky Derby win. His best finish in seven previous starts was a runner-up effort aboard Pioneerof the Nile in 2009.

Dialed In breezes at Palm Meadows

Florida Derby  winner and likely Kentucky Derby favorite Dialed In worked an easy half-mile Thursday morning at Palm Meadows in :48 2/5.

With trainer Nick Zito looking on, Dialed In worked over a nearly deserted track before fewer than 12 spectators. After breaking off a half-length behind stablemate Miner’s Escape, Dialed In finished three lengths in front as he went :12.09. :24.47 and :36.91 before galloping out in 1:01 2/5, according to Daily Racing Form clocker Mike Welsch.

“This is what I wanted…those 12s,” said Zito of the 12-second splits. “This horse is very rippled. This horse is very ready. I can guarantee this horse is not going to be short. I can’t guarantee anything else, but I’ll tell you he won’t be short. We know the kind of horse he is. Any horse that gives you the last eighth in 11 and change…I don’t know what else he can give you? The horse is happy here. He likes the track.”

Dialed In, who won his only start as a 2-year-old Nov. 12 at Churchill Downs, won the Grade III Holy Bull  at Gulfstream on January 30 to begin his 3-year-old season. After finishing second March 6 to stablemate Equestrio in an allowance event, Dialed In rallied April 3 from last to win the $1 million, Grade I Florida Derby by a head over Shackleford.

Zito said he will ship Dialed In to Kentucky Saturday and the colt could be on the Churchill Downs track Sunday morning.

Durkin steps down as voice of Triple Crown races

Tom Durkin today announced his decision to not to renew his contract to call the Triple Crown races this year for NBC Sports. The following are statements from Durkin, Ken Schanzer, President, NBC Sports and Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Sports Group.

FROM TOM DURKIN

“The experience I’ve had working with NBC Sports, over the last twenty seven years has been the most satisfying and rewarding of my professional life.  And so, it is with deep regret that I have made the decision not to renew my contract as NBC’s Triple Crown announcer.  It was an extremely difficult decision to make and one that came after almost a year of reflection.  Because of the stress of the event I felt it was not in the interest of my best health. My biggest disappointment though, is not being able to work with my NBC colleagues, many of whom have become some of my dearest friends.”

FROM KEN SCHANZER, PRSIDENT, NBC SPORTS:

“Tom Durkin is a legend.  He is not only one of the great race callers of all time, but I have been honored to call him my friend for more than a quarter-century.  While I regret that he has made the decision to not call the Triple Crown for us, I understand it and wish him nothing but the best.”

FROM DICK EBERSOL, CHAIRMAN, NBC SPORTS GROUP:

“It’s rare in this business that you find someone who has such extraordinary talent, who works relentlessly, and never ceases to be the nicest person in any room he is in.  We will truly miss Tom on our Triple Crown broadcasts.”

Repole: Dominguez will ride Stay Thirsty in Kentucky Derby

During a national teleconference on Tuesday, owner Mike Repole said Eclipse Award winner Ramon Dominguez will ride graded stakes winner Stay Thirsty in the Kentucky Derby on May 7.

Three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel guided Stay Thirsty through his latest workout at Churchill Downs this past weekend but Dominguez has ridden Stay Thirsty in his last two starts, including his win in the Grade III Gotham Stakes on March 5.

J P’s Gusto out of Kentucky Derby, Shackleford now in

Grade I winner J P’s Gusto has officially been withdrawn from consideration from the Kentucky Derby John O’Hara – racing manager for owner Gem Inc. – informed Churchill Downs officials on Tuesday.

The defection of J P’s Gusto clears the way for Florida Derby runner-up Shackleford to crack the top 20 on the graded stakes earnings list and get into the Kentucky Derby field with $212,000 in earnings.

The Factor to sit out Kentucky Derby, Midnight Interlude works

Shortly after trainer Bob Baffert said Tuesday morning that he was “leaning against” running Rebel Stakes winner The Factor in the Kentucky Derby on May 7, owner George Bolton confirmed the colt would not contest the first leg of the Triple Crown.

“It’s much too quick,” Bolton said. “We don’t want to run a horse that isn’t right. He’s basically a miler pedigree that is good enough to go further. The right thing for The Factor is to wait and go either to the Preakness, Met Mile, Woody Stephens or something like that.”

The Factor displaced his soft palate during his seventh-place finish in the Grade I Arkansas Derby on April 16 and underwent throat surgery last week to correct the issue.

“I just feel like the window is closing on him. I’d hate to rush him into this thing,” Baffert said. “And I’d have to work him tomorrow (Wednesday) and I don’t want to work him tomorrow.”

In addition to recovering from the myectomy, Baffert said his initial concerns about The Factor’s ability to handle the 1 1/4-miles distance was also a big reason why he wants to point the son of War Front to a different spot.

The gray colt is a confirmed front runner, having blazed his way to victories in the Grade II San Vicente and a 6 1/4 length win in the Rebel while on the lead.

“We want to get him really right and the mile and a quarter has always been in the back of my mind,” Baffert said. “He’s going to want to go too fast and it’s crazy. He’s not a true mile and a quarter horse.”

Baffert’s main Kentucky Derby hopeful,  Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude, worked in company on Tuesday. The son of War Chant worked six furlongs in company with stablemate Mythical Power, covering the distance in 1:13 3/5.

“He’s tough, he’s a tough horse,” Baffert said of the move. “He got a lot out of it.”

Baffert endured a tough morning at Churchill Downs Tuesday as Gilded Gem, a filly who was pointing for the Grade I Humana Distaff, broke down after working in company with Kentucky Oaks hopeful Plum Pretty and was euthanized due to fatal ankle fractures.

“It just scares you,” Baffert said. “I’m still in shock over it. She sort of shut it down and the other filly (Plum Pretty) was supposed to keep going…and I don’t know. It was after the work. She was done working. That’s when she did it was pulling up.”

Plum Pretty completed her seven-furlong move in 1:28 2/5.

Uncle Mo breezes early at Churchill Downs

With the rain temporarily holding off and the Churchill Downs strip in surprisingly good shape, trainer Todd Pletcher called an audible this morning and sent reigning juvenile champion Uncle Mo out for a five-furlong breeze at 5:45 a.m.

Pletcher originally planned to work Uncle Mo at 8:30 a.m. but when the skies were clear early and the track surface smooth, the five-time Eclipse Award winner sent his stable star out in company, covering the distance in 1:01 4/5 with jockey John Velazquez up.

“I thought he worked very well. The times were what we were looking for,” Pletcher said. “I’m really pleased with how he finished, he didn’t really need to be asked at all. He was feeling really good this morning.”

In the wake of his third-place finish in the Grade I Wood Memorial on April 9 – his first career loss in five starts – Uncle Mo was diagnosed with a GI tract infection that, among other things, hindered the colt’s appetite.

Pletcher wasn’t ready to declare the son of Indian Charlie 100 percent recovered just yet, but said the bay colt has been showing signs of being back to the Uncle Mo his connections have come to love.

“I feel like the last 96 hours we’re seeing signs around the barn he is back to his old self,” Pletcher said. “Right after the Wood, his appetite was suppressed. He was eating the way he normally does but I think the treatment we have done, he has responded favorably to it. His appetite has returned to what it was and this workout indicates to me he is back on track.

“If he comes out of it and his appetite continues to go our way and he has another good week of training before his next work, I’m optimistic we’re getting back to the Uncle Mo we saw in the Timely Writer and the Breeders’ Cup and all those races.”

Pletcher said Uncle Mo would likely have his final pre-Derby move either Sunday or Monday.

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