Archive for February, 2013

Rachel Alexandra’s recovery “better than expected”

Stonestreet Farm and Rood & Riddle press release:

Veterinarians at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital remain pleased with champion Rachel Alexandra’s progress following abdominal surgery resulting from foaling complications in mid-February.

Dr. Brett Woodie, who performed the surgery, calls her recovery “better than expected.”

As updated over the weekend, Rachel’s appetite was good enough that she was taken off IV fluids and nutrition on Saturday. The 2009 Horse of the Year continues to hand walk and graze several times a day and her vitals are normal and her trademark spirit has returned, including a nip here and there.

Above, Rachel Alexandra and Rood & Riddle’s Brent Comer were undeterred by a pop-up shower of sleet during her scheduled afternoon walk on Wednesday, February 27th.

Dr. Bonnie Barr often credits her progress to the champion mare’s strong will and intelligence, noting that Rachel “let’s us take care of her”. For much of her day, that is Medicine Technician Brent Comer, who grooms and keeps Rachel company each day. The two have become fast friends, with Brent providing ear massages and a full buffet of treats.

We continue to hope for steady, uneventful, daily progress. Please look for the next update on March 7th, unless a change in her condition occurs.

Jockey Club amends rule book with “Retired from Racing” clause

Jockey Club press release:

 

The Jockey Club has amended Rule 18 of the Principal Rules and Requirements of The American Stud Book from Sold Without Pedigree to Sold as Retired from Racing so that an owner can retire a Thoroughbred from racing without affecting its breeding privileges, it was announced Wednesday.

 

Under the previous Rule 18, the Certificate of Foal Registration for a horse sold without pedigree was returned to The Jockey Club and cancelled, and the horse was no longer considered a Thoroughbred for breeding or racing purposes.

 

Under the amended Rule 18, the owner of a Thoroughbred can request that The Jockey Club attach a special notation to the Certificate of Foal Registration to indicate the horse should no longer be considered a Thoroughbred for racing purposes. Unlike the previous Sold Without Pedigree, horses that are Retired from Racing are still considered Thoroughbreds for breeding purposes.

 

“For myriad reasons, owners may not want their Thoroughbred to race again, but they do want the horse’s offspring to be eligible for registration with The Jockey Club,” said Matt Iuliano, executive vice president and executive director, The Jockey Club. “We developed the Sold as Retired from Racing rule with that in mind.”

 

To sell a horse as retired from racing, the owner must send a signed and notarized Sold as Retired from Racing form, a set of photographs of the horse, and the horse’s Certificate of Foal Registration to The Jockey Club within 60 days of the sale. The Jockey Club will stamp the certificate “Retired from Racing” and forward it to the purchaser. A copy of such stamped certificates will be made available at registry.jockeyclub.com for interested industry stakeholders.

 

The rule change comes as welcome news to owners, horsemen, and organizations dedicated to aftercare.

 

“I recently tried to sell a horse for breeding purposes only, but the horse ended up back at the track,” said Thoroughbred owner Earle Mack. “This new rule will help owners do what they believe is in the best interests of their horses. We surely owe our horses that.”

 

“This is a valuable tool to protect the future of retired racehorses,” said Rick Violette Jr., president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association. “It will simplify the transfer process and give owners the peace of mind of knowing the horses they retire will not race again.”

 

“This rule will greatly enhance Thoroughbred aftercare efforts,” said Mike Ziegler, executive director, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. “Many owners and rescue organizations were hesitant about sending pedigree papers with a horse because they were worried the horse would end up back on the track. Now, the papers can travel with the Thoroughbred to its second career, making it easier to identify and more appealing to new owners.”

 

The retired from racing rule is spelled out below and can be found in the online Principal Rules and Requirements of The American Stud Book at registry.jockeyclub.com.

 

New Rule 18

     

18. SOLD AS RETIRED FROM RACING

 

A.  If an owner desires a Thoroughbred to be considered retired from racing, the owner/owner’s agent must submit the following to The Jockey Club within 60 days after the date of sale:

 

1.  The Certificate of Foal Registration;

 

2.  A completed Sold as Retired from Racing form bearing notarized signatures of both the owner/owner’s agent and the purchaser/purchaser’s agent;

 

3.  A set of four color photographs of the horse (front, both sides, and rear views) clearly showing the color and the markings (or lack of markings) on the head, legs and body; and

 

4.  Any further evidence and assurances as The Jockey Club may require.

 

B. Upon receipt in the Registry Office, the respective Certificate of Foal Registration will be stamped “Retired from Racing” and will be returned to the purchaser/purchaser’s agent.  A copy of the stamped Certificate of Foal Registration will be made available on The Jockey Club Registry website at registry.jockeyclub.com.

 

C.  Certificates of Foal Registration for Thoroughbreds that were recorded by the Registry Office as Sold Without Pedigree prior to March 2013 shall remain cancelled.

 

Ashado, Borel, Gomez among 10 Racing Hall of Fame finalists

Five jockeys, four Thoroughbreds, and one trainer comprise the 10 finalists on the National Museum of Racing’s 2013 Hall of Fame ballot, as selected by the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. The candidates are: jockeys Chris Antley, Calvin Borel, Garrett Gomez, Craig Perret, and Alex Solis; Thoroughbreds Ashado, Housebuster, Invasor, and Lure; and trainer Gary Jones.

Hall of Fame voters may select as many candidates as they believe are worthy of induction to the Hall of Fame. The four candidates with the highest vote totals will be elected.

Borel, Gomez and Solis were finalists in 2012 and 2011 as well. Ashado and Housebuster were also finalists in 2012.

The finalists were selected by the Hall of Fame’s 16-member Nominating Committee from a total of 86 candidates suggested throughout the year by turf journalists, Thoroughbred industry participants, and racing fans. To be eligible, trainers must have been active for 25 years, and jockeys must have been active for 20 years. Thoroughbreds must have been retired for five years. All candidates must have been active within the past 25 years. The 20- and 25-year requirements for jockeys and trainers, respectively, may be waived, but a five-year waiting period is then observed before they become eligible. Candidates not active within the past 25 years are eligible through the Historic Review Committee.

The results of the voting on contemporary candidates will be announced on April 26. The induction ceremony will be held at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs on Friday, Aug. 9 at 10:30 a.m. The ceremony is free and open to the public.

Antley won 3,480 races and had purse earnings of $92,261,894 in a career that spanned from 1983 to 2000. He won 127 graded stakes races and 293 overall stakes. The leading North American rider by wins in 1985 with 469, Antley was a two-time Kentucky Derby winner, taking the Run for the Roses with Strike the Gold in 1991 and with Charismatic in 1999. He also won the Preakness with Charismatic.

Borel, as of today, is one victory shy of 5,000 for his career and has purse earnings of $120,044,775. In a career that began in 1983, he has won 286 stakes races and is the only jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby three times in a four-year span, accomplishing the feat with Street Sense (2007), Mine That Bird (2009), and Super Saver (2010). His three victories in the Run for the Roses are surpassed only by Hall of Famers Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack with five each and Hall of Famer Bill Shoemaker with four.

One of only two riders with more than 1,000 wins at Churchill Downs (Hall of Famer Pat Day is the other), Borel won the Preakness, Woodward, Haskell, Mother Goose, and Kentucky Oaks with 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra.

Gomez has won 3,713 races and has purse earnings of $200,291,954 in a career that began in 1988. He has won 308 graded stakes and 550 overall stakes. Gomez won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 2007 and 2008 and led all North American riders in earnings each year from 2006 through 2009.

Gomez won a record 76 stakes races in 2007 and has 13 Breeders’ Cup wins to his credit, including the 2010 Classic with champion Blame. Among Gomez’s major victories are the Pacific Classic, Travers, Santa Anita Derby, Whitney Handicap, Stephen Foster, Kentucky Oaks, and Jockey Club Gold Cup. He won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 2011.

Perret won 4,415 races and had purse earnings of $113,837,299 in a career that spanned from 1967 through 2005. He was the leading apprentice jockey in earnings in 1967 and won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 1990. Perret won the Kentucky Derby with Unbridled in 1990 and the Belmont Stakes with Bet Twice in 1987.

Along with four Breeders’ Cup victories, Perret also won the Travers, Florida Derby, Haskell Invitational, Coaching Club American Oaks, Jerome Handicap, Withers, Carter Handicap, Wood Memorial, Hopeful, Clark Handicap, and Queen’s Plate. He won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1988.

Solis has won 4,938 races and has purse earnings of $230,959,903 in a career that began in 1982. He has won 319 graded stakes and 629 overall stakes. Solis has won three Breeders’ Cup races, including the 2003 Classic with Pleasantly Perfect. He won the 1986 Preakness with Snow Chief. He won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1997.

Ashado, by Saint Ballado, bred in Kentucky and owned by Starlight Stables, Paul Saylor, and Johns Martin, won 12 of her 21 career starts with purse earnings of $3,931,440. She was named Champion 3-Year-Old Female in 2004 and Champion Older Female in 2005. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Ashado won the Spinaway, Schuylerville, and Demoiselle at 2. At 3, she won the Kentucky Oaks, Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Coaching Club American Oaks, Fair Grounds Oaks, and Cotillion Handicap. In her final season, at age 4 in 2005, Ashado won the Go for Wand Handicap, Ogden Phipps Handicap, and the Beldame.

Housebuster. by Mt. Livermore, won 15 times in 22 career starts and earned $1,229,696. He was named Champion Sprinter in 1990 and 1991. Bred in Kentucky by Blanche P. Levy and owned by her son, Robert P. Levy, Housebuster won the Jerome Handicap, King’s Bishop, Spectacular Bid, Swale, Hutcheson, Withers, Lafayette, and Derby Trial in 1990 at age 3 en route to an 8-for-10 campaign. A winner of eight consecutive races at one point in his career, Housebuster won the Carter Handicap, Forego Handicap, and Vosburgh Stakes at 4 in 1991. Eleven of his 15 wins were in graded stakes races. He was trained by Hall of Famer Warren A. Croll, Jr.

Invasor, by Candy Stripes, was bred in Argentina and won 11 of 12 career starts with earnings of $7,804,070. He was named Horse of the Year and Champion Older Male in 2006 when he won the Pimlico Special, Suburban Handicap, Whitney Handicap, and Breeders’ Cup Classic. At age 5 in 2007, Invasor won the Donn Handicap and Dubai World Cup. He was trained at ages 4 and 5 by Kiaran P. McLaughlin.

Lure, by Danzig, won 14 of 25 career starts with earnings of $2,515,289. Bred and owned by Claiborne Farm, Lure won the Breeders’ Cup Mile in 1992 and 1993. He won nine graded stakes, including four Grade 1 events. Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, Lure set track records at 5 furlongs and 1 mile.

Jones won 1,465 races and had purse earnings of $52,672,611 in a career that spanned from 1975 to 1996. He won 102 graded stakes and 233 overall stakes. Jones trained 104 stakes-winning horses, including Turkoman, the 1986 Champion Older Male. Jones trained Turkoman to victories in the Marlboro Cup, Oaklawn Handicap, and Widener Handicap. He conditioned Hall of Famer Best Pal to wins in the Santa Anita Handicap, Oaklawn Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Strub. Jones also trained Kostroma to a world turf record of 1:43 4/5 in the 1 1/8-mile Las Palmas Handicap.

Other major victories for Jones include the Mother Goose, Santa Barbara Handicap, Hollywood Oaks, Del Mar Futurity, Hollywood Futurity, Yellow Ribbon, Swaps, Apple Blossom Handicap, San Antonio Handicap, La Brea, San Felipe, and Norfolk.

Mutuel field morning-line favorite for KDFW Pool 2

Five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher lost a major contender for the 2013 Kentucky Derby when Grade I winner Violence suffered a career-ending injury last weekend, but Pletcher’s barn remains so well-stocked with Derby candidates that six of his horses are listed among the 24 betting interests for the second pool  of Churchill Downs’ 2013 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”).
        Pletcher, who won the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver, is joined atop the Pool 2 betting roster by three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert, who will be represented by five 3-year-old Thoroughbreds in the Derby Futures pool that opens its three-day run at noon (all times Eastern) on Friday, March 1.
        But despite the massive star power of the Pletcher and Baffert teams, Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has installed the Mutuel Field (#24), which includes all 3-year-olds other than the pool’s 23 individual horses, as the 3-1 morning line favorite for KDFW Pool 2.
Co-favored among individual horses at 10-1 are Baffert’s Super Ninety Nine (#18), an 11 ½-length winner of the Southwest (GIII) at Oaklawn Park, and Pletcher’s unbeaten Verrazano (#22), who has won his two starts by a combined 24 lengths. Other individuals who are expected to draw strong support included Baffert’s unbeaten Robert B. Lewis (GII) winner Flashback (#6, 12-1); Holy Bull (GIII) winner Itsmyluckyday (#8, 12-1); Orb (#11, 12-1), who defeated favored Violence in last week’s Fountain of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream Park; and the Pletcher-trained Withers (GIII) winner Revolutionary (#15, 12-1).  Reigning 2-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby (#17), San Vicente (GII) winner Shakin It Up (#16) and Normandy Invasion (#10) are rated by Battaglia as 15-1 risks.
 
The Kentucky Derby Future Wager offers racing fans an opportunity to bet on potential contenders for the famed “Run for the Roses” well in advance of the race at odds that could be significantly more attractive than those available in betting on Kentucky Derby Day.
The $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby will be run for the 139th consecutive year at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 4.
 
        Betting in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager will open Friday at noon (all times Eastern) at racetracks and off-track betting centers throughout North America and online at TwinSpires.com, the advance deposit wagering outlet for Churchill Downs Incorporated, and other internet wagering platforms.  Wagering will conclude at 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 3.
Along with Verrazano, the six Pletcher trainees in Pool 2 are Shanghai Bobby, Revolutionary, Palace Malace (#14, 30-1), Overanalyze (#12, 20-1) and Delhomme (#2, 50-1). Super Ninety Nine and Flashback are joined on the Baffert Derby Futures team by Shakin It Up, Code West (#1, 20-1) and Den’s Legacy (#3, 50-1).
KDFW Pool 2 includes six 3-year-olds that were not individual betting interests in Pool 1: Ive Struck A Nerve (#9, 30-1), Orb, Palace Malice, Shakin It Up, Titletown Five (#19, 30-1) and Treasury Bill (#20, 30-1).
Each Kentucky Derby Future pool offers $2 minimum win betting and exacta wagering, which is available in the form of $2 minimum straight exacta bets or $1-minimum exacta boxes and part-wheels. No scratches or betting refunds are permitted in the Derby Future Wager, but betting on an individual horse will be suspended immediately if Churchill Downs determines that an injury, illness or other circumstance revealed during the pool would prevent that horse from competing in the Kentucky Derby.
The 2013 Kentucky Derby Future got off to a strong start with total wagering of $621,493 in its Feb. 8-10 opening pool – the second-largest wagering total in an individual pool since the bet was introduced in 1999.  Win betting in Pool 1 totaled $481,632 and there was $139,861 in exacta betting.
Information on the Kentucky Derby is available online at the official event Web site atwww.KentuckyDerby.com and KDFW real-time odds will be presented on that site throughout each three-day betting pool.

Keeneland catalogs 137 for April 2-year-olds in training sale

Keeneland has cataloged 137 juveniles for its 2013 April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, to be held Monday, April 8, at 4 p.m. The total number is down from the 161 juveniles that were cataloged for last year’s auction.

 

A Preview Show is scheduled for Thursday, April 4, beginning at 10:30 a.m.

 

The April Sale has produced five classic winners during its 20-year history – Preakness winner and champion Lookin At Lucky; Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner and champion Big Brown; Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner and champion Thunder Gulch; and Kentucky Oaks winners Keeper Hill and Gal in a Ruckus.

 

Recent graded stakes-winning April Sale alumni include such notables as Golden Ticket (2012 Travers Stakes); Love and Pride (2012 Grade I Personal Ensign Handicap and Zenyatta Stakes); Balance the Books (2012 Grade II With Anticipation Stakes and Grade III Bourbon Stakes), and Group III winner What a Name, joint champion two-year-old in France and rated second at 111 pounds in the two-year-old filly category on the 2012 World Thoroughbred Rankings.

 

“The April Sale has a track record of producing ‘Saturday horses,’ ” said Keeneland Vice President of Sales Walt Robertson. “It is a select group of juveniles from which buyers can find a top-quality, ready-made racehorse.”

 

Juveniles representing 66 stallions have been consigned to the April Sale, highlighted by such leading sires as A. P. Indy, Arch, Bernardini, Distorted Humor, Empire Maker, Giant’s Causeway, Hard Spun, Harlan’s Holiday, Indian Charlie, Malibu Moon, Medaglia d’Oro, More Than Ready, Pulpit, Smart Strike, Street Sense, Tapit, Tiznow, Unbridled’s Song and War Front, among others.

 

Keeneland will stream the entire April Sale and Preview Show at Keeneland.com.

 

Grade I winner Violence off Derby trail

Grade I winner Violence has been declared off the Kentucky Derby trail and his racing career now in doubt after emerging from his runner-up in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulftream Park on Saturday with a fracture to his right front meidal sesamoid.

Resting comfortably at Gulfstream Park, the son of Medaglia d’Oro will ship to owner Steven Marshall’s Black Rock Stable’s Farm in Versailles this week for further evaluation and recuperation.

 
“It’s such a disappointment to see such a promising colt sustain an injury,” trainer Todd Pletcher told the Gulfstream Park publicity staff.  “He’s been training beautifully and made such an impressive effort in his second place finish yesterday.”

 
Violence was unbeaten in three prior starts including a victory in the Grade I CashCall Futurity last December. He held gamely for second behind Orb in the Fountain of Youth after chasing wicked opening fractions of :23.11, :45.45 and 1:08.85.

Champion Rachel Alexandra able to be taken off IV fluids

Stonestreet Farm press release:

Veterinarians at Rood & Riddle are encouraged by  Rachel Alexandra’s progress as the 2009 Horse of the Year recovers from abdominal surgery.  Her appetite has improved so that, on Saturday, she was taken off of IV fluids and nutrition.

Above, Rachel Alexandra grazes at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital on Friday, February 22nd.

As her vital signs remain normal and her strength improves, Rachel has gone for longer walks each day and has enjoyed grazing and spending time outside.

Attending veterinarians, Drs Bonnie Barr and Brett Woodie, caution that Rachel has hurdles yet to overcome, but they are pleased by her progress.

“I couldn’t be happier with where she is right now,” Dr. Woodie said.

Fair Grounds fans are signing a ‘get-well’ banner for Rachel as they celebrate her career with the Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes Saturday, just one example of the outpouring of support from the industry and fans for the champion mare.

Provided her condition remains stable, look for the next update on Thursday, February 28th.

Horse of the Year Wise Dan posts first work of 2013

After getting a well-deserved winter rest following his championship campaign last season, reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan put in his first serious move of 2013 when he worked four furlongs in :50 flat at Keeneland Saturday morning.

The 6-year-old Wiseman’s Ferry gelding has always been a stalwart in the mornings, often moving with such ease it can through even veteran clockers off. Such was the case again Saturday as trainer Charlie Lopresti said the chestnut champion “could have gone around again” and was bucking and playing under exercise rider Damien Rock.

“We just let him stretch his legs and he did it pretty easy,” Lopresti said. “I kind of wanted to let him go an easy three eighths of a mile and let him out a notch. They got him in :37 and change, galloping out in :50. I put the :50 down (as his work) because he was stronger at the gallop out as he was for the work.

“I’m just kind of ahead of schedule where I think I want to be. The weather was good today, the track was good and I thought I’d take advantage of it.”

Lopresti reiterated that the Grade I Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland on April 12 is the likely target for Wise Dan’s seasonal bow with the Grade III Ben Ali on April 21 still an option as well.

“I’m just going to let him tell us (when to start back), I’m not going to push him,” Lopresti said. “But I tell you the way he is, he’s the kind of horse where you could probably work him three or four times and run him. That’s the way he is.”

Owned and bred by Morton Fink, Wise Dan won the 1 1/8-miles Ben Ali by 10 1/2 in track record time last April to kick off his multiple Eclipse Award-winning campaign that culminated with his course-record setting win in the  Breeders’ Cup Mile. Wise Dan won five of six starts in 2012, including consecutive Grade I wins in the Woodbine Mile, Shadwell Turf Mile and Breeders’ Cup, en route to becoming the first horse since John Henry in 1981 to sweep champion older male, champion turf male, and Horse of the Year honors.

Successful Dan, Wise Dan’s graded stakes-winning older half brother, also worked Saturday for Lopresti covering four furlongs in :51 at Keeneland. Successful Dan has been sidelined due to injury since last summer.

“He did it very easy, just like Wise Dan,” Lopresti said. “And (Grade I winner) Turallure worked this Tuesday as well. They’re all just where I want them. I thought Wise Dan might be a work behind them or two but after what I saw this morning, he’s right there with them.”

 

Improvement continues for champion Rachel Alexandra

Stonestreet Farm release:

Champion Rachel Alexandra continues to show improvement as she recovers from abdominal surgery as a result of foaling complications last week. Her attending veterinarians at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, Dr. Brett Woodie and Dr. Bonnie Barr are pleased with the progress the 2009 Horse of the Year has made, which has included several short walks a day and an improved appetite this week.

As her diet becomes more normal, Dr. Woodie is encouraged that her gastro-intestinal function is improving, as well as her ‘feisty’ attitude.

Her medical team completed the course of post-surgery abdominal lavages on Tuesday and the two drains placed in her abdomen were removed.

While the road towards recovery remains long with many hurdles to overcome, Stonestreet’s Barbara Banke and Rachel Alexandra’s team at Rood & Riddle are both inspired by her strength and happy with her progress in the week following surgery.

Following the ‘no news is good news’ theme, please expect the next official update on her condition on Saturday, February 23rd unless her condition changes.

Stevens’ Derby day duties could be in the saddle, not booth

The point of it all for Gary Stevens, from the grueling physical regimen to the emotional toll that comes with it, was not to be part of the scene again.

The reason the Hall of Fame jockey ended his seven-year retirement earlier this season is he honestly felt he could be as good or better as his heyday incarnation. And if he could play a vital role in a young horse’s development, all the better.

With three stakes wins under his belt since mid-January, Stevens is making good on his word to remain committed to quality. However, all of that could put his commitment to his other day job to the test come the first Saturday in May.

In his years away from the saddle, Stevens carved out a top reputation in the media as an analyst for TVG, and now for HRTV as well as NBC Sports. When he announced his comeback in January, Stevens said he was not giving up his roles with HRTV and NBC Sports, the latter of which broadcasts the Triple Crown races and several major Kentucky Derby preps.

Given the way things have played out, Stevens could be at Churchill Downs on May 4 with a Derby contender. The soon-to-be 50-year-old rides promising maiden winner Proud Strike in Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds and was also aboard Tiz the Truth when the Bob Baffert-trainee broke his maiden by 73/4 lengths at Santa Anita on Feb. 2 to put himself in the Derby trail mix.

During a national teleconference Tuesday, Stevens said he probably would have to decide whether he will be in the booth or in the saddle for Derby Day about a month before the race.

“To be focused on riding the Kentucky Derby and prepared to do a national, worldwide telecast would be impossible,” Stevens said. “You’ve got to do one or the other. And the decision will have to be made, I’m saying, at least a month before the Kentucky Derby.

“With the whole deal, I haven’t changed but if I actually think I’ve got a legitimate chance to win the Kentucky Derby, I’m going to be out on horseback and NBC will be riding with me,” Stevens continued. “We’re in a position right now where that opportunity is there. I don’t want to say yes or no, because it’s putting the cart in front of the horse, but I’m very optimistic and I’ve got the support of NBC whichever way the decision winds up. The horses at the end of the day will make the decision for me.”

With the knee pain that plagued him for much of his career currently at bay, Stevens has successfully reeducated the racing community to his superior ability. Last weekend, Stevens worked the front end to perfection aboard the mare Great Hot, lulling his foes to sleep before booting her home to victory in the Grade II Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita.

He is going to have his work cut out for him Saturday when he guides Proud Strike against a full field that features Remsen Stakes runner-up Normandy Invasion and Lecomte Stakes winner Oxbow. Still, that Stevens is taking the mount aboard the son of Smart Strike is an endorsement of the colt’s talents.

“I’ve ridden in enough Derbys that I don’t need to go out there for the scenery,” Stevens said. “I’d just as soon sit up in the booth and give a good perspective of the race, rather than going out there and saying, ‘OK, I’m just going to be an also-ran.’ It’s a pretty good seat I have up there.
“Saying that, I’m praying like nobody else that one of these colts — perhaps Proud Strike will be the one — gets me into the winner’s circle for a fourth time.”

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