Archive for May, 2011

Nehro impresses Asmussen in pre-Belmont work

Nehro, runner-up to Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby, displayed his readiness for a bid for the $1 million Belmont Stakes with a sharp six-furlong work on Monday at Churchill Downs.
With regular exercise rider Carlos Rosas in the irons, Nehro worked inside of 3-year-old stablemate Dominus and covered the distance over a fast track in 1:12.20.
The six-furlong move was a sharp effort for Nehro, who has also registered runner-up finishes in the Grade I Arkansas Derby and Grade II Louisiana Derby, and it got a busy Memorial Day off to a good start for trainer Steve Asmussen.
“I was very pleased with the move,” Asmussen said.  “Obviously we stuck Nehro in company and asked him for a good work.  It was the best work I’ve seen him lay down.”
The son of Mineshaft covered the six furlongs in fractional times of :12, :24.20, :36.20, :48 and 1:00.  He galloped out seven furlongs in 1:25.60 and a mile in 1:39.
After a rainy spring in Kentucky and a seemingly endless run of wet training surfaces, Asmussen was happy to see clear skies and a fast track for Nehro’s move.
“In his defense, it’s probably the first time he’s got to work on a fast track in about two months,” Asmussen said.  “I think you saw why we were not wanting a sloppy track for the Derby.”
The work is the final major training move for Nehro at Churchill Downs prior to the 1 ½-mile final jewel of the Triple Crown at Belmont Park.  Asmussen  said Nehro would probably depart for Belmont Park on Thursday evening, with a final pre-Belmont Stakes work would come early next week.
“That’s been something we’ve talked about that we had to get through this work to decide,” Asmussen said. “You don’t mind that, having the barn there and everything. I feel really good about Nehro and the rest of the year for him.”

Animal Kingdom a go for Belmont Stakes

Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner-up Animal Kingdom will run in the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday, June 11, trainer Graham Motion told officials with New York Racing Association Friday.

“We just made the decision that he will be coming to the Belmont,” said Motion, speaking from the training center at Fair Hill, Md., where Animal Kingdom has been stabled since finishing a half-length behind Shackleford in the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown. “He bounced out of the Preakness very well and we are looking forward to running in the Belmont Stakes. He will probably come to Belmont Park the week leading up to race, depending on where we decide to have his final workout.”

Animal Kingdom, a 2 ¾-length winner of the Derby under jockey John Velazquez, will be bidding to become just the 12th horse in history to complete the Derby-Belmont double, a feat last accomplished by 1995’s 3-Year-Old Champion, Thunder Gulch. Swale (1984), Bold Forbes (1976), Riva Ridge (1972), Chateaugay (1963), Needles (1956), Middleground (1950), Shut Out (1942), Johnstown (1939), Twenty Grand (1931) and Zev (1923) were the only others to win the first and last races in the Triple Crown.

The 1 ½-mile Belmont is likely to feature a rematch between Animal Kingdom and Shackleford, which would mark the first Triple Crown rubber match since 2005, when Derby winner Giacomo finished seventh behind Preakness winner Afleet Alex. Shackleford, currently training at Churchill Downs, is scheduled to arrive at Belmont Park early next week, with a final decision on the Belmont Stakes expected shortly thereafter.

Among the others under consideration for the Belmont, which has a maximum field of 16, are Grade II Peter Pan winner Alternation; Brilliant Speed, seventh in the Kentucky Derby; Harlan’s Hello, winner of an optional claimer at Belmont; Isn’t He Perfect, ninth in the Preakness; Master of Hounds, fifth in the Derby; Mucho Macho Man, sixth in the Preakness; Monzon, sixth in the Peter Pan; Derby runner-up Nehro; Prime Cut, third in the Peter Pan; Ruler On Ice, second in the Frederico Tesio at Pimlico; Santiva, sixth in the Derby, and Stay Thirsty, 12th in the Derby.

Shackleford will train “like he’s running” in Belmont Stakes

Although his connections stopped short of giving a definitive all systems go for the Belmont Stakes, newly-minted Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford is looking more and more likely to contest the final leg of the Triple Crown and is expected to ship to New York in the next handful of days, trainer Dale Romans said Thursday morning.

“We’re just going to train him as if we’re going to run and that being said, we’ll probably end up going to New York in the next few days,” Romans said. “We’ll probably look for a breeze there next weekend over that racetrack.”

The Belmont oval can be an intimidating one for any newcomer to adjust to due to its 1 1/2-miles distance and the sandy nature of its dirt surface. For that reason, Romans feels getting Shackleford ample time to train over the track will be to his advantage come June 11.

“They have to get used to staying on that left lead as long as possible,” Romans said. “It can been deep and sandy depending on the amount of rain New York gets. I want to give him a chance to get over it (the track) and see that he likes it. We can always opt out but right now, we’re going to train as if we’re going to run.”

Shackleford galloped over the rain-soaked Churchill Downs surface on Thursday, his second day of going to the track since his Preakness win over Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. The flashy chestnut colt appears to be holding his flesh well two thirds of the way through the Triple Crown and continues to please Romans with his both his mental and physical development.

“He’s just gotten better all year as the year has gone on,” Romans said. “And you don’t get many horses that do like that. It started when he won the allowance race at Gulfstream and he has continued to get better every day since. I think the light bulb has gone off and it seems like the more we’re doing with him, the better he gets. I won’t say I’m surprised but it’s unusual with most horses.”

Veteran Grade I winner Brass Hat retired

Fred Bradley’s popular homebred gelding Brass Hat, a winner of more than $2.1 million in his career, has been retired at the age of 10, his connections announced on Tuesday.

“Fred and I have decided the time has come for Brass Hat to retire,” said Buff Bradley, son of Fred Bradley and trainer of Brass Hat throughout his career. “Brass Hat is now ten years old and in good health. He has been daily galloping strongly at Churchill Downs but recently does not appear to be as free moving as he was once. Both Fred and I knew this day would come and that probably Brass Hat’s body would show signs of age before his mental attitude slowed down.”

For the last seven years, Brass Hat has displayed his competitive attitude to the fullest on the racetrack. The gelded son of Prized made his career debut in a six-furlong allowance race at Turfway Park in January 2004 and would go on to become an enduring stakes performer who won fans over with his longevity and personality.

Brass Hat won both the Grade II Ohio Derby and Indian Derby at age 3 but would have his most prolific season two years later. In 2006, Brass Hat won the Grade I Donn Handicap to set him up for a run in the $6 million Dubai World Cup. Although the bay gelding would cross the wire second behind Electrocutionist, he was disqualified when a post-race test revealed trace amounts of the drug methyl prednisolone acetate.

Despite battling injuries throughout his career, including a strained suspensory in his left leg in 2008, Brass Hat never failed to return to form once he was back on the racetrack. In 2007, he captured the Massachusetts Handicap and in 2009, triumphed in the Grade III Louisville Handicap.

Last October at age nine, Brass Hat earned the sixth graded stakes win of his career when he earned an emotional triumph in the Grade III Sycamore Stakes over the turf at Keeneland.

“Brass Hat has been a very special animal, not only to our family and the employees of Bradley Racing Stable, but also to many thoroughbred race fans,” Buff Bradley said. “For this reason, Fred and I will continue to welcome all family, friends and fans to visit Brass Hat at our farm in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Brass Hat retires with 10 wins from 40 career starts. He will go back to the Bradley’s Indian Ridge Farm in Frankfort and be turned out with his pasture friends Magic and Goliath.

Paddy O’Prado retired from racing

Donegal Racing announced today that stable star Paddy O’Prado has been retired from racing following a sesamoid injury sustained while winning the Grade II Dixie Stakes at Pimlico on May 21.

Paddy O’Prado’s career started three years ago when Jerry Crawford, Donegal Racing managing partner, suggested a group of mostly Iowa investors buy the horse at the Keeneland Yearling Sale for $105,000. The group hired respected trainer, Dale Romans, who nurtured and guided the horse to a career record of record of five wins, three seconds, and three thirds from 15 starts and earnings of $1,721,297.

“Today is bittersweet,” said Romans. “Paddy returned to training like a big gray monster, and we thought we were sitting on the horse of the year but now he will be able to go on and be a champion sire.”

Paddy O’Prado broke his maiden in spectacular fashion by winning the Grade III Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park early in his three-year-old campaign.  His next start was in the Grade I Blue Grass stakes at Keeneland, and his second place finish earned him a place in the starting gate for the 136th Kentucky Derby. Paddy O’Prado finished third in that classic race and wheeled back to run in the Preakness Stakes.

From there, “Iowa’s horse,” as Paddy became known for the native state of the majority of his ownership group, embarked on a summer turf campaign that established him as one of the best horses in North America.  Paddy O’Prado captured the GII Colonial Turf Cup and GII Virginia Derby, both at Colonial Downs.  In the process, he became only the third horse to sweep Virginia’s signature races.

Paddy O’Prado then won the biggest race of his career making a powerful run down the lane to take the GI Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park.  In his final two starts as a three year old, Paddy finished second in the GI Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park and fifth—beaten by only five lengths—in the GI Breeders Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.  Paddy O’Prado’s performance gained even more recognition when he was named an Eclipse Award finalist for three year old horse of the year.

“He was as versatile as any horse I’ve ever trained, and competed at the highest levels on turf, dirt and polytrack. It takes a special horse to win or place in Grade I races on all three surfaces,” Romans said. “He never gave less than full effort, and every time we led him to the track, I was confident that he could compete against any other horse.”

Paddy’s only start at four was his dramatic last place-to-first win in the Dixie.

“We are very disappointed today to see Paddy’s career end so suddenly,” Crawford said. “This is what is best for Paddy; he will make a full recovery and embark on the next stage of his career. The thrills that he has given us are priceless and we were so proud and honored to share them with family, friends and fans in Iowa and around the country.”

Stud plans have not been finalized at this time.

Shackleford en route to Kentucky, Animal Kingdom good but tired

Newly-minted Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford was on a plane headed back to Kentucky Sunday morning less than 24 hours after upsetting Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom to take the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

Despite getting only about an hour’s worth of sleep due to some well deserved post-race celebrating, winning trainer Dale Romans dutifully met with the media at the Pimlico stakes barn even stopping off at Starbucks to bring everyone some  much needed caffeine. The Louisville native was still trying to soak in the full impact of saddling his first winner in a Triple Crown race but did say there is a better than average chance Shackleford would head to Belmont Stakes as long as he bounces out of his latest effort in good order.

“I thought about going on to Belmont right away but I went ahead and sent him back to Kentucky so I could get him with his regular team, go over him, watch him train a couple days then make a decision,”  Romans said. “If he trains like he did coming out of the Derby, I don’t know why we would pass. The Belmont is really a speed horse’s race. I think it’s better than 50-50 (that he goes to the Belmont). The way he looked last night, the way he was feeling and the way he ate up this morning, hopefully it’s better than 50-50.”

Romans said he hoped Animal Kingdom would also be in the gate for the Belmont as racing could use a good old fashioned rivalry right now. Barry Irwin, CEO of Team Valor International, which owns Animal Kingdom, was less committal about going on to the 1 1/2 miles test Sunday morning saying he and trainer Graham Motion would likely wait 10 days to two weeks before making that decision.

“The horse is tired. The race took something out of him. That was a hard race he had and he didn’t totally eat up,” Irwin said. “But he jogged well and he is sound. That is probably the toughest race he’ll ever have in his life. I don’t think he could have run better under the circumstances. Like Graham said, if it wasn’t the Triple Crown we’d be thrilled to death. But it’s tough to come that close and not win especially when your horse runs that hard.

“We’re going to strongly consider the Belmont,” Irwin continued. “But we’re going to let the horse tell us how he’s doing.”

Shackleford holds off Animal Kingdom to win Preakness

Once again, there will be no Triple Crown winner. Shackleford held off Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in deep stretch to win the 136th running of the Preakness Stakes by half a length at Pimlico Race Course.

Shackleford set a pedestrian pace in the Kentucky Derby but faded to fourth in the 1 1/4 miles test. Despite pressing Flashpoint through fractions of :22 3/5 and :46 4/5 in the Preakness, the shorter 1 3/16 miles proved to his advantage as he struck the lead entering the top of the stretch and held off Animal Kingdom, who was making a big run on the outside.

“We’ve won some big races but none as exciting as this one,” said Dale Romans, trainer of Shackleford. “It was a fast pace but I think it pulled everyone out of their race too.”

Astrology was third as they hit the wire in a final time of 1:56.47.

Animal Kingdom rated next to last in the 14 horse field for much of the race, just ahead of late-running Dialed In. The chestnut colt began advancing between horses around the final turn and had a clear lane four-wide in the stretch but was left with too much to do.

“He ran huge, he looked like he needed another sixteenth of a mile,” said Graham Motion, trainer of Animal Kingdom. “But he ran a huge race. Dale’s horse kind of slowed it down in the middle of the race and I think that hurt us. He came so close.

“I was worried (he was too far back) but I don’t think there was anything (jockey) Johnny (Velazquez) could do about it. That’s where the horse wanted to be and we weren’t going to change anything today.”

Velazquez said that, unlike the Derby, Animal Kingdom was taken aback early by the dirt that was hitting him in the face.

“When the dirt hit him, he kind of reacted by it today,” Velazquez said. “For whatever reason he kind of backed up a little bit and lost a lot of ground going into that first turn. I had to kind of put him in the bit going into the backstretch. I finally got him to where he was comfortable and going good and then I had to bide my time to see where to go.”

Shackleford’s win marks the first victory for Louisville native Romans in a Triple Crown race. It is also the first graded stakes triumph for the son of Forestry in seven career starts.

Animal Kingdom on the grounds at Pimlico

Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom arrived at Pimlico Race Course at 6:45 a.m. Saturday morning, just under 12 hours before he is slated to compete in today’s Preakness Stakes – the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

Team Valor International’s homebred colt was vanned 60 miles from trainer Graham Motion’s base at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton where he had been preparing away from the bustle of Pimlico. The chestnut colt was bedded down in stall 40, the traditional home of the Kentucky Derby winner at Pimlico.

Two other Preakness Stakes runners based at Bowie Training Center, Norman Asbjornson and Concealed Identity, arrived at Pimlico in separate vans between 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m.

All Preakness runners had to be on the grounds by 7 a.m. this morning.

Full brother to Barbaro born at Mill Ridge

Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s La Ville Rouge, dam of  2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, foaled the latest full sibling to the ill-fated classic winner when she delivered a colt by Dynaformer on May 18 at Mill Ridge Farm.

The colt reportedly weighed in at 138 pounds, according to Mill Ridge, and is the fourth full sibling to Barbaro his dam has produced. In addition to Barbaro himself, La Ville Rouge is also the dam of  stakes-placed Nicanor – now 5-years-old, Lentenor, a maiden winner, and an unraced colt named Margano all by Dynaformer.

“While only a day old, he appears to have plenty of leg and bone and is a quality foal,” Headley Bell, managing partner of Mill Ridge, said in a release. “Any time you have a healthy foal you are thankful, especially when it is a brother to Barbaro.”

Bell added the Jacksons are considering breeding La Ville Rouge back to Dynaformer in hopes of her producing a filly.

“They have always sought a sister to Barbaro,” Bell said.

The birth of Barbaro’s latest full brother comes nearly five years to the day that the bright bay son of Dynaformer suffered what would eventually become fatal injuries at the start of the 2006 Preakness Stakes. The then undefeated colt was pulled up shortly after the start of the second jewel of the Triple Crown with a fractured right hind leg.

Though Barbaro underwent surgery to repair the extensive fractures in his leg and fought on for another eight months, he was euthanized on January 29, 2007 after developing laminitis in both front feet.

Animal Kingdom draws post 11, made 2-1 morning line choice

Post positions and morning line odds for the 136th Preakness Stakes on Saturday

1. Astrology (15-1)

2. Norman Asbjornson (30-1)

3. King Congie (20-1)

4. Flashpoint (20-1)

5. Shackleford (12-1)

6. Sway Away (15-1)

7. Midnight Interlude (15-1)

8. Dance City (12-1)

9. Mucho Macho Man (6-1)

10. Dialed In (9-2)

11. Animal Kingdom (2-1)

12. Isn’t He Perfect (30-1)

13. Concealed Identity (30-1)

14. Mr. Commons (20-1)

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