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Madefromlucky out, Keen Ice in for Kentucky Deby

Trainer Todd Pletcher sent four of his Kentucky Derby hopefuls out for their final serious works at Churchill Downs Friday morning. Three of them confirmed to the seven-time Eclipse Award winner they deserved to start in the first leg of the Triple Crown.

With rain in the forecast for Saturday, Pletcher made the decision to move his contingent’s works up a day. While unbeaten Florida Derby winner Materiality and Grade II winner Itsaknockout made positive impressions when they breezed four furlongs in 48 flat on a cool, clear morning, Madefromlucky’s status as a Derby contender was downgraded after he struggled to keep pace with stablemate Stanford when those two also worked a half mile.

Madefromlucky was credited with four furlongs in 48.40 while his stablemate was clocked in 48.60. Jockey John Velazquez, who was aboard Madefromlucky, said the chestnut colt struggled to get a hold of the track causing the Hall of Fame rider to noticeably get after him in the lane as Stanford finished about a length in front.

Pletcher concurred with that assessment and said he will not run the son of Lookin At Lucky in the Kentucky Derby and would  instead consider pointing the fourth place finisher in the Arkansas Derby to a race like the Grade II Peter Pan at Belmont Park on May 9.

“He didn’t handle the turns particularly well, and we kind of noticed that at Arkansas,” Pletcher said of Madefromlucky. “The big turns at Belmont might suit him well. We’d be looking more at the Peter Pan-Belmont Stakes route with him.

Added Velazquez, “He worked okay. It was not a bad work but the other horse (Stanford) worked much better.”

Prior to Friday, Pletcher had said the only  contenders of his he considered definite for the Derby were multiple Grade I winner Carpe Diem – who is slated to work at Keeneland Saturday morning – and Materiality.

By holding his own against the latter, Itsaknockout earned his own Derby green light from Pletcher,  notching splits of 12, 23.60, and  35.60 with a gallop out  in 1:01 and 1:14.60. And though Pletcher seemed most on the fence about Stanford heading into Friday’s move, the Louisiana Derby runner up showed real affinity for the Churchill surface as he ran off splits of 12.40 and 24.20 with a gallop out in 1:01.60 and 1:15.

“I thought Itsaknockout breezed really well and I thought assuming he comes out of it as good as he breezed today, that he earned his way in,” Pletcher said. “Stanford arguably  breezed as good as anybody this morning. I thought his gallop out was particularly good. A lot of the success you’re going have here is based on how the horses handle the surface. It can be a quirky surface and it’s certainly not for all horses. He handled it really well.”

With Madefromlucky being taken out of Kentucky Derby consideration, it allows Donegal Racing’s Keen Ice – most recently fourth in the Grade II Louisiana Derby – to get into the field that is limited to 20 runners.

Trained by Dale Romans, Keen Ice broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last September 6 but is winless in five tries against graded stakes company.

“He’s going to be an extremely live longshot,” Romans said Friday morning when informed of the news. “I’m absolutely confident he will go the distance, which is a big factor in the Derby. I know there will be pace in this race, there always is, and he has not had enough pace in front of him.

“We don’t control our own destiny in this race. We do have to have some pace, we do have to have a clean trip. But with those two things, this is a prototype Derby horse. We’ll be running at the end.”

Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux will have the mount on Keen Ice for the Derby.

Danzig Moon, Far Right breeze
Impending rain also prompted the connections of  Derby hopefuls Danzig Moon and Far Right to work their horses on Friday instead of waiting for the weekend.
After recording what assistant trainer Norman Casse deemed too quick of an outing last Saturday when he covered five furlongs in a bullet 58 flat, Danzig Moon was much more settled Friday morning as he worked four furlongs in 48.80 in company.
“Very pleased with the work. We wanted to be a little more controlled, last week got a little out of hand,” said Casse. “Things couldn’t have been any better today. Now all the heavy stuff is done.”
Far Right worked solo for trainer Ron Moquett, covering four furlongs in 49 flat.
“He’s a very efficient horse that basically..can go forever,” Moquett said.



Trainer Gorder suspended 14 months by KHRC

Kentucky-based trainer Kellyn Gorder has been suspended a total of 14 months  and fined $5,000 by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards after a horse in his care was found to test positive for methamphetamine at Churchill Downs last November 22 and another search of his barn found improper injectables and syringes.

According to the ruling, Bourbon Warfare, a Colonel John filly owned by Bourbon Lane Stables, tested positive for methamphetamine after finishing first in the 11th race at Churchill Downs on November 22, 2014. Methamphetamine is classified as a Class A drug by the KHRC as a drug that has “no legitimate therapeutic value in the equine athlete”. The sample was detected by testing done by LGC Science, Inc, the official testing laboratory of the commission and confirmed at the University of California, Davis.

Gorder has been handed a one year suspension effective May 1, 2015  through April 29, 2016 for the above infraction. He was also handed an additional 60 day suspension from April 30,2106 to June 28, 2016 after a search of his barn on December 27, 2014 at Keeneland turned up injectable medications, hypodermic syringes, and a needle “by a person other than a veterinarian licensed to practice veterinary medicine” and oral medication “not properly labeled or validly prescribed by a veterinarian”

Gorder said he planned to appeal and, in a statement issued Wednesday, said he believed the positive concerned Bourbon Warfare was due to contamination.

“I am devastated, not just for me but for my clients and my employees,’ Gorder said in the statement. “I love horses. Period. They are my passion, my profession, my life. I would never, ever do something or give something to one of my horses that would in any way put them or the people around them in jeopardy, or gain them an unfair advantage over their competition. To put it bluntly, I did not, nor would I ever, give a horse methamphetamine, nor have I ever done or been in contact with methamphetamine.

“The levels of methamphetamine found in Bourbon Warfare’s bloodstream suggests this is a contamination situation rather than doping. I have drug tested all 31 of my employees since learning of this positive, and all came back clean for methamphetamine and all other Class A drugs. I don’t know whether it was a person walking through the barn one day with something on their hand and fed a horse a mint, or someone touched paper money with residue on it and then tied a tongue tie before her race. I am completely puzzled. I want to get to the bottom of it and find out where the contamination came from. I am looking into an appeal so I can better present my case before the authorities.”

Gorder’s statement further went on to add with regard to his second violation:

“In early 2014 there was a horse in my care for training who had an infected artenoid chondroma and needed fourteen days of Naxcel nebulizer treatments, which had been prescribed by a veterinarian. The protocol for administering Naxcel, which is an antibiotic, via the nebulizer includes the use of a syringe and a needle to combine the Naxcel and sterile water and put it in the nebulizer so the horse can inhale the antibiotic treatment. I keep syringes in my barn to give oral medications and eye medications as well. I never injected the horse with the Naxcel. I only used the needle for the nebulizer treatments. The horse shipped out in June of 2014 and unfortunately I did not dispose of the medication and needle upon his departure properly as I should have, thus they were found in my possession when my stable was searched.”


Champion Smuggler dies at age 13

Edited release:

Smuggler, the 2005 champion 3-year-old filly,  died at Claiborne Farm on April 16 due to complications from foaling, the farm announced Wednesday.


Bred and raced by Ogden Mills Phipps, the 13-year-old broodmare was a daughter of Classic winner and leading sire Unbridled out of the Phipps’ family homebred Inside Information, who was Eclipse Award champion older female of 1995.


Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey,  Smuggler raced three seasons, winning five races and placing three times in nine starts.  A stakes-placed winner at two, Smuggler came into her own as a 3-year-old notching a late charging victory in the  Grade I Mother Goose Stakes and then she pulled away to win the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks  by 3 1/2 lengths.  Off the strength of those back-to-back Grade I wins, Smuggler earned the Eclipse Award as Champion 3-Year-Old Filly.


Retired from racing in 2006, Smuggler has produced five foals to race to date.  They include two winners and two to place.  She has a 2-year-old filly and a yearling colt both by Malibu Moon.



Smuggler was buried at the Marchmont Cemetary at  Claiborne.

WinStar Farm acquires minority interest in Kentucky Derby contender Upstart

 Edited release:

WinStar Farm has acquired a minority interest in graded stakes winner and Kentucky Derby contender Upstart, the operation announced on Monday.


Trainer Rick Violette, Jr. will remain as the conditioner of Upstart, who breezed a bullet half mile in 47.40 seconds last Friday at Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida. The ridgling son of Flatter is slated to have one final breeze this coming weekend at Palm Meadows before shipping to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby.


“Upstart has been on our radar since the Breeders’ Cup,” said Elliott Walden, WinStar President. “Jerry Brown of Thoro-Graph approached me because he really believes this colt has a big future. We are honored to be partners with such a nice man as Ralph Evans on such an exciting young horse as Upstart.”



“When Elliott called, I became excited about what we could do together with WinStar in a partnership on Upstart,” said Ralph Evans, owner of Upstart. “We look forward to sharing in Upstart’s promising future.”


As a 2-year-old, Upstart began his career with an impressive 5 ¼-length debut win last August at Saratoga, and returned just nine days later to also capture Saratoga’s $200,000 Funny Cide Stakes. Following a runner-up performance in the Grade I Champagne at Belmont in his next start, Upstart went on to finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind race winner Texas Red and Carpe Diem, who is owned by WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables.


Upstart began his  3-year-old campaign in January by capturing the Grade II Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, drawing off in the stretch to a 5 ½-length victory over Frosted and earning a 105 Beyer in the 1 1/16-mile event. After winning the Holy Bull,  Upstart crossed the line first in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes in February, but was disqualified and placed second behind Itsaknockout. He returned as the favorite in the Grade I, $1 million Florida Derby last month and finished second to  unbeaten Materiality in his final prep for the Kentucky Derby.

Lava Man, Xtra Heat among Hall of Fame inductees

Edited release:

Jockey Chris Antley, trainer King Leatherbury and the racehorses Lava Man and Xtra Heat have been elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in the contemporary category, it was announced Monday. The electees will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday, Aug. 7 at 10:30 a.m. at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion.

Antley, who was born in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and grew up in Elloree, S.C., won 3,480 races and had purse earnings of $92,261,894 in a career that spanned from 1983 until his death in 2000 at the age of 34. Antley rode his first winner, Vaya Con Dinero, at Pimlico in November 1983. 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 Charismatic in 1999. He also won the Preakness Stakes with Charismatic. Antley ranked in the top 10 nationally in wins each year from 1984 through 1987 and was the leading rider at Monmouth Park in 1984, 1985 and 1986. He led the New York circuit with 234 wins in 1989 and was the leading rider at Saratoga in 1990.

Other major victories for Antley included the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Woodward, Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Derby, Alabama, Wood Memorial, Manhattan Handicap, Carter Handicap, Louisiana Derby, Blue Grass, Coaching Club American Oaks and Jerome Handicap. On Oct. 31, 1987, Antley won nine races when he had four victories at Aqueduct and five at the Meadowlands. He also had a streak of 64 consecutive days with at least one win in 1989.

Leatherbury, 82, who was born in Baltimore, won his first race at Florida’s Sunshine Park (now Tampa Bay Downs) in 1959 and currently ranks fourth all time with 6,454 wins. He has won 52 training titles in Maryland (26 each at Pimlico and Laurel) and four at Delaware Park with career purse earnings of $62,910,371. Leatherbury led all North American trainers in wins in 1977 and 1978 and won 300 or more races each year from 1975 through 1978. He ranked in the top three in North American wins each year from 1975 through 1980 and has finished in the top 10 nationally in wins 18 times and in earnings four times. Leatherbury has won 23 graded stakes races and 153 overall stakes.

In 1987, Leatherbury won the Grade I Hempstead Handicap with Catatonic and in 1994 he won the Grade I Philip H. Iselin Handicap with Taking Risks. Leatherbury also bred, owns and trains Ben’s Cat, a winner of $2.3 million. Ben’s Cat has won 22 stakes to date, including four graded events. Other top winners trained by Leatherbury include Ah Day (winner of 10 stakes) and Thirty Eight Paces (winner of six stakes).

Lava Man was bred in California by Lonnie Arterburn, Eve Kuhlmann and Kim Kuhlmann. Arterburn trained Lava Man until he was claimed during his 3-year-old season for $50,000 by trainer Doug O’Neill for STD Racing Stable and partner Jason Wood.

A winner of seven Grade I races — more than any other California-bred in history — Lava Man posted a career record of 17-8-5 from 47 starts with earnings of $5,268,706. Among California-bred horses, only Hall of Famers Tiznow and Best Pal and 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome have higher career earnings. Lava Man won three consecutive editions of the Hollywood Gold Cup (2005 through 2007), matching a feat Hall of Famer Native Diver accomplished from 1965 through 1967. The son of Slew City Slew also won back-to-back runnings of the Santa Anita Handicap in 2006 and 2007.

Lava Man’s other significant wins included the Pacific Classic, Californian, Sunshine Millions Classic, Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap, Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap and Sunshine Millions Turf. In his first Hollywood Gold Cup victory, Lava Man won by a record eight lengths and earned a 120 Beyer Speed Figure. With his victory in the Whittingham in 2006, Lava Man became the first horse since Vanlandingham 21 years earlier to win a Grade 1 on both dirt and turf in the same year. Lava Man was also the first horse to win the Hollywood Gold Cup, Santa Anita Handicap and Pacific Classic in the same year (a feat since equaled by Game On Dude).

Xtra Heat was bred in Kentucky by Pope McLean’s Crestwood Farm and sold as a 2-year-old for $5,000 at Maryland’s Timonium sale to trainer John Salzman, Sr. and partners Ken Taylor and Harry Deitchman.

The Eclipse Award winner for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 2001, Xtra Heat compiled a career record of 26-5-2 from 35 starts and earnings of $2,389,635. The daughter of Dixieland Heat won a total of 25 stakes races, 11 of which were graded events. She registered two six-race win streaks and had two victories in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap and Endine Stakes. Xtra Heat’s wins included the Grade I Prioress (setting a stakes record of 1:08.26), as well as the Vagrancy and Genuine Risk handicaps and the Astarita and Beaumont stakes.

The contemporary electees were chosen from a nationwide voting panel comprised of 180 racing writers, broadcasters, industry officials and historians from a group of 10 finalists selected by the Hall of Fame’s Nominating Committee. The top four vote-getters among the finalists are elected.

Results of the Hall of Fame’s Historic Review and Pillars of the Turf committees will be announced in May.

Carpe Diem works at Keeneland in preparation for Kentucky Derby

Special horses can inspire extra special treatment. On Saturday morning, some exceptional logistics came together in order for multiple Grade I winner Carpe Diem to post his first major work since winning the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes on April 4, covering four furlongs in 48 flat at Keeneland in preparation for the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he originally wanted to work the son of Giant’s Causeway Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m. With heavy rain in the forecast beginning early Sunday morning, alternate plans were put into place to not only move the breeze up a day but get Pletcher, who had gone back to Florida, on site to watch over his leading Derby contender.

Keeneland itself had a major hand in making it all happen as track officials agreed to close its main track for training shortly before 10 a.m. and then harrow the inside path of the track for Carpe Diem to work at 10:15 a.m. That allowed Pletcher to work his three other Derby hopefuls – Materiality, Itsaknockout and Stanford – at Palm Beach Downs at first light before hopping on a charter plane to Lexington.

With a crowd of Keeneland faithful greeting his solo appearance on the track with cheers, Carpe Diem posted splits of :12,: 24 , :48, 1:00 2/5, with a gallop out in  1:13 4/5 under jockey John Velazquez.

“I thought he worked super,” Pletcher said of the move. “His energy level is good, galloped out really well. He was kind of hard to pull up in the end which is always a good sign. We originally planned to go tomorrow…but it looked like the rain could hit a little earlier and we just didn’t want to take any chances.

“Keeneland helped us out a lot by allowing us to do this. I wanted to be here for the breeze but I didn’t want to jeopardize  breezing  him on a track at 10 a.m. unless we got the benefit of having it renovated. They were kind of enough to harrow that inside path for him and they went out of their way, and I appreciate that a lot. Then it was just a matter of needing the sun to come up enough at Palm Beach Downs so we could see the breezes there and then head to Palm Beach Airport.”

After breaking off for the move, Velazquez said Carpe Diem actually went “a little bit faster than I wanted” in the first part of the but that he was able to get the chestnut colt to back off slightly before finishing up.

Whether the work was convincing enough for Velazquez remains to be seen. In addition to being the regular rider for Carpe Diem, Velazquez also rides Materiality, who remained unbeaten in three career starts with his win in the Grade I Florida Derby on March 28.

Velazquez said after Saturday’s move he “didn’t know yet” if Carpe Diem was his Derby horse. Pletcher said the decision would be up to the Hall of Fame jockey.

“Ultimately it has to be Johnny’s decision,” Pletcher said. “He’s in a tough spot, he’s got two very high quality horses. He’s 3 for 3 on one and  4 for 5 on the other. It’s a tough position to be in. Everyone has been kind enough to allow as much time as possible but at the same time we have to firm up a rider on each horse. So I’ll probably talk to Johnny on Monday or so to make all the connections happy.”

Owned by Stonestreet Stables and WinStar Farm, Carpe Diem has won four of five career starts with his lone loss coming when he finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park last November 1. Pletcher said “most likely” the colt would have his final pre-Derby workout at Keeneland next weekend instead of at Churchill Downs but that he has not decided that for sure.

“I think in his particular case with a month between races, we’re just looking for maintenance works,” Pletcher said. “You can tell by the way he galloped out today, I  mean he was all the way back at  the half mile pole before Johnny could get him pulled up. He’s a fit horse.”





Kentucky Derby Museum announces naming of D. Wayne Lukas Gallery

Edited release:

The Kentucky Derby Museum announced on Friday the naming of the D. Wayne Lukas Gallery, in honor of the Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Kentucky Derby winner.

The D. Wayne Lukas Gallery is the primary area dedicated to educational programming presented by the Museum. The Education Department strives to promote the Kentucky Derby to all ages, and uses the race as a connector to teach content in math, social studies, language arts, science and music to over 60,000 students annually. A former educator, Lukas represents qualities the Education Department strives to achieve through his love of Thoroughbreds and success in the racing industry.

“I can think of no other individual more fitting of this honor than D. Wayne Lukas,” Museum President Lynn Ashton said. “His contributions to the horse racing industry are well-known, and he has been a dedicated supporter of the Kentucky Derby Museum through the years.”
A native of Wisconsin, Lukas has four Kentucky Derby victories among his many accomplishments: Winning Colors (1988), Thunder Gulch (1995), Grindstone (1996) and Charismatic (1999). In 2013, Lukas was awarded the Eclipse Award for Merit for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in Thoroughbred racing and has also been named the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer winner on four separate occasions (1985, 1986, 1987, 1994).

Lukas originally was a teacher and basketball coach prior to starting his Thoroughbred career by training quarter horses, and is still affectionately known as “The Coach” among his peers and fans. He is also known for taking a child to the Winner’s Circle to share in the biggest moments of his career.


Plattner wins Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award

Edited release:

Offerings From a Rust Belt Jockey, by Andrew Plattner and published by Dzanc Books of Ann Arbor, Mich., was named winner of the $10,000 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award at an April 15 reception at Shane Ryan’s Castleton Lyons farm near Lexington. A fictional story about the travails of a frustrated third-tier jockey became the second novel to take the award, following Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrulein 2010. The Award was conceived in 2006 by the late Dr. Tony Ryan and has since been presented annually by the Ryan family.

Plattner, who won the prestigious 1997 Flannery O’ Connor Award for his collection of stories called Winter Money, was a Dr. Tony Ryan finalist in 2009 for a lush coffee-table book called Kentucky Derby Vault, and in 2012 earned finalist status in the Townsend Prize for Fiction for the short story collection, “A Marriage of Convenience.”

The author, a Lexington native who grew up around the racetrack, bases many of his fictional characters on people he has encountered. Plattner is currently a visiting professor of English at the University of Tampa.

The other two finalists were Northern Dancer—The Legendary Horse That Inspired a Nation, by Kevin Chong; and RaceLens—Vintage Thoroughbred Racing Images, by Philip Von Borries.

In addition to the $10,000 check, presented by Dr. Ryan’s son and Castleton Lyons president Shane Ryan, the winner received a Tipperary Irish crystal trophy in the shape of the Lexington farm’s distinctive medieval-style tower. Runners-up each received $1,000 and similar trophies. Upwards of 100 people attended the reception held in a loft above the historic stallion barn, home today to triple Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti and Grade I winner Justin Phillip.

The judging panel for 2014 was comprised of Washington Post-Bloomberg News Service Managing Editor Kay Coyte; award-winning broadcast journalist and TVG/HRTV producer Caton Bredar; and freelance sportswriter David Owen, who won the 2013 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award with Foinavon: The Story of the Grand National’s Biggest Upset.

Said head judge Kay Coyte of the winning entry, “Plattner has taken a short-story kernel and nurtured it into a novel that’s an unflinching look at real lives that revolve around racing’s low-rent district. It is a backstretch noir that captures the hope and desperation of a struggling, middle-age jockey who tasted major-league success. In Rust Belt, he is dead-on in his descriptions of a rider’s far-from-glamorous day-to-day, season-to-season hustle. It’s not easy to write racing fiction free from cliché, but Plattner does that here. He’s a master of dialogue.”

David Owen said: “You could hardly imagine more diverse books about horse racing than the three finalists. What really set Rust Belt Jockey apart from other fictional entries for me was the author’s ear for dialogue. It’s as much about what you leave out as what you put in, and it’s so hard to get right. Plattner was pitch perfect.”

Said judge Caton Bredar of the winner: “Expanding on an intriguing and elegant short story written several years ago, Andy Plattner takes us into the heart and soul—or, at times, lack thereof—of a small-time jockey and the horses and people that make up his world.  Alternating between hope and melancholy, Plattner expertly uses language to paint the often wistful world of horse racing on the small town stage.”

Originally called the Castleton Lyons-Thoroughbred Times Book Award, the competition was renamed in 2008 to honor the memory of Dr. Ryan, founder of Ryanair and Castleton Lyons who died in 2007. Dr. Ryan drew upon his passions for horse racing and fine writing when he launched the award in 2006.



Upstart’s breeze postponed due to illness

Edited Gulfstream Park release:
Upstart, winner of the Grade II Holy Bull Stakes and runner-up in the Grade I Florida Derby, had a scheduled to breeze postponed Saturday morning when the son of Flatter spiked a fever, trainer Rick Violette said.
“He had a higher than normal temperature, so we have to see where that’s going,” Violette said. “We just skipped the breeze, and we’ll see what happens. If it goes up, then we’ll have to really address it, and if it’s just a bump on the screen, we’ll re-plan his breeze. We’ll gallop him a couple days and see what’s going on. Right now, it’s too early to give any kind of intelligent answer other than, we’ll take his temperature later and see what happens.”
Violette said the bay ridgling, who also recorded runner-up finishes in the Fountain of Youth (via disqualification after crossing the wire first), was discovered to have a high temperature just before leaving the barn for his breeze.
“We noticed it mid-morning,” he said. “His temp was a little bit higher than normal early, and he had a dirty nose later. We had tack on him and were ready to go, and (assistant trainer) Melissa (Cohen) took (his temperature) again, and it was climbing. We’re better off not breezing. If you breeze a horse that’s about to get sick, you’re going to make him really sick. Everything’s on hold until we know which way this thing is going.”
Violette added that his trainee is not acting like a sick horse, as Upstart appeared bright and aware in his stall on Violette’s shed row.
“He’s acting great,” he said.“He looks wonderful. He’s not acting sick. There’s no question [it’s better to have it happen now rather than later]. If we had breezed him, and he was getting sick, then we could make him very, very sick. It’s better that we caught it early, and we’ll just deal with the cards, that’s all.”
Pletcher breezes Derby hopefuls
Trainer Todd Pletcher sent a trio of Triple Crown contenders to the training track at Palm Beach Downs early Saturday morning for breezes, including Florida Derby winner Materiality, Fountain of Youth  winner and Florida Derby fourth-place finisher Itsaknockout, and Louisiana Derby runner-up Stanford.
The three colts turned in their first works since their last respective starts, which all came on March 28, and each worked in company. Itsaknockout, paired with recent Tamarac Stakes winner Competitive Edge, who is targeting the Pat Day Mile on May 2, worked a half-mile 49.06 seconds over the Palm Beach Downs dirt oval. The duo covered the last quarter-mile in 23.41 seconds without much urging.
“It was a good, progressive breeze,” Pletcher said of the work. “They picked it up as they went along, and they galloped out well. I was happy with it.”
Materiality followed, and the undefeated son of Afleet Alex worked in company with Stanford, impressing with a 48.41-second four-furlong breeze. The two quickened in the second half of the work, covering their final quarter-mile in a brisk 22.50 seconds. Although they ran jointly, Materiality finished with a slight edge over his workmate.
“I thought both horses worked extremely well,” Pletcher said. “They went off easy and finished up strongly, galloped out great. Both seem to be moving very well.”
With the Triple Crown set to kick off in three weeks, Pletcher said his contenders are showing him the things that he looks for leading up to the spring classics.
“I look for the same kind of thing [that I saw today],” Pletcher said. “I just hope that they continue to work well and do well. I’m really happy with the way all three of those horses, over all, are doing. Their appetites are good. They’re moving well. They have good coats. They’re showing us all the right signs.”
Materiality, Itsaknockout, and Stanford will continue to train in South Florida and will record one more breeze at Palm Beach Downs before heading north on Tuesday, April 21.
“They’ll breeze a week from today here (at Palm Beach Downs), and they’ll fly to Louisville on the 21st,” Pletcher said. “Then they’ll have one breeze at Churchill, probably on the Saturday before the (Kentucky) Derby.”

Jack Milton gets his Grade I score in Maker’s 46 Mile

Jack Milton had been nothing but a model of consistency since making his career debut in January 2013.

Through his first 12 starts, the son of War Front had been off the board just twice. So when he put in the worst finish of his career, a ninth-place run at Woodbine last September, trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Gary Barber knew they had to take a step back if they wanted to get the dark bay horse back on his game.

In his second start after going well off his prior form, Jack Milton responded with the best run of his life. With Javier Castellano in the irons, Jack Milton rallied from last in the seven-horse field to earn a 2 1/4 length victory in Friday’s Grade I, $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile over the Keeneland turf.

All of the entrants in the Maker’s 46 were seeking their first career Grade I victories, with Jack Milton among those who had taken the most previous swings.

The 5-year-old horse was winless in five prior tries against top company with his most disheartening outing being his ninth-place run in the Grade I Woodbine Mile last September 14. Already a graded stakes winner and with a stallion’s pedigree to boot, getting the right trip at the right time in Grade I company was all that was missing in a career with few other missteps.

“It’s what we’ve been searching for for a while. A Grade I is so important to him with a stallion’s pedigree like he has,” Pletcher said from Florida. “We’re excited, it’s nice when a plan comes together.”

“Last fall after the Woodbine Mile, Gary and I talked about it and decided to freshen him up, give him a little time,” Pletcher continued. “We discussed the strategy of running once at Gulfstream with this race in mind. It’s great when it all comes together like that.”

Jack Milton returned off his 4 1/2 month layoff to run fourth in the Grade III Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream on February 21, but missed the break that day and had to rush up, taking him out of his typical late-running style.

His Maker’s 46 outing was much more to his suiting. Breaking out of post No 7, Castellano settled Jack Milton at the rear of the field in ground saving position along the rail as Long On Value led the procession through fractions of 23.89 and 47.42 over a course rated soft.

Jack Milton had moved to within six lengths of the leader on the final turn, angling out seven wide and the driving down the middle of the course with authority. Sent off at odds of 9-to-2, he hit the wire in 1:36.30 with Aripeka coming up between horses for second over Long On Value.

“A couple times he’s been right there, but these are hard races to win, that’s why they are so special when you do win them,” Pletcher said. “In turf racing, a lot of times it’s who gets the best trip. And even though we were a little wide today, he had momentum built up and when he gets back and settled, he can produce a good run like that.”

Summer Front, sent off as the 6-to-5 favorite, finished next to last in sixth as he suffered his 10th loss in Grade I company.

“It seemed like he was struggling a little bit at the end,” said jockey Victor Espinoza, who was aboard Summer Front. “It was a little too soft for him. I was sitting patiently with him all the way around. It was wide open for me, but when it was time to go he struggled a little bit.”

Jack Milton has been as versatile as he has productive in his career, winning the 2013 Grade III Transylvania over the Keeneland course going 1 1/16 miles and finishing third going 1 1/4-miles in the 2013 Grade I Secretariat.

With that in mind, Pletcher said an outing in the Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 2 could be the next Grade I target for the newly minted Grade I winner.

“One of the things we talked about is he’s won at Keeneland and he’s won at Churchill so we thought maybe taking a stab at two Grade Is would make sense,” Pletcher said. “We’ll see how he bounces out. The 1 1/8-miles is certainly in his range so it’s definitely a consideration.”

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

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