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Keeneland to card seven additional stakes for 2015 Fall Meet

Edited release:

A total of 23 stakes worth $5,975,000 in purse money will be offered during the 2015 Keeneland Fall Meet to be held Oct. 2-24, including an additional seven stakes worth $900,000 that will be carded during the three-day celebration surrounding the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

Sixteen stakes, including six Grade I events highlighted by the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile, worth $5,075,000 are slated for the 17-day Fall Meet, which opens with the Fall Stars Weekend, Oct. 2-4. Eight Fall Meet stakes are “Win and You’re In” events, part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series of automatic qualifying races for the Breeders’ Cup.

As the host site for the 2015 Breeders’ Cup, Keeneland  carded an additional seven stakes; one to be held Oct. 29 and three scheduled for each of the Breeders’ Cup undercards on Oct. 30-31. The stakes are a mix of new and familiar names: $100,000 Lafayette for 3-year-olds and up at 7 furlongs on Thursday; $200,000 Grade II Hagyard Fayette  for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, which moves in 2015 from its traditional Fall Meet closing day spot to Friday and is joined by the $200,000 Grade II Marathon Stakes  for 3-year-olds and up at 1 ¾ miles and the $100,000 Bryan Station  for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. The undercard of Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup lineup will feature the $100,000 Fort Springs for 3-year-old fillies, $100,000 Juvenile Dirt Sprint for 2-year-olds, and $100,000 Perryville for 3-year-olds, each at six furlongs.

“This fall will be one of the most memorable racing seasons in Keeneland history,” said Keeneland Vice President of Racing  Rogers Beasley. “The competition will be superb; the top trainers and jockeys will be on hand as the anticipation builds all month toward the first-ever Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland. It will be an exciting time for fans, horsemen and the entire Central Kentucky community.”

Keeneland’s signature Fall Stars Weekend kicks off with nine graded stakes worth $3.7 million will be held Oct. 2-4. Five of those races are Grade I events with the  Grade I, $400,000 Darley Alcibiades  for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles anchoring the opening day card. The Saturday, Oct. 3 card includes the Shadwell Turf Mile, for 3-year-olds and up;  Grade I, $500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles; and Grade I, $400,000 First Lady for fillies and mares, 3 years old and up at a mile on turf.

Sunday Oct. 4 is led by the Grade I, $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster for fillies and mares, 3 years old and up at 1 1/8 miles.

A sixth Grade I stakes, the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup  for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the turf, will be held Saturday, Oct. 10.

The Fall Meet also reflects two changes to the stakes program. Purses for the Grade III Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix on Oct. 2 and Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America  on Oct. 3 have increased from $200,000 to $250,000 each. Additionally, the Grade III, $150,000 Pin Oak Valley View, a 1 1/16-mile race on turf for 3-year-old fillies, has been moved to closing day, Oct. 24 for Fall Meet 2015.

Seven Breeders’ Cup Challenge stakes will be run Fall Stars Weekend: Darley Alcibiades (a Challenge race for the Juvenile Fillies) and Phoenix (Sprint) on Oct. 2; Shadwell Turf Mile (Mile), Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (Juvenile) and Thoroughbred Club of America (Filly and Mare Sprint) on Oct. 3; and Juddmonte Spinster (Distaff) and Grade III, Dixiana Bourbon (Juvenile Turf) on Oct. 4.

NBC will broadcast live from Keeneland with two “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In Series” programs on Saturday, October 3 (5-6 p.m. ET) featuring the Breeders’ Futurity and Shadwell Turf Mile and on Sunday, October 4 (5-6 p.m. ET) with the Spinster and the Bourbon Stakes.

The eighth Breeders’ Cup Challenge race is the Grade III, JPMorgan Chase Jessamine on October 7, which awards the winner a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

The winners of 40 Breeders’ Cup races have made their final start before the World Championships during Keeneland’s Fall Meet, most notably in the Thoroughbred Cub of America, Spinster, Shadwell Turf Mile, Alcibiades and Breeders’ Futurity. Last year, horses that prepped at Keeneland in October won three Breeders’ Cup races: Filly and Mare Turf winner and champion Dayatthespa, winner of the First Lady; Juvenile Fillies winner and champion Take Charge Brandi, who ran in the Alcibiades; and Sprint winner and champion Work All Week, winner of the  Phoenix.


Keeneland 2015 Fall Stakes Schedule: Oct. 2-24





Oct. 2

$400,000 Darley Alcibiades (G1)*

2YO Fillies

1 1/16 Miles

Oct. 2

$250,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G3)*

3YOs & Up

6 Furlongs

Oct. 3

$1 Million Shadwell Turf Mile (G1)*

3YOs & Up

1 Mile (T)

Oct. 3

$500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1)* 


1 1/16 Miles

Oct. 3

$400,000 First Lady (G1)

3YOs & Up, F&M

1 Mile (T)

Oct. 3

$250,000 Thoroughbred Club
of America (G2)*

3YOs & Up, F&M

6 Furlongs

Oct. 3

$150,000 Woodford (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select

3YOs & Up

5½ Furlongs (T)

Oct. 4

$500,000 Juddmonte Spinster (G1)*

3YOs & Up, F&M

1 1/8 Miles

Oct. 4

$250,000 Dixiana Bourbon (G3)*


1 1/16 Miles (T)

Oct. 7

$150,000 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (G3)*

2YO Fillies

1 1/16 Miles (T)

Oct. 9

$100,000 Buffalo Trace Franklin County (L)

3YOs & Up, F&M

5½ Furlongs (T)

Oct. 10

$500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) Presented by Lane’s End

3YO Fillies

1 1/8 Miles (T)

Oct. 15

$100,000 Sycamore (G3)

3YOs & Up

1½ Miles (T)

Oct. 17

$250,000 Lexus Raven Run (G2)

3YO Fillies

7 Furlongs

Oct. 18

$125,000 Rood & Riddle Dowager (G3)

3YOs & Up, F&M

1½ Miles (T)

Oct. 24

$150,000 Pin Oak Valley View (G3)

3YO Fillies

1 1/16 Miles (T)

*Denotes Breeders’ Cup Challenge stakes


Keeneland Stakes Schedule: Breeders’ Cup Weekend, Oct. 29-31 





Oct. 29

$100,000 Lafayette (L) Presented by Keeneland Select

3YOs & Up

7 Furlongs

Oct. 30

$200,000 Hagyard Fayette (G2)

3YOs & Up

1 1/8 Miles

Oct. 30

$100,000 Bryan Station (L)


1 1/8 Miles (T)

Oct. 30

$200,000 Marathon (G2) 

3YOs & Up

1 3/4 Miles

Oct. 31

$100,000 Fort Springs (L)

3YO Fillies

6 Furlongs

Oct. 31

$100,000 Juvenile Dirt Sprint (L)


6 Furlongs

Oct. 31

$100,000 Perryville (L)


6 Furlongs

Weisbord steps down from Breeders’ Cup Board of Directors

 Edited release:

The Breeders’ Cup announced Tuesday that Barry Weisbord has resigned from its Board of Directors, citing increased outside business and family duties for his decision.


In a letter Tuesday morning to Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Craig Fravel, Weisbord cited his need to spend more time with his family and working with Trakus – the video graphics system  which determines the exact location of horses throughout the entire race – as a catalyst behind his decision to step down from Breeders’ Cup. Weisbord is the chairman for Trakus.

“The increasing need for me to travel extensively for Trakus around the world, and my desire to try to take in as much of my young daughter’s activities at home have put me in a situation where I feel I cannot devote the same level and attention to Breeders’ Cup board activities as I should,” Weisbord said. “I have all the faith in the world in the current board, and wish them all the best in carrying out their duties. I love the Breeders’ Cup and want nothing more than to see it succeed and prosper.”


Weisbord, who is president and co-Publisher of Thoroughbred Daily News, has served as a Director since 2012, and was elected as a Breeders’ Cup Member in 2008.


“Barry has served with great distinction and dedication to the Breeders’ Cup and to our Board,” said Bill Farish, Breeders’ Cup Chairman. “He has worked tirelessly to elevate and enhance the hospitality experience at the Breeders’ Cup on an international scale for our owners and fans, helping to make our event the best that it can be. We will miss Barry’s creative energy and enthusiasm for our Championships, and wish him well in his current and future endeavors.”


Danzig Moon, fifth in Kentucky Derby, suffers fatal injury in Plate Trial

John Oxley’s Danzig Moon, the fifth place finisher in this year’s Kentucky Derby, was euthanized after suffering a fatal injury to his right hind leg in the Plate Trial Stakes at Woodbine on Sunday.

Sent off as the favorite in the Plate Trial, Danzig Moon was rating second behind pacesetter Midnight Trace when he went broke down in late backstretch under jockey Julien Leparoux, backed up quickly and collided with R U  Watchingbud.

R U Watchingbud got up and walked off, according to the chart, but Danzig Moon was euthanized after being vanned off in the 1 1/8-miles race.

Leparoux was unhurt in the spill.

Trained by Mark Casse, Danzig Moon was making his first start since finishing sixth in the Preakness Stakes on May 16. The flashy, bay son of Malibu Moon was affectionately known as “racing’s bad boy” by his connections in a nod to his feisty attitude around the barn that often left his human caretakers with bruises.

After breaking his maiden in his third try at Gulfstream Park this February, Danzig Moon stepped onto the Kentucky Derby trail with a fourth place finish in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby and a runner-up finish to Carpe Diem in the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 4.

“We knew he was always talented, it’s just take him a while to figure out he’s a racehorse,” Norman Casse, son of Mark Casse and assistant to his father, said going into the Preakness Stakes.

Bred by William D Graham, Danzig Moon won one of eight career starts and had earnings of $311,445. The colt and the Casse barn were the subject of the Herald-Leader video “Derby Diary” leading up to the first leg of the Triple Crown.

American Pharoah ‘the picture of health’ in return to the track

While the lives of those around him have been wonderfully altered by virtue of his Crown achievement, champion American Pharoah was his same old, visually inspiring self Friday morning as he went back to the track for the first time since completing his sweep of the American classics in last Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

With regular exercise rider Jorge Alvarez grinning in the irons and his Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert looking on, American Pharoah jogged a mile clockwise over the Churchill Downs track. Less than a week removed from his 5 1/2 length victory in the Belmont Stakes and becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years,  the Zayat Stables homebred was as bright, alert and kind as ever as he skipped over the track and then indulged the fortunate onlookers seeking a hands-on moment with racing’s newest legend.

Among those who came by to visit Friday was Dr. William McGee, an integral part of the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, who has seen numerous Triple Crown runners and even treated some when he was a practicing veterinarian.

“Just watching him come out of the barn and looking at his weight, he still looks like the picture of health,” Baffert smiled. “It’s amazing that what he’s been through, it looks like he starting to get better now. It shows you what he’s made of.

“I can tell that the last 60 days he’s grown, he’s starting to fill out. I’m happy to see that he’s still happy, he enjoyed going to the track today. He came off the track and looked like an incredible animal. I guess you have to be incredible to do what he accomplished.”

Baffert aptly called his champion charge “a baby and a beast”, with the former being a nod to the colt’s amazingly sweet demeanor the latter an understatement of a term to describe his domination on the track.

Since losing his career debut, American Pharoah has reeled off seven consecutive wins including six Grade I triumphs. His one-length victory in the Kentucky Derby has been the closest thing to an ‘off’ day he has had. His seven-length Preakness Stakes victory and gate-to-wire coronation in the Belmont Stakes were displays of beauty and ease the likes of which Baffert himself says he has never quite seen.

“I was thinking I’d never be able to accomplish (the Triple Crown). That it’s just too difficult,” said Baffert, who had won the first two legs with three prior horses – Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002) only to have them all come up short in the Belmont.  “I’ve brought too many nice horses here and we couldn’t close the deal. But it took something really special like American Pharoah.

“I always thought there was no excuses with him, if they’re great they can do it. He earned it and the way he did it, he did it the right way. He did it with authority.”

American Pharoah is set to be paraded at Churchill Downs on the main track after the fifth race Saturday at around 8 p.m. The son of Pioneerof the Nile is scheduled to return to his Southern California base on Thursday, June 18.

Baffert reiterated Friday that the Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga August 1 and Grade I Haskell at Monmouth Park on August 2 are on the table as possible next starts for the sport’s 12th Triple Crown winner.

“I have to see how this horse responds. Usually it takes about two weeks and you start seeing what kind of effect it’s had on them,” Baffert said. “But if you see him show up, that means he’s going to perform in a big way. I feel more pressure training him now. Now I feel like wrapping him in bubble wrap. But what I want to do is show him with everybody.”





American Pharoah, connections still soaking in Triple Crown glory

ELMONT, N.Y. – Everyone wanted to know what the conquering hero would do next. Bob Baffert first wanted them to do what he is trying to and just bask in champion’s presence.

So from Barn 1 on the Belmont Park backstretch Sunday morning, Baffert led Thoroughbred racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner out to the media for his latest dose of admiration. And since the horse with the most devastating talent in decades is blessed with the temperament of a petting zoo pony, his Hall of Fame trainer invited all those there who wanted to come and lay hands upon American Pharoah themselves.

“He loves to be around people, people petting him and loving on him,” Baffert said. “I want to share him with everybody and show everybody how kind and sweet he is.”

American Pharoah is nothing if not the people’s horse right now, even though it he who is in possession of the racing community’s heart. The day after the bay son of Pioneerof the Nile captured the 147th Belmont Stakes by 5 1/2-lengths to become the first horse in 37 years to sweep the Triple Crown, the process of dissecting his greatness and speculating on his future began with force even if the realness of the moment was still easing below the surface.

The glean on his coat and brightness of his demeanor answered the primary question of how American Pharoah bounced out of his seventh win from eight career starts.  The reigning juvenile champion, six-time Grade I winner and newly-christened legend has made freakish ease his hallmark, yet it was still a marvel to see him barely stressed after notching the sixth fastest winning time in Belmont Stakes when he hit the wire in 2:26.65 for the 1 1/2-miles test.

“Today he looked like I could run him back in three weeks. He’s that kind of horse; he’s special,” Baffert said.

Special still doesn’t quite cover it with American Pharoah.

In further evidence of his remarkable high cruising speed and acceleration, the Zayat Stables homebred covered the final half mile of the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes test faster than he did the first four furlongs. It also marked the sixth different track the colt has won over with him handling everything from Del Mar’s old synthetic surface, to sloppy conditions to Saturday’s drying out Belmont track with equal aplomb.

“No matter if it’s raining, sloppy, heavy track, you get it done. That’s what he did. He just brought it at every track,” Baffert said. “I went back and looked at all the videos of Seattle Slew, Secretariat and Affirmed and…they all have in common that there was never an excuse. They just took the ball and ran with it. When they’re special like that, you keep them healthy, keep them happy, stay out of their way and don’t over think it.”

Now that Thoroughbred racing has the Triple Crown golden child it has been clamoring for, the query is now how much of a mainstream lift American Pharoah’s feat can provide the sport – assuming the future Ashford Stud stallion runs again.

Both Baffert and owner Ahmed Zayat reiterated Sunday that as long as American Pharoah stays healthy, the plan is to have him race throughout the rest of his 3-year-old season with the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland in October as the target.

“With this horse we owe it to the sport to continue properly, and as often as we possibly can,” Zayat said. “This is a pledge to my family, the industry, and racing and we take it really seriously. When the horse is ready, we’re not going to be scared about running him, to lose or not lose.”

American Pharoah’s added role as ambassador will take effect while he gets some post Triple Crown R&R. Shortly after making an appearance alongside Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza on the TODAY Show Sunday morning, American Pharoah was shipped back to Churchill Downs where he will reside for at least a couple of weeks, Baffert said.

He also will be back under the Twin Spires on June 13 as Churchill Downs has plans to parade the champion colt for fans as part of their “Downs After Dark” card featuring the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap.


“He’s our Stanley Cup. I have to go take him around there and show him off to the people,” Baffert cracked.

Earlier in the week, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin expressed concern that even if his Grade I-winning charge, Frosted, ran his best race in the Belmont, the colt might be running into a monster the likes of which hasn’t been seen in generations.

McLaughlin’s fears were justified as Frosted uncorked a top effort only good enough for second. Whether any horse, 3-year-old or otherwise, can push American Pharoah the remainder of the season may now be a harder challenge than the three-race feat the bay colt just conquered.

“I think with every race I can see he’s getting better,” Baffert said.


Added McLaughlin, “American Pharoah is a special horse, he does things effortlessly. We were happy with our horse….we just picked the wrong year to have a good 3-year-old.”


Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Twelfth wonder: American Pharoah becomes first Triple Crown winner since 1978

ELMONT, N.Y. – The reality hit in waves at Belmont Park Saturday evening, crashing over all who hoped, all who prepared, all who couldn’t let themselves believe until it was plain before their eyes in all its indisputable glory.

It struck jockey Victor Espinoza going around the first sweeping turn of the 147th Belmont Stakes. It ran up his hands and into his heart as he absorbed every positive signal his mount was giving off.

It teased trainer Bob Baffert in the paddock and then smacked him full force at the head of the stretch of the 1 1/2-miles odyssey. The Hall of Fame conditioner had forgotten to take his heart medication earlier in the day, but the pounding in his chest was providing a complementary sound track to the wall of noise building from 90,000 of his closest friends.

In the final eighth of mile  of the final leg of the Triple Crown, American Pharoah finally had generations of Thoroughbred racing fans convinced. The doors to transcendent greatness could be pried open after 36 years of being sealed. The dream outcome some bitterly said would never materialize again was galloping in fluid beauty down the track, ears pricked to sky, 5 1/2 lengths in front of the nearest challenger to his now concrete legacy.

The racing world has its 12th wonder. American Pharoah, the bay son of Pioneerof the Nile who has barely put a foot wrong since birth, became the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 and just the 12th all time to sweep the American classics known at the Triple Crown when he led every step of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes to end the sport’s longest drought between such heroes.

And what a drought it had been. Racing fans who thought they were spoiled with Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed all winning the Triple Crown within a handful of years have found themselves, their children and their children’s offspring questioning if any current day Thoroughbred had the ability needed to prevail over the five-week test that is Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

Thirteen since 1978 had tried prior to American Pharoah, winning the first two legs and then falling short when the rubber hit the road.  And if Hall of Famers like Spectacular Bid, Alysheba and Sunday Silence couldn’t do it, what chance did another freakishly fast wunderkind have against 36 years of dashed hopes?

American Pharoah was different. That’s what his owner/breeder, Zayat Stables, had been told since the first time he had a saddle put on him.  What other good horses had to work to do, the son of Pioneerof the Nile did with ease that was condescending. His stride was bigger, more fluid. His constitution heartier, his temperament unfazed.

And so, in what was supposed to be the hardest test of his life, the bay colt turned it all into a mockery. He never let his seven rivals, including runner-up Frosted, seriously challenge him for more than a couple steps.

He didn’t let those who believed this time could be different down.

“Thirty seven years…that little horse deserved it,” said Baffert, who three times prior had conditioned horses to this point in Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002) only to get his now surgery-repaired heart broken. “He had what it takes. Not only do you have to be a good horse but you have to be able to take the constant, the turnaround. And…I’ve never in my life had a horse that you could ship this many times and still, he’s amazing.

“I wasn’t really as nervous because I felt I had the horse. I told Victor in the paddock ‘Dude, he is ready. It’s probably going to take a few days to sink in. This is going to be a moment we’ll never forget.”

In hindsight, American Pharoah was merely doing what he has done his entire eight-race career: eliminate any debate over who the best of his generation is.

He is the reigning juvenile champion, having won the Grade I Del Mar Futurity and Grade I FrontRunner Stakes last September after somehow finishing fifth in his career debut. While injury knocked him out of the Breeders’ Cup  Juvenile last October and sidelined him until March, he never lost a drop of form, reeling off a 6 1/4 length triumph during his seasonal bow in the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park March 14.

He has now won his last seven starts, including six Grade I wins, over six different tracks while prevailing by a combined 35 3/4 lengths. He did so without yielding to any perceived challenge, winning over rain soaked tracks at Oaklawn and Pimlico, winning from the rail as well as the outside, running foes off their feet or rating and then delivering a wide rally as he did in the Derby.

“I have been saying he’s a very good horse, he could be special, but in order to win the Triple Crown, you have to define greatness,” owner Ahmed Zayat said. “He does everything so easy. We wanted this for the sport. He looked unbelievable.

“I told my wife in the post parade, get ready to be the owner of the 12th Triple Crown winner.”

His 3-to-5 favoritism said the betting public had faith, but no one is really ever prepared for the improbable to play out.

Breaking out of post No. 5, American Pharoah got away in good order and was angled toward the inside in front of his challengers as the field raced to the first turn with Grade I winner Frosted to his outside and Mubtaahij just behind him on the rail.

Fellow Grade I winner Materiality ranged up to sit second as they settled down the massive backstretch, but American Pharoah was in complete command on the front end. He coasted through fractions of 24.06 and 48.83 on an easy rein from Espinoza and had the crowd ready to come off the rails as he held a two length edge coming off the final turn.

“I’m telling you on the first turn, that was the best feeling ever,” said Espinoza, who had suffered two failed Triple Crown attempts prior as the jockey for War Emblem and California Chrome (2014). “Warming up, he was all class. I grabbed the reins and he just took off.

“It’s just an amazing feeling that you have when it’s like 20 yards out of the wire and you’re three or four lengths in front. I was just…having fun.”

As the daylight between American Pharoah and Frosted grew in the stretch, the cavernous track shook with the screams only realized hopes can produce.

The final time of 2:26.65, sixth-fastest winning Belmont time in history, flashed on the board. Frosted and Keen Ice went into the books and the second and third place finishers behind a new legend.

“It’s an amazing thing to be a part of. Bob Baffert is the greatest trainer of all time,” said Dale Romans, trainer of Keen Ice.

And now, the reality of what can possibly be next for  the horse who has done everything asked. He is slated to stand at Ashford Stud upon his retirement. Regardless when that day comes, American Pharoah has lifted the sport in a way some thought it could never reach again.

“I think what the Triple Crown is about is we get to share greatness with everybody,” Baffert said. “Everybody got to see it.”

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Carpe Diem, The Truth Or Else out of Belmont Stakes

The list of potential challengers who will try and keep dual classic winner American Pharoah from sweeping the Triple Crown shrunk by two Monday morning as multiple Grade I winner Carpe Diem and The Truth Or Else were each declared out of Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

Carpe Diem, 10th in the Kentucky Derby, had worked four furlongs in 47.66 at Belmont Park on May 29 and fired a bullet move going five furlongs on May 22. Elliott Walden, president of WinStar Farm which co-owns Carpe Diem, said Monday there was nothing majorly off with the son of Giant’s Causeway but that trainer Todd Pletcher didn’t feel the chestnut colt was coming into the Belmont on top of his game.

“Todd just wasn’t happy with his gallop this morning in the way that he just felt like he’s not 100 percent,” Walden said. “There is nothing major wrong with him, it’s just does he give Todd a feel that he’s going to go over there and run his eyeballs out. And Todd…just didn’t feel like he was ready to run a blinder.

“His times for his last two breezes have been great. It was a tough decision but at the same time, it was an instinct or a gut decision. And I’ve always found Todd to be real good with those decisions.”

Walden added that Carpe Diem will now point for either the Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga on August 1 or the Grade I Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on August 2.

“We’ll take the eight weeks and kind of regroup to get him ready,” Walden said.

Owned by WinStar and Stonestreet Stables, Carpe Diem has won four of six career starts including the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 4 in his final prep before the Kentucky Derby.  Even with the colt’s defection from the Belmont Stakes, WinStar Farm still has a significant rooting interest as American Pharoah is a son of Pioneerof the Nile, who stands stud at WinStar.

Should American Pharoah win the Belmont, he would become just the 12th Triple Crown winner and the first to achieve the feat since Affirmed in 1978.

“It does (free us up to cheer for him), but that wasn’t a reason (to not run Carpe Diem),” Walden said. “We treat each horse as and individual and make decisions on each horse based on that individuality. It was the right thing for Carpe Diem (to not run). But it is disappointing because we like to have a participant. But we will be rooting very hard for American Pharoah.”

Trainer Ken McPeek took to social media on Monday to inform that The Truth Or Else was discovered to have filling in an ankle and would bypass the 1 1/2 miles test. The son of Yes It’s True has won two of 12 starts with both of those wins coming over the Belmont main track.

“We will give him the time he needs and bring him back when he’s 100 percent,” McPeek posted on his Twitter account. “We believe he did this galloping Saturday.”

With those two defections, the prospective field for the Belmont Stakes on June 6 is now down to eight horses. In addition to American Pharoah, Materiality and Madefromlucky, both trained by Pletcher, are expected to start along with Tale of Verve, Keen Ice, Frosted, Mubtaahij, and Frammento.

Conquest Curlinate to bypass Belmont Stakes; McPeek thinking upset with The Truth Or Else

Conquest Curlinate, second in the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes last time out, will bypass the Belmont Stakes next Saturday and instead point for the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine on July 5, his connections confirmed Thursday morning.

Owned by Conquest Stables and trained by Mark Casse, Conquest Curlinate was not Triple Crown nominated and would have had to be supplemented for $75,000 into the final leg of the Triple Crown. The son of Curlin put himself into the classic discussion when he finished a length behind winner Madefromlucky in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 9, but Casse said the gray colt hasn’t sparkled enough in his training to merit trying to derail Kentucky Derby and Preakness hero American Pharoah’s Triple Crown bid in the 1 1/2-miles test.

“Our feeling is he had to be at his very best to have any shot and we don’t think he’s bounced out of it that well,” Casse said. “We talked about it and instead we’ll head to Woodbine with him in a couple weeks for the Queen’s Plate.”

“We wanted to send a horse (to Belmont) that was doing extremely well,” added Norman Casse, assistant to his father. “We were a big longshot to begin with. And he’s just not doing as good as we would like so we’re going to have to back off him a bit. There is no soundness issue.”

Conquest Curlinate had most recently worked five furlongs in 59.80 at Churchill Downs on May 22. He scored his lone win from five career starts when he broke his maiden at Oaklawn Park second time out on January 31.  Prior to his Peter Pan outing, Conquest Curlinate finished second in the Grade III Illinois Derby.

Hours after Conquest Curlinate was declared out of the Belmont running,  trainer Kenny McPeek confirmed his plans to start graded stakes placed The Truth Or Else in the 12-furlong classic.

The Truth Or Else sports two wins from 12 career starts with both of those triumphs coming over the Belmont main track. The son of Yes It’s True broke his maiden over the surface last September 12 and most recently captured a 1 1/16-miles allowance race there on May 22.

The Truth Or Else is 2-for-4 at Belmont including a third place finish over a sloppy track in the Grade I Champagne Stakes last October.

“We’ve always known that he likes Belmont,” said McPeek, who memorably upset War Emblem’s bid for the Triple Crown in 2002 when he won the Belmont with 70-to-1 shot Sarava. “I’ve struggled trying to find the right surface for him and, dry Belmont, he’s 2-for-2 over it.”

The Truth Or Else has been soundly beaten twice by American Pharoah, finishing fourth behind the champion colt in the Grade II Rebel Stakes and seventh in the Grade I Arkansas Derby. McPeek said he has had the Belmont penciled in since Arkansas, however, and started him on that path by running him in the Pat Day Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard where he finished fifth.

“We basically used two one-turn races to set him up for this,” McPeek said. “I know it’s unconventional, but I’m unconventional. American Pharoah might crush us all, but weird things happen over that racetrack.”

Edgar Prado, a two-time winner of the Belmont Stakes including piloting Sarava, will have the mount on The Truth Or Else.

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

American Pharoah smooth as ever in pre-Belmont Stakes work

LOUISVILLE – The praise came from all corners Tuesday morning and, in this case, it wasn’t just a case of typical trainer speak.

All those who saw the breeze dual classic winner American Pharoah put in over the Churchill Downs track didn’t need his Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert or jockey Martin Garcia to state the obvious. If one was looking for signs that the toll of trying to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 was weighing on the champion colt, they needed to avert their gaze from the effortless display he put forth as he covered four furlongs in :48 flat Tuesday, his first major move since winning the Preakness Stakes by seven lengths on May 16.

Having brought three prior horses to this stage before, Baffert has stated that this is the point where one would usually start noticing the fatigue of the five-week Triple Crown grind setting in. Both Baffert’s body language and that of his Kentucky Derby and Preakness-winning charge Tuesday signaled that was not the case right now as American Pharoah cruised along in what looked to be a high gallop under Garcia, ears pricked the entire way around after breaking off minutes after the track reopened at 8:30 a.m.

Garcia barely moved on American Pharoah throughout, letting the son of Pioneerof the Nile roll as he pleased through splits of :24  and :35.80 en route to clocking five furlongs in 1:00.40 and galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.20.

“I like the way he went today, he showed a lot of energy going to the pole,” said Baffert, who flew in from California for the work. “He took off from the 4 ½ furlong pole and was going really easily. I kept telling Martin just keep going and he ended up going five-eighths in a minute and change. Just the way he did it was the right way, he’s moving like his fluid self and came back the right way. That’s Pharoah. When he’s on his game, that’s the way he looks.”

American Pharoah has been a fantastic work horse throughout his seven-race career and, coming off the track Tuesday, there was little evidence to suggest his latest breeze was anything other than another example of how he keeps making challenges look routine. Garcia, who took off his mounts at Santa Anita Park Sunday to fly in for the work, beamed as he described how the Zayat Stables’ homebred was feeling in preparation for the 1 1/2-miles Belmont Stakes on June 6.

“He’s not going to get beat. He’s going to win,” said Garcia, who regularly works American Pharoah for Baffert. “He’s super good. Really, really good. He was just galloping, I’m really happy with what he did. He come back like (it was) nothing, he loves to run.”

Baffert said he would likely return to Louisville this Saturday evening and planned to work American Pharoah once more either Sunday or Monday, depending on the weather, before shipping to Belmont Park this coming Tuesday.

The only charge of his Baffert says he can recall actually gaining weight throughout the Triple Crown series was 2001 Belmont Stakes winner and eventual Horse of the Year, Point Given. To that end, American Pharoah’s bay frame continues to lend encouragement as Baffert says the colt currently weights 1,178 pounds and has been holding at around that weight since his outing in the Grade I Arkansas Derby on April 11.

“What I saw today was pretty good, he was pretty spectacular out there,” Baffert said. “I think most important thing is not (regular jockey) Victor (Espinoza) or me, it’s the horse staying healthy. That’s the key. If he’s not, Victor can’t get him to win. If his horse gets beat, it’s because we didn’t have the prep right for the race. There is more pressure on us than American Pharoah. As for what I saw today, I don’t see any regression.

The list of potential challengers for American Pharoah in the Belmont Stakes shrunk by one Tuesday. Owner Ron Paolucci said that War Story, 16th in the Kentucky Derby, would bypass the final leg of the Triple Crown and instead be pointed to the $500,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown on June 20.

Paolucci was initially bullish on the concept of running War Story in the Belmont Stakes, even though trainer Tom Amoss clearly preferred to take a different path with the gelding son of Northern Afleet. Amoss said at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning that ‘a couple of conversations’ still needed to take place before War Story’s status for the Belmont was official and, after talking with Paolucci, the decision to point for the softer spot was made.

“You know after talking to Tom, I can only run in one of two races and he made me choose,” said Paolucci, an Ohio native. “He said ‘Listen, in the best interest of the horse, I can tell you if you run in the Belmont, you’re not going to be able to run in the Ohio Derby’ and that’s a race I’ve always wanted to win. I guess I’d rather be 8-to-5 in the Ohio Derby then be in the Belmont race just to be part of history. I can’t have both unfortunately.

“He’s a gelding and as much I want to run in the Belmont and try and win that race, I guess it just really had to sink to me that there is really no intrinsic value other than winning the race itself. And when it came down to it…the chances of winning the race were 50 to 60-to-1.”

The possible 10-horse Belmont Stakes lineup (with jockey and trainer) currently is:  American Pharoah (Victor Espinoza, Bob Baffert); Blue Grass Stakes winner and Kentucky Derby 10th Carpe Diem (undecided, Todd Pletcher); Peter Pan runner-up Conquest Curlinate (Shaun Bridgmohan, Mark Casse); Blue Grass fourth and Kentucky Derby 11th Frammento (Mike Smith, Nick Zito); Wood Memorial winner and Kentucky Derby 4th Frosted (Joel Rosario, Kiaran McLaughlin); Louisiana Derby 4th and Kentucky Derby 7th Keen Ice (Kent Desormeaux, Dale Romans); Peter Pan winner Madefromlucky (undecided, Todd Pletcher); Florida Derby winner and Kentucky Derby 6th Materiality (undecided, Todd Pletcher); UAE Derby winner and Kentucky Derby 8th Mubtaahij-IRE (Irad Ortiz Jr., Mike de Kock); and Preakness runner-up Tale of Verve (Gary Stevens, Dallas Stewart).



Alvarez says it’s same old American Pharoah in first post-Preakness gallop

LOUISVILLE – Jorge Alvarez was ready to feel something a little different beneath him Friday morning. Instead, the longtime exercise rider for trainer Bob Baffert said that if fatigue is setting in for dual classic winner American Pharoah, it’s news to his hands.

In his second day back to the track and first gallop since his seven-length victory in the Preakness Stakes last Saturday, champion and Triple Crown aspirant American Pharoah went about 1 3/16 miles  under Alvarez at Churchill Downs as he prepares for his shot at history in the Belmont Stakes on June 6.

Alvarez is the regular morning pilot for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness hero and said the bay colt felt very much the same these last two mornings as he did coming out of his Derby triumph.

“He went nice. He didn’t feel like he was tired,” said Alvarez, who has been with Baffert for the last seven years, having previously worked with the late Hall of Famer, Bobby Frankel. “He galloped around good. I’m surprised this horse didn’t seem to change anything. He was pretty much the same (as after the Derby).”

“That’s pretty much him,” Alvarez continued. “You walk him a few days after a race and when he comes back he can get a little fresh. You have to be careful not to let him do too much.

Add Alvarez to the list of those who say American Pharoah has had that ‘It’ quality since he first came in contact with him – and he has as unique and learned a perspective as any. Alvarez used to get on Pioneerof the Nile and Empire Maker – the sire and grandsire, respectively for American Pharoah – when those two Grade I winners were having their morning outings.

“The difference between this horse and other horses is he covers a lot of ground,” said Alvarez, a native of Mexico. “The stride he has is very difference than other horses. From the first day I galloped him, I said…this horse makes you look like you’re going fast, but he’s just covering so much ground. Sometimes I get in trouble with my boss because he thinks I’m going too fast, but I say ‘He’s doing it easy’.”

American Pharoah is set to work at Churchill Downs, potentially next Sunday or Monday, before shipping to Belmont Park either Tuesday or Wednesday for his expected start in the 1 1/2 miles classic. The Zayat Stables homebred is attempting to become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 and 12th all time to sweep the Triple Crown.

Among those who will try and take down the smooth-moving juvenile champion is Conquest Stables’ Conquest Curlinate. The son of Curlin, second in the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 9, worked five furlongs in :59.80 in company at Churchill Downs Friday morning.

“That’s about as good as you can work at Churchill,” said Norman Casse, assistant to his father, trainer Mark Casse. “More importantly, he’s had a race over the Belmont track and ran really well. We think 1 1/2-miles is just right up his alley.”

Conquest Curlinate finished fifth running over the Polytrack at Woodbine in his career debut last November but has not been worse than third in four starts since. Prior to his runner-up finish in the Peter Pan, the gray colt was second in Grade III Illinois Derby on April 18.

“If you’ve seen the horse, physically he just looks like…he’s huge, he’s got this long stride, not like a lot of the other ones,” Norman Casse said.






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